Not a harbor
“The past is a lighthouse, not a harbor.” — origin unknown
Change can be difficult even for those of us who crave novelty. It’s especially frightening when we are brought face-to-face with our own mortality, or that of someone we love. If we have been blessed with happy memories to treasure, letting go can be almost unbearable to contemplate.
When unwanted change or loss is forced upon us, it helps if we take solace in our gratitude for what we’ve had in the past, and allow that foundation to give us strength to face whatever the future brings. The blessings of our life are a bright light shining to guide the uncertain way ahead and bathing us in glowing warmth.
On the other hand, if we have predominantly unhappy memories, it is all too tempting to withdraw into our pain and resentment. We may use our anguish as an excuse to harbor ourselves from further sorrow. Again, the lighthouse is a helpful metaphor. So many — maybe even most — of the great works of art and literature, as well as other forms of human progress, have come directly in response to suffering. Grief can be a helpful teacher no matter how unwanted the lessons.
When I look back on the painful aspects of my past, I know that I have learned at least as much from my difficulties as I have from my accomplishments and joys. The full spectrum of past experiences, from horrible to heavenly, have something helpful to contribute to my future. It may take years to fully realize the depth of life’s blessings, or to appreciate the wisdom that has come from sadness. But the lighthouse remains, beaming across the distance, even when the waves are too rough to allow me an uninterrupted view of its illumination.