They say elephants never forget. If that’s true, we feel sorry for the poor things. Imagine never being able to forget anything that’s ever happened to you – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Especially the ugly.
Oh wait. Maybe you can imagine it…perfectly.
Welcome to the herd.
Last year we spent some time with the rescued elephants at the Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We fed them, bathed them in the river, and then quietly watched while they rolled around in the mud with each other.
(FYI, elephants have more wrinkles and random chin hair than your grandma, but instead of hugging you til you can’t breathe they demand to be hand-fed pineapples and bananas. We fell in love with them instantly.)
We were shocked to hear how these magnificent creatures had been abused, neglected and abandoned before coming to this sanctuary. We won’t scar you with the details of their mistreatment (since you obviously have trouble forgetting the bad shit), but they suffered at the hands of absent, uninformed, ill-prepared, mean, careless, and selfish people throughout their lives.
With a 70-year lifespan for an Asian elephant, it’s a long time to carry around those kinds of memories, but these elephants seemed genuinely happy and content in their surroundings. They bond with other elephants and protect the babies among them. They play, spray and communicate with each other. They have distinct personalities and preferences.
(One elephant used her trunk to set aside all the pumpkins from her snack basket in favor of the bananas. Smart woman.)
These elephants may not be able to forget what happened, but they haven’t forgotten how to live, either.
How Your Past Hurts You…Even Now
Perhaps you – another magnificent creature – have been wronged by absent, uninformed, ill-prepared, mean, careless or selfish people in your life. You may have even been the absent, uninformed, ill-prepared, mean, careless or selfish person to someone else at a point in your life, actions you now deeply regret.
Yes, you should take the lessons from your past. But you do not have to carry it with you any further.
You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened… or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.” ~ Tupac Shakur
Think of a hurt in your past that still bothers you to this day – a broken relationship, a bad financial move, or even the death of someone you loved – and ask yourself if your fixation on this event is keeping you from moving forward in some area of your life (or every area of your life).
The hurt already happened, and by continuing to feed it with regret you are extending the pain for days, weeks, or years longer than you have to.
It’s time to process the lesson and move on.
- Think of the ways your life has been impacted by the sense of regret you’ve allowed to flourish. Is it a broken past relationship keeping you from opening up again, a failed attempt causing you to live in the shadows to avoid a potential humiliation, or a general distrust of everything after you’ve been wronged?
- Are the hurts on that list greater (individually or together) than the event that caused them? Most of the time they are, and you don’t realize it until you add it up. And then you realize how much you’ve been beating yourself up.
- Say an eulogy for the event and your lingering regret from it and then lay it to rest for good. The longer you obsess over your past, the more convoluted and emotion-packed it becomes.
While you still bear the scars from some of life’s experiences, you also have the wisdom earned with them, making you far better prepared for new opportunities and challenges. It’s up to you to take them.
Elephants already know this: Life goes on.
Now you do, too.
If you’re a people pleaser, you are also really, really hard on yourself. Ridiculously so. And I know because I used to do it, too. Find out how I finally got over myself – and my need to put everyone else WAY ahead of my own needs – and how you can, too. Heartfelt and honest, warts and all, this is our most personal book yet.