Recently, I was at a large meeting where I ran into a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Some of them I likely hadn’t seen since I last attended this annual meeting a couple of years ago. I had a variety of responses to the people I connected with.
Some of them were people I was relatively close to but because of time, distance, work and whatever else, we don’t manage to connect much. These encounters were long as we caught up, shared our lives and re-connected. Sometimes, we talked in the corridors when we should be at a meeting; sometimes, we shared a meal or a coffee break; sometimes, we made arrangements to get together at another time–but each of these meetings was important and valuable and part of the reason why I drag my introverted self to such meetings.
Some of the people I met were acquaintances, people I knew from some context and am friends with but we have never had the time or opportunity to really develop beyond the “how are you” stage. We greet each other, exchange a few words and carry on. There is always the possibility that such a meeting might spark a deeper conversation but often, we greet and carry on.
And then there are the people I know and have had significant contact with–but the contact has tended to be negative and painful. These people, well, I confess that knowing some of them will likely be at the meeting prompts me to keep my eyes open in a defensive scan at all times so that I can avoid awkward and uncomfortable encounters. When I have no choice, I try to be polite but tend to be polite in the context of keeping moving as if the coming meeting is the most vital thing in my life instead another long, dreary and somewhat boring business meeting.
I realize that a great deal of who I an and what I do now is a result of the relationships I have developed in the past. Like everyone else beyond 2 minutes old, my life has been shaped to a large degree by the people in my life. Certainly there are other factors that help determine who I am–my introversion, colour-blindness and left-handedness have also had a part in shaping who and what I am and I arrived with those already hardwired in place.
But the basic hardware that I was born with is combined with the myriad of experiences and people I have encountered in my life. My past deeply affects my present, to the point that I can and do plan my route through a meeting venue partly on the anticipation of who I might meet and how I can maximize the positive contacts and minimize the negative ones. I might actually live in the present but the present is shaped and affected by the past.
I can’t ignore my past–nor would it be healthy to ignore it. It is much healthier to acknowledge the past and seek to understand its affect on my life. I can celebrate the positive influences and try to arrange the present so that I can enjoy and enhance those. I can accept and seek to learn what I need to learn from the negative influences and seek to grow through them. And I can understand and appreciate how the nature of the influence can change from negative to positive or positive to negative as time passes and my understanding grows.
For me, it is important to remember that my past is important. It has been a significant factor in shaping who I am now. I can’t ignore it and shouldn’t minimize it. The events of the past, the people of the past, the interactions of people and events are realities in my life, realities that I need to remember and seek to understand so that I can make clear and better choices today.
When I walk down a corridor to a meeting, I think it is important to realize that I am taking to left hand corridor more because people I don’t want to encounter will likely be in the right hand corridor than any other reason. If I understand why I make the choices I make and have dealt with the stuff I need to deal with, I can make better decisions here and now.
Yesterday may have come and gone but it has left its mark on me–and the more I understand and accept those marks, the better I deal with today.
May the peace of God be with you.