Reality is called reality because it is real. It isn’t happy-ality or sad-ality. It’s REAL-ity. It’s got the good, the bad, the great and the worst. But as things come in and out of our lives, we get to choose what we carry with us and what we leave behind. This is my experience with reality.
I dated a woman I thought I’d marry for two and half years. In April 2014, she told me she didn’t want to see me again. I was devastated. I tried for weeks to convince her to change her mind. I beat myself up the whole time, thinking “what if I’d done this? What if I HADN’T done that?” I was filled with negative feelings about myself, the relationship, and her.
Fortunately, my family had a Hawaiian vacation planned in mid-May 2014. I arrived in Hawaii on a Friday, and Ted and I went skydiving the very next day. Before we loaded up the parachute, I created two lists to take with me: a “Take-It” list and a “Leave-It” list.
The “Take-It”list was everything good in my life that I wanted to bring back to the ground. It was my nephew and my family. It was Dumbbells & Dragons and Ted and Pax. It included my dedication to the gym. It included you, the person taking the time to read this. It included my willingness to love others more than myself and courage to keep my heart open. Kinda difficult for a guy who just had his soul crushed, right?
The “Leave-It” list was everything I wanted to leave up in the air and out of my life. The first was a relationship that I simply could not continue with a longtime friend. I really admire this person because s/he is a source of inspiration and motivation, and I wanted to be more involved in this person’s life. This person gave everything that s/he could, but I could not get past my own feeling that I wasn’t important enough for this person and wasn’t worth this person’s time. Leaving my toxic windfall from this relationship in the air above me when I jumped gave me closure and freedom.
The second was my negative feelings about my failed relationship with my ex-girlfriend. I included all the things about the relationship and about myself that I didn’t like and were not fulfilling. The handwritten details nearly filled the front and back of an entire page! (Note, however, that it was wide-ruled paper, because apparently I’m a child.)
When Ted and I got on the airplane, I put the “Take-It”list in my pocket. I folded up the “Leave-It”list along with a picture of my ex-girlfriend and held it in my hand. I was so nervous and scared I gripped the paper like I was hanging on for dear life. The pilot thrust the throttle forward and my stomach fluttered with anticipation as the plane rose. The door opened at 12,000 feet and I could feel the wind on my face and see my future before me. I knew – I knew – that this was it. It was time to leave the past behind me. I put one foot in front of the other and fell out of the airplane with the letter and the picture in my hand…and I let go. I let go of the picture and the list, and left them far behind me, where they can do no more damage.
You, dear reader, don’t need to jump out of a plane to leave the past behind you. Here’s what I want you to do: Go get some paper. Go get a pen. (No, seriously, go! do you have them in front of you yet? Good.) Write down the things that you don’t like about your life. Write down your regrets and your what-ifs. Write down what you hate and what you want to change. Now rip it up! Burn it! Leave it on a bookshelf! Feed it to your dog! Give it to your toddler! The point is that the simple act of deciding to the past behind you is the first step in making that happen.*
So you’ve torn up your regrets. You’ve jumped out of the plane and let go of your “Leave-It” list. What do you do next? I’ll tell you what you do. You do it again. Every morning, throw the bad away and start the day fresh.
You’re pretty awesome, you know that?