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today's puzzle

It is too easy to get caught up in what MIGHT happen, or even in what we WANT to happen in the future. It is also easy to linger on what has happened in the past. Neither of those places, however, is where we actually live.

I believe in having goals; working toward something. I also believe it is imperative to learn form the past. Those things, what I have learned and where I am going, inform the decisions I make today, but that should be the end of their influence.

It does me absolutely no good to linger on the past or wish I had done anything different. It won’t change it. In fact, if I HAD done anything different I may be in a totally different place than I am currently. The past makes us who and where we are today.

Stressing out about what is (or might be) coming up only serves to distract me from the things I should be doing right now to work toward whatever my goal is. Worrying about it excessively doesn’t actually aid in my progress toward whatever it is.

I say this as a gentle reminder to myself because I easily get caught up in the past and future. Lingering in the past or the future means I am not utilizing them and I’m wasting the only relevant time in my life…the present.

Beyond all of the past, present, future stuff is the need to be happy. Make no mistake. It is a need. It is OK to have bad days and have frustrating things happen in life but overall, I believe we need to be happy…or at least content. And most importantly we need to be happy with and for ourselves.

I spent far too long defining my happiness by other people and things. As long as I had this person and they were happy, I was happy. As long as I had this thing in my life I was happy. When those things were gone… My happiness was gone too. I had removed almost every ounce of happiness from myself and placed it with all these other things.

I can look at it now and recognize how terrible and foolish it was, and I never thought I would get to that point, but it happened so slowly that I didn’t recognize I had done it until all of it, including happiness, was absent from my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew I still had value, worth. I knew things would get better, but that is something that is easy to say and much harder to actually power through. I wanted to be happy, but I didn’t even know where to begin.

I used the example, with a friend, of a puzzle. My whole life I had been putting my “life puzzle” together. Differing from a regular puzzle, I believe we collect life puzzle pieces as we go. We may have an idea of what we want our life to become (goals), but we also make adjustments along the way. So, unlike a regular puzzle where you have an image to reference and you can make the outline with the “edge pieces,” in life you have no idea what the puzzle looks like, what shape it is, or where all the pieces are.

Two years ago, I thought I had created a pretty great puzzle. I had pulled together all the pieces that were important and formed the picture I wanted. Granted, that puzzle wasn’t perfect and there were still pieces missing, but I like what had been created.

In a single day, a single moment, my entire puzzle was destroyed. It was knocked off the table where I was putting it together and, not only were the pieces scrambled, but many of the pieces were destroyed or absent.

I was left with an empty table. Worse yet, was knowing I needed to put the puzzle back together and not having a clue where to begin. I didn’t know what pieces I wanted to put back. In my haste, I put pieces back on the table franticly, only to find out later those pieces didn’t fit anywhere in my new puzzle. Foolishly I held onto many of those pieces far longer than I should have—trying to figure out how and where they could fit. Doing that meant I was ignoring other pieces I wanted and needed.

It is hard to look at an empty table. It is tough to look at bunch of random and disconnected puzzle pieces. It is hard to look at the holes and empty spaces where things used to be. It is hard to let go of pieces we once thought were essential to the completion of the puzzle.

It was difficult to hear someone close to me say “You had absolutely no self esteem then.” There was a sting to those words because I knew, without hesitation, it was true. I didn’t admit it at the time because I confused self-esteem and self worth. I was broken. More than being broken was the fact that I didn’t know how I would ever put it all back together.

It took other people to start putting the pieces together for me. It took other parts of my puzzle being put into place for me to recognize I could put it back together. Not the same puzzle by any means. I don’t want the same puzzle. Trying to recreate the same thing would be an exercise in futility. I had to find the pieces I wanted and needed to rebuild a better puzzle.

It is difficult for me to think back on that time or this process. It was incredibly painful but critical for me to endure. It was important for me to find the vital parts that had begun my original puzzle and abandon the ones I didn’t need.

It astounds me how fragile I was then. I didn’t believe something like that was possible in my life. Unfortunately I had built into the structure of my life all the elements that would bring about a quick and complete collapse. I built around the imperfections. I ignored weaknesses. I overlooked key components. Like a line of dominoes, once the first one tipped, the rest was inevitable.

So, while it is painful to look back, it is also essential that I remember what I have learned. It is important for me to know where I have come from and what has happened and what I want and need to do different in my life. It is important to know what I want to do and where I was to go in life. It is all important because it informs what I choose to do today, right now. I choose not to repeat the past. I choose to be a better stronger person. I choose to radiate the good I want in my own life. I choose to be the very best version of myself by learning from the past and aiming for the future but not getting too hung up on either one.

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