Saturday, March 12, 2016

52 Weeks to a Simpler Life – Tip #25 – Stop Living In Or Reliving The Past

Audio Version available - see player below

As I write this article, I'm listening to a Public Television fund raiser. Good old (well, actually pretty young, 28 years my junior) TJ Lubinsky produced another of his music programs. This one focuses on the folk music movement during the 1960's and early 1970's. My friend, in the other room said listening to this music makes her a little sad. I asked why and she said, because it was a kinder, gentler time and there was a lot more innocence back then.

TJ Lubinsky said, in a segment when he was asked why he chose to gather these musicians and produce this program, and I paraphrase, “I was born at the end of this music era and I never really heard it. One night I was driving and trying to tune in an AM radio station” [TJ is a radio host from Pittsburgh] “as some of us radio people do and I came across a distant station playing the song 500 Miles, by Peter Paul & Mary. It moved me so much I knew I had to hear more and learn more about this kind of music and the artists.”

I have to admit, listening to this music makes me more than a little nostalgic. This was the music that was popular when I was in high school and college and all the way until I had completed my masters degree and was in the Air Force during the Vietnam era. We had hootenannies all the time in high school. They just happened spontaneously. For anyone reading this who doesn't know what a hootenanny is, the terms “jam” or “jam session” might explain it. However, a hootenanny was a form of celebration of life and emotions and was based in folk music singing and dancing.

Listen to the Audio Version: 

I felt nostalgic for a few reasons. As I've mentioned previously, I grew up mainly during the 1950's and 1960's. This was a tumultuous time (aren't they all). The Great Depression had ended, thanks to World War II and there was a growth explosion in the Middle Class. WWII veterans had earned G.I. benefits providing them with educational and home ownership opportunities. The Levittown (New York) housing developments model began in 1947. Similar developments started springing up all around the country. My parents first house was in such a community in my hometown of Clifton, New Jersey.

Life for a youngster like me, was an innocent and generally, gentle time. Sure, we had to worry about the “Commies” starting a nuclear war with us and ending civilization as we knew it. And, yes, we did have a large military involvement in Korea, that ended in a stalemate. But, it was a safe and comfortable time. About the time I was coming of age in the early 60's, the Vietnam War was beginning to escalate. We had a dreaded thing back then called the “Draft” that was a carryover from WWII and the Korean War. Vietnam was not popular and no one felt we should be involved in it. But, we were and all of us male children, upon reaching the age of 18, had to register for the draft. For the uninformed, the draft was involuntary conscription to serve in the military service, typically, the U.S. Army. The Vietnam War and the draft became the impetus for a lot of protest movements.

Folk music was one of those “pivotal” things. I've mentioned the word pivotal on several occasions. Folk music was not new. It is actually the basis of music since humans began creating music. But, there was a surge in popularity in modern folk music because of the protest movements. Additionally, during that same period there were major civil rights and women's liberation movements becoming prominent issues along with a more visible drug culture. Folk music, rock & roll and psychedelia were the means of expressing protest at the time. Music has always played an important role in civilization and cultures.

Living In The Past

This is how the folk music I've been listening to as I write this comes into play. I was in college by the time the folk music scene (much of it based in Greenwich Village and Washington Square in New York City) had become very prominent. It was in high schools and colleges across the country. The most popular artists, often trios and quartets, were touring the country with colleges being some of the most popular venues. I had the opportunity to attend a number of concerts featuring these artists.

But, more than just attending the concerts, I had begun my career in doing live sound and recording. I was actually providing the sound for many of these performing groups when they came to my college to perform. This was the launch pad of something that would become my lifelong career. It was one of the motivations for me to start a move to create a campus radio station at my college. This thing called folk music was pivotal in shaping my entire future.

Different people will react differently to events, experiences and political, religious, cultural and educational influences from their past. Some people never truly let go and continue to live in their past. There are people, I've met some of them, who refuse to have a checking account. They have never had and won't have a credit card. They despise when any organization, including the government, stops sending checks in the mail for tax refunds or Social Security and requires a bank account to directly deposit the money into.

These people won't acquire a computer and learn how to use it. They refuse to get a cell phone, and if they do, they leave it off most of the time and still want everyone to contact them on their wired phone service. Some won't even use the phone company provided voice mail, preferring to use an old fashioned answering machine, if anything at all.

Yes! These people are living in the past. Perhaps you know some people like this. Perhaps, even you are partially living in the past. But, you're reading this article, so you're obviously not completely living in the past.

This folk music I'm listening to is taking me back to my past, to my roots, if you will. I am reacting emotionally to the music. As I hear an artist or a group, I provided sound for, I can almost recall the event as it occurred. I remember the people – the artists, the audiences and my friends. This was all long before The Grateful Dead and Woodstock in 1969 that both really changed the live concert scene. Most venues in those “earlier” days were small clubs, like the Hungry I in San Francisco or The Bitter End in Greenwich Village or college gymnasiums with, perhaps, a couple hundred to a few thousand people in attendance.

I am not living in the past. However, because of my strong ties to that period, music, such as that I'm listening to, gives me a reprieve from the complexity of today's world. For a short time I remember the launching pad that brought me to where I am today. I use computers. I use a very sophisticated smart phone. I own modern, state of the art digital audio and video recording equipment. I pay virtually all my bills on line. I use credit cards for most all purchases whether on line or in a brick and mortar retail store. I conduct most of my business and correspondence on line. I'm connected to the Internet about 98% of the time. You get the picture. While I may not be as “with it” as the current and last generation, I'm not far behind. Actually, I may even be a little ahead of a few of them.

Reliving The Past

Are you reliving the past? I make a clear difference between reminiscing about the past and reliving the past. Reminiscing is nice. As I listen to the folk music, I'm nostalgic because it takes me back to my roots. It reminds me of where I came from and who I was. I'm not that same person any longer. Some 40 to 50 years have passed. The world is a very different place than it was back in the days of my folk music roots and hootenannies. There is a lot I don't like about the world I live in today. But, it's the only world I have to live in. If I want to co-exist and thrive, I have to accept it and adapt. Change is inevitable and constant. Living in the 1950's and 60's is not an option.

Reliving the past is an interesting concept and there is a movement toward that. Those reading this article outside the U.S. may not know of a place called “The Villages” in Florida. There are other smaller scale communities all over the U.S. somewhat similar in concept, though only running a distant second. The Villages has created a huge city that encompasses over 100 square miles in central Florida with over 100,000 inhabitants. The entire city, that now has three distinct and unique town centers, is designed to take it's Baby Boomer (anyone over 55 years of age) residents back to their 1950's and 1960's roots.

Yes, within reason, you can actually have your cake and eat it, too. You can live a quiet, controlled lifestyle similar to that of the 50's and 60's while still having as many of the modern technology and amenities as you desire. The Villages is a place where you can relive the past while living in the present.

My first and second impressions, when I visited The Villages the first and second time, were that this was a place I wanted to live. It had everything I could want, I felt like I was back in my hometown environment and it was inhabited by “my people,” people from my era. They understood me and my interests, desires, wants and needs. It seemed, well . . . perfect to me.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I didn't actually want to relive the past. There was so much to do there. Everything I could think of I might ever want seemed to be there. Once there I might never leave for any reason.

One thing I hold dear, is that, by because of a series of events (and I know what they are) I left my hometown in New Jersey and found a fantastic world outside that place I grew up and knew so well. The fullness and richness of my life was in not going back to my hometown. Of course, this was the right thing for me. I don't pass judgment on anyone else's life choices. I believe, had I not moved on when I did, I would have been stifled and suffocated. I most likely would have found myself living in my past or at the very least, constantly reliving it.

Reliving the past isn't really a healthy thing. It's very similar to actually continuing to live in the past. It often doesn't foster growth and expand one's world view. Of course, once again, that may be fine for many people. I know my life choices aren't right for most other people. They are only right for me. But, regardless of who we are and our choices to move out of our hometown areas and comfort zones or not, we still can't live in the past or focus our lives on reliving the past. The past is the past. It's history. Everything changes whether we like it or not.

Reinterpreting The Past

Here is how you simplify your life. You don't live in the past. You don't relive the past. You reinterpret the past.

If you remain in the past or keep reliving the past you not only have many positive events, but there are negative events. You may have married the wrong person (and maybe more than once). You may have missed a major promotion that set you back in your career. You may have suffered a devastating loss of a parent, sibling or child at a very premature age. Perhaps, you experienced a negative financial setback and lost your home and everything you had. Maybe a natural disaster destroyed your home and life. You know your own history.

Living in the past or continually reliving these past events may actually stop your growth as an individual. It might even lead to the break up of a marriage, estrangement of family members and loss of long time friends. The thing is, shit happens. And, believe me, it happens to everyone. No one is immune from that fact of life. And while you may think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, until you've walked in someone else's shoes, you can't know what load they're carrying.

However, instead of living in the past or reliving the past, put all of that behind you. Reinterpret the past to show positive meaning in your current life. The past is basically building blocks or steps you climb up to reach the next place in life. Take the positive and negative events, experiences and people from your past and use them to elevate yourself.

What did you learn from the bad marriage that will help you in the next or your current marriage? If you lost a job or career opportunity, what did you learn to move you up the ladder in your next career situation? If someone died prematurely, would that person want you to stop living, evolving and growing? Life is for the living. You can't change the fact that someone died. Perhaps, in some way, you feel some responsibility. While that may be a serious weight to carry, you can't turn back the hands of time. Living in the past or continually reliving the event won't change the historical fact that the person is gone nor will it bring them back. What did you learn? How can you help someone else to avoid a similar situation?

Reinterpreting the past to learn from it and apply that learning to the present and future is simple and positive. Living in the past and constantly reliving the past is basically a way to put life in a state of suspended animation. The world and life is going to change around you. You either move forward, or you'll be left in the dust of history. Find and build on the positives and lessons. Leave behind the negative and anchors and live a simple, positive life.

The Bottom Line

That's this week's tip, Tip #25 of the 52 Weeks to a Simpler Life. Let go of the past. Stop living in it. Stop reliving it. Reinterpret your past to propel you into a simple, positive future. Grow! Flourish! Be an example for those around you . . . family, friends, colleagues and most especially your children, whether still young or adults.

You don't have to like the world you live in, but it's the only world you have. As many things as are negative in today's world, there were in your world from whatever generation you belong to. You can remember and live in your past, believing it was a better time. Maybe it was in some ways. But, change is constant. There is no time machine that can take you back, other than your brain and memories. The reality, is if you could actually go back in time with what you know now, that world would be very different than you remember it. It might not be near as warm and fuzzy or as dark and ugly as you think it was.

Live free and be happy. EH       


Anonymous said...

W O W, I believe your are right on the money ! but often times is so hard to let the ' good old times go '...

My regards, Lucy.

Richard Rosen said...

I have begun watching the thoughts that cross my mind. I find many are distractions from what I am doing and lead to the past. Like driving and you see a car that an old girlfriend used to drive. Suddenly you are living in the past, but not in a good way, maybe dredging up bad feelings. No value to this. I refuse to focus on these thoughts and let them pass.

Even benign thoughts I release. Although not harmful, they take away my focus on the moment, which reduces my effectiveness.

Result of this lifestyle I'm cultivating? Feel more alive, more connected to people I'm with and things I'm doing.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Right on, Lucy.

But, that sounds like reminiscing. Nothing wrong with that. It helps us stay grounded. Those good old times are what brought you to where you are today and are the foundation of the person you are currently. With probably only a few exceptions, you're likely in a better place now and you're a better, wiser person, too.


Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Hi Richard,

As you know the mind is a powerful thing. Allowing your mind and memories to remind you of wonderful past experiences is great. We want to end our lives with the most memories we can accumulate. That's a time when reliving our memories is a great thing.

Using negative memories to take or make current or future actions or choices is also a positive. Ex. A long time ago you picked up a hot pot by its metal handle and were severely burned. That past memory reminds you now, and hopefully forever, to never pick up a hot pot with a metal handle without using a potholder. That's not living in the past, nor is it reliving the past, unless you choose to pick up that pot again by the metal handle and get a severe burn, again. That negative memory helped you grow beyond that negative event, so it reminds you not to make that bad choice again.

That was a simple example, but it can apply even in your example of the old girlfriend's car. That car reminds you not to become involved with a person like that again. So, you aren't living in the past or reliving the past, you've reinterpreted the past to help you make better choices in the present and future. Does that make sense?

Remember, when you are controlling you mind and how you are thinking, what organ are you using to control it? You're using that same mind. Your mind pulls from it's memory bank of knowledge and experiences along with its ability to apply logic, reasoning and intuition, all developed through your past to help you live and flourish in the present. Living in the past means you haven't grown or advanced, you're still doing and living everything on the same basis and terms you were 10, 20, 30 or motte years ago while the world has left you behind.

Reliving the past means everyone you might see a car like that old girlfriend's car, you freeze in time and let those negative memories put you in a state of suspended animation so you don't make positive choices, you simply attach negative thinking to anything or anyone who may have such a car.


Richard Rosen said...

What a thoroughly thought out answer Ed.

I'm glad you wrote in such detail because after I submitted the post, I thought it one-sided, neglecting the positive value of recalling our past. I was thinking of adding to the post so it would be more balanced, and I also wondered how you might respond. So thank you for doing so.

I like how you see the positive Ed. Like everything else in life, memory is a tool that yields results according to how you use it. It reminds me of the song lyrics, "Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative." (

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Sometimes it hard to see the positive, Richard. Like there is little that's positive about the current political climate. While you can't merely glance over the negatives, whatever they may be, to dwell on them or allow them to control our individual thoughts and life is simply relinquishing our personal freedoms and unalienable rights. So, it's a challenge for everyone to seek out the positive. As I always like to point out, the sun is always shining, it just may be hidden behind some clouds at the moment.