It was a chilly, fall morning. I was driving along a two-lane country road for my daily morning commute. Construction had started on the road, causing stop and go traffic to grow along the winding curves. Normally one would drive between 40-60 miles an hour, speed limits being arbitrary. I was the last driver in line at a road block, a dead stand still, waiting until the flag man waved us the go ahead. Behind me I could see the next wave of traffic coming, led by one flashy orange Prius with a driver who did not realize that my brake lights meant stop. He was heading towards me full speed ahead, somewhere around 50 miles an hour, leading the pack of cars behind him to an immediate collision. As the car drove nearer I kept looking up, to see when it would stop, to see when the speed would slow down to nothing, but it kept coming. It was at that moment I realized I was about to be involved in a very bad accident. Heart pounding I braced myself for immediate impact, pressing harder on the brakes and gripping the steering wheel to keep myself from becoming the insides of a sandwich.
My eyes may have been closed as I waited for nothing. I looked up again in my rearview mirror and the car had, at the very last second, managed to keep from crashing into me by applying great pressure to the breaks and pulling off of the road. Crisis averted, I was able to make my way shakily to my final destination. However, since that momment I’ve started driving by glancing fearfully in my rearview mirror, waiting for the next reckless driver to crash into me, giving me back problems, possibly a concussion and the right to sue, depending on how out of hand things got. The problem with this driving habit? Living with the fear of a collision and the negative feelings of someone being out to get you is not good for emotional balance.
Sometimes we feel victimized, whether it’s something someone else did to us, a circumstance or event that happened, or almost happened. While we could live constantly looking over our shoulders and glancing fearfully in the rearview mirror, that kind of attitude certainly keeps us from reaching our full potential. We can all learn from looking back into the past, reviewing past mistakes can guide our future choices, but ultimately dwelling on past, negatives situations can only keep up from moving forward.
So, how do you keep from dwelling on the past? Remember feeling victimized doesn’t go away overnight, but it does take focused, deliberate steps to stop constantly looking in the rearview mirror. What you can do is distance yourself from people or situations that pull you back into the past and heighten those feelings of being victimized.
Get busy. Occupy the time that you spend worrying or debilitating your chances by going out and doing something new. The next time a waver of fear comes over you about attending a mixer or a party that you know your ex will be at, call up your girls and put your best outfit on. Being confident and knowing that life is what we make it is a great way to stomp fear in the face and begin a journey towards “living in the present”.
But don’t rush into it. Take baby steps by planning out an event once a month or getting your friend’s to hold you accountable. It’s time to let go of what’s behind and move forward into a brighter future one step at a time.