When I was three years old my Father walked out of my life forever.
I don’t know exactly what happened, all I know is that he left and he never came back.
I haven’t seen him since the day he left, I have no active memory of him (other than the few photos my mum has kept of their wedding day) and to be honest I very rarely think of him.
I don’t know what he looks like now, what he talks like, where he lives, if I’m anything like him or why he chose to walk away.
What I do know is that instead of focussing on the absence of having a father figure in my life, I chose a different approach. And I’ll tell you more about that in just a minute.
The reason I’m telling you this story is not to gain your sympathy, but to share with you a thought that recently inspired me and got me thinking about my childhood. The thought comes from a surprising source of inspiration; the beautiful & talented Hollywood actor Charlize Theron (of Monster, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman fame). I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of her early childhood, but let me tell you – it will stop you in your tracks and teach you a lesson or two about life. Her story is so incredibly traumatic yet it’s how she dealt with what happened to her that will leave you in awe of this woman and her life journey.
When Charlize was 15 years old she witnessed her mother shoot and kill her alcoholic father in self-defense. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t imagine how hard that must have been, how she must have felt or what must have gone through her mind at the time. In-fact there are no words really, a story like that just leaves you speechless – because it’s such a traumatic and confronting thing to happen to anyone.
What inspired me was the way that Charlize chose to deal with such a traumatic situation. The way she talks about what happened has to be one of the most inspiring and wise reactions to an event like this that I have ever heard. And one that is permanently etched in my mind forever. Sometimes you only need to hear something once and the words are so powerful that you remember them forever. Here’s what she said:
“Something will only define you if you let it define you and at 15 I made a decision that it wouldn’t define me. That I would only take the good out of it. We all have choices. You don’t sit around and moan, you get up and you do something about it. Something can only haunt you if you let it.”
What a breath-takingly inspiring reaction to such a heavy and intense experience. When I watched this interview I was struck hard by the courage that Charlize had found to make that choice. The point that she makes is really very poignant:
Our past can only define us if we let it.
And so this interview made me think back to my own childhood and my own past– and I know that as I was growing up the other kids would feel sorry for me because I had no father. And there would be those awkward moments where they asked what does your Dad do, or where’s you dad tonight, but what they didn’t realise was that for me it wasn’t awkward. It was just the way things were. And without realising it, I never allowed the awkwardness of others to impinge on the way I viewed the situation.
I chose not to let it define me.
And I chose to see the beauty in my situation, and that was my Grandfather. My father walking out was the best possible thing that could have ever happened to me, because it gave me the most wonderful gift and that was a really special bond with my Grampy.
Grampy took it upon himself to step in and be the father figure in my life and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I have no regrets or desires to have had a father, because I had something better than that – I had a Grandfather who chose to fill that void and did it with such gentle compassion and love that I am forever grateful. I also had an incredibly strong and loving mother and grandmother too, who more than made up for any kind of absent father.
I digress…but the point is; we all have a history. We all have a past. We all have ‘stuff’ that went down for us at some point – but how we deal with that is up to us.
We all have a choice.
Today, will you choose to let your past define you, or will you choose to let it go, see the beauty in it and gently move on with your life? Like the quote says: “We can let go…or be dragged!” If your past is dragging you down in life, maybe, just maybe now is the time to let it go and move on.
Simple Life Strategy: How to Let go of the Past
1. Cast your mind back – do you have any regrets from your past? Is there anything that you feel bitter or resentful about?
2. Think back and see if you can find a positive from the situation. Is there a glimpse of beauty that you can take out? What lessons were learned and who have you become as a person as a result of the experience?
3. Consider how holding onto the past may be negatively affecting your life right now. How much time is spent thinking about this? How much energy is wasted getting angry and upset about something that’s long gone?
4. Take a deep breath and choose to let it go. Remember your past can only define you if you let it. You have a choice.
5. Remember Charlize Theron – if she can let go of something as terrible as what happened in her childhood, then what’s stopping you from doing the same?
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