If I told you that I wanted you to drive down the busiest freeway near your home at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day Weekend and keep up with the flow of traffic, and if you do this, I’ll give you $1,000, you’d probably say yes. However, there’s a stipulation—you can only look in your rearview mirror. No windshield, no side-windows—just your rearview mirror. Would you still do it? I’m guessing your answer involves expletives ultimately ending in no thank you. So, why then do so many of us choose to live our lives looking only in our rearview mirrors
I grew up moving every 2 years or so. I didn’t move around the block or even within a state. I moved across this country and to foreign lands. Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Washington, The Philippines and Costa Rica all by the time I was 19. These are the states I remember. I remember as a kid getting tired of each of these places and looking forward to moving. Now, as a 47-year-old man, I long to revisit my old houses, see the sites, see my schools and be 15 or 16 again. The problem is that my life then cannot be repeated, nor can the towns and cities be magically transformed to be the same as they were. Time marches on and with it so do our memories. We tend to only remember the good—which is ok, as long as we keep the correct perspective.
The same holds true for those of us who have lost a loved one. Especially if the loved one was taken from us suddenly, or through violent means. We long for the days when our loved one was here with us—we live in our rearview mirror. The problem isn’t the longing for our loved one’s caress, or to smell their unique scent, or to hear their laughter, or hear their voice. Those are good things. No, the problem is that when we constantly live by looking in our rearview mirror we can’t see what is ahead or to the side of us. We run the risk of crashing and causing more pain to ourselves and those around us.
A rearview mirror is to be used occasionally, to see what is behind us, what used to be and to remind us of where we have been during our journey. Sometimes we are called upon to continue a journey that we planned and started with someone else—someone we loved and adored more than life itself. It feels at times like we should just stop the car and let the traffic pass us by. “Will anyone even notice?”, we ask ourselves. Why continue? “The journey had meaning when my loved one was with me, now it doesn’t mean anything but heartache and loneliness.”, we tell ourselves.
The truth is challenging; you see; we must go on with our journey. Our life doesn’t end when our loved one’s does. That part of our life morphs into a new journey—one where we must make new decisions and look ahead and to the side, occasionally looking back with fondness of where we have been, but not letting the past distract us to the point of catastrophe.
Looking back seems easier. Looking in the rearview mirror of life is like getting under a down comforter on a cold winter’s day and laying their motionless. We feel warm and cozy, but we can’t stay there forever. We eventually must face the cold and do our best to force ourselves to live another day out from under that comforter.
True life and true experience is found ahead of us—not behind. It is found not under the comforter, but in facing the harsh elements. True life is loving and then temporarily letting go so that our loved one can get on with their journey—looking ahead as we travel parallel paths. We were put on this earth for a reason—have you found yours yet? I don’t know if I have found mine, but this I do know—my purpose lies in front of me and not in my rearview mirror.