By Kathryn Bisland


…all your friends and family think that you’re lucky

But the side of you they’ll never see

Is when you’re left alone with your memories

That hold your life together, like glue…

Lyrics from the song “This Is the Day” by The The

Thinking about my past so much was keeping me stuck in an outdated version of myself, like I hadn’t hit the update button in 15 years.

Now there is a lightness because I have stopped looking back.

Recently this song came back into my life while I was watching a movie that was set in the 90s and, as such, it was a double whammy of memories from two different periods of my life. I was already feeling nostalgic and vulnerable because of the memories that were being brought up by the movie from being a teenager. Then suddenly this song came out of nowhere and catapulted me from one decade to another decade 20 years later. It was A LOT. So, I sat on my couch crying because it was all just too much for my mind to handle and I needed a way to get it out.

I’m sure that sounds dramatic, especially if you’re younger and the line between your memories of who and what you were blur together with who and what you currently are. However, something happens when you get a certain amount of life under your belt where memories can become this dangerous distraction where one can wallow and become trapped. It’s a bit like when your friends convince you to come out even though you have to get up early the next day, and so you go but you swear you will only stay out for one or two drinks. Next thing you know its four a.m. and they’re dragging you out of the bar and you wake up the next morning feeling brutal, wondering why you did it in the first place.

I’ve found the past can have the same effect. At first it seems like a good idea to reminisce about a cute encounter or fun story that’s relevant to the topic of conversation, or the show you’re watching, or a song you hear. But for some, myself included, it doesn’t just end there.  For me, it seemed like there was always another caveat to the current story that bared repeating, or it sparked another moment that I just had to share. My innocent intentions to quickly reminisce often began a downward spiral of “why did I do that?” and “why couldn’t I have said this” and “how could I have let him/her get away with doing that?” This usually permeated me far beyond the conversation I was in, leaving me with anywhere from a few hours to a few days of being down the rabbit hole of who I used to be.

I’ve also seen others go down this path reliving what seemed to have been great moments. But it always ends up in the same place of wishing they could still be there, still have that freedom, still be doing what that person they see in their mind’s eye is doing. Either way, both roads lead us away from right now and trap us in a maze of our past experiences on an endless loop.

I used to roll my eyes when “old people” would repeat stories to me and pretend to listen politely all the while wondering in my head how could they possibly have no idea they have told me this story a million times. Then, somewhere between 38 and 42, I found myself being told that exact thing: “oh yeah, you told me this story before” with the same glazed look in their eyes that I used to have.

So, what was going on? Why was I doing this? Was this just a part of getting older? That didn’t feel right because my boyfriend (who is the same age as me) shocked me repeatedly when I would ask him specific things about his past and he would say he didn’t remember because it wasn’t important. I was honestly appalled when he would say this to me. It boggled my mind and I couldn’t relate because I remembered almost all of my past in crystal clear detail–I mean, I can tell you first and last names of people I went to elementary school with whom I wasn’t even friends with, either then or now. What compelled me to equate so much importance and hold on so tightly to these memories and how was that impacting my life now?

I was beginning to finally ask some important but terrifying questions. For me, the past was especially important because it proved to me that I had experienced things and done things, which is all good, but what I didn’t realize was that it was also trapping me in things that no longer existed and propelling outdated ideals into my future without me even realizing it.

What I mean is that by sitting trapped in this loop of my past, analyzing it, and holding onto these experiences tightly, I was inviting more of the same into my present. How could I change my actions and interactions with situations and other people if I was continually referencing my past ways of handling things. That was keeping it fresh in my mind, which then kept it a fresh reaction for me in the present moment, even though they had originated not as the 40+ woman I had become but rather as the 15- or 19- or 25-year-old me. As this started to become clear, it just didn’t make any sense to me.

Thinking about my past so much was keeping me stuck in an outdated version of myself, like I hadn’t hit the update button in 15 years.

So why was I doing this, what benefit could I possible be receiving that kept me stuck doing something which logically I knew was insane but emotionally I just couldn’t break. As I asked myself this repeatedly, I felt helpless because I just didn’t have an answer. And because I didn’t have any awareness as to why I was doing this, I couldn’t see a way out and that left me feeling depleted and defeated—I felt like something was wrong with me.

So that afternoon while watching the movie (it was Empire Records for those of you who are curious) and catching myself thinking the same thoughts in vivid detail and feeling the same emotions strongly in my body yet again, I became overwhelmed with sadness and started to cry.  Only this time I asked myself a different question. I said to myself, “why am I sad?” and suddenly, clear as day, a thought came into my consciousness that said, “because you don’t know who you are without these memories”. 

The relief I felt in that moment is indescribable. That thought made it all make sense. Like the lyrics above by the band The The, I needed my memories because they held my life together like glue. I had glued together a very clear picture, an idea of myself, based on all the things that I had gone through. To let those memories go meant I had no idea who I was.

How could I be almost 42 and have no idea who I was? Very easily if I had been using my past as a crutch to hobble along on with an old and antiquated self image that was no longer true.

I had been making it true, by reliving my stories good and bad, which then caused me to react and interact in these outdated ways. But this was no longer working because it was just too painful to keep doing this, it was just too hard to keep selling myself short.

So, there I was, finally in possession of the awareness of why I was constantly looking back in order to feel as if I could move forward, but terrified because I had no idea how to move forward without having the past to tell me who I was.

Luckily “knowing” who I was based on my past experiences no longer brought me comfort, it made me feel exhausted and sad. I felt like I had no choice but to step off that ledge and have a go at being the me that had no definition except for the exact moment I was in. So, I stepped off the ledge and have been free falling ever since.

An interesting thing about that song by The The – the chorus goes as follows:

“This is the day

Your life will surely change

This is the day

When things fall into place”

This is what I have found has started to happen ever since I made that choice to break the habit of getting lost in the stories of my past. Feelings of sadness have lifted. Feelings of stuckness have been replaced with feeling like I’m finally getting my mojo back. Ideas are coming to me again and I feel like I finally have the energy to act on them. People are coming into my life that are supportive and genuine. And, most importantly, I feel happy pretty much all day long. This one is the big one for me because when I was limiting myself based on who I used to be, I would experience 70 percent of any given day feeling anxious, worried, and depressed.

Now there is a lightness because I have stopped looking back. I have given myself the freedom to just be and nothing else: no expectations, no shoulds, no reactions created a lifetime ago—just me, the woman I have grown into.

I have space to cultivate that now that I have gotten out of my own way through dwelling in the past and, as a result, like the song said, I feel like my life has changed and things are finally falling into place. It was scary as hell to do, but I am here to tell you it is worth it.

Here’s the song “This Is the Day” by The The if you’d like to have a listen:

About the author, Kathryn Bisland

Kathryn Bisland is the proud mama of both a gorgeous little girl under two and a newly developed spiritual perspective that has brought her more joy and emotional freedom than she ever thought possible. Being a mama awoke her to the realization that the present moment is all that exists and to fight it leads down a slippery slope of stress and anxiety. After surrendering and releasing the need to make things happen by giving it up to the Universe, she was blown away by how productive and connected she actually became. This led to incredible shifts in her life, both professionally and personally. It is now her goal to help people find the life they were meant to live, lives that are full of joy in the little moments, so they can get off the stress/fear/guilt/worry treadmill loop and flourish.  

Find Kathryn on Instagram here.