You know the adage: “The past is the past,” often spoken as if the past is over and no longer a dynamic force in our lives.

But is that so? Doesn’t the past still act upon us? And if that’s true, can’t we be a partner in the exchange and shape the story that we make about our experiences?

This weekend, wanting a dose of inspiration, I listened to a marvelous interview between author-educator Parker Palmer and journalist Steve Paulson, exploring the topic, “Creativity and Aging.” I transcribed it so I could offer a few highlights for you to use, regardless of your age.

Parker defined creativity broadly as anything you do that is life-giving. He offers this caveat:

“You can’t live a creative elder life if you’re still tangled up in regrets about the past.”

Our relationship with our regrets and our pasts is something we can make more conscious and possibly transform. To develop this idea, Parker shared a poem by David Ray, titled, Thanks, Robert Frost

The poem begins:

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought…
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear…

Read the full poem here. 

How beautiful. To hope that the past will turn out to be all right–something we can bear–something that need not limit us from living our most creative life now.

By letting go of regrets and allowing yourself ‘hope for the past,’ Parker says you “clear the deck for creativity–which always requires freedom.”

“Nothing creative comes out of trying to prove something to anyone.”

If only I had known this years ago.

He gives us a stunning quote by Florida Scott Maxwell from her book The Measure of My Days.

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.  When you truly possess all you have been and done you are fierce with reality.”

You can’t rewrite your past, but you can shape its story. By claiming your past as an amazing experiment, you transform regret into something you own, a fertile compost from which to create something new, something bold, something that is indeed fierce with reality.

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