The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Penguin partyEvery year my family gathers around the television to watch the original story of Scrooge – The Muppet Christmas Carol.

It’s a story of regret, of choices made, of the wrong priorities. It is about the chance to see the ramifications of our actions, the opportunity to live life over again. Michael Caine is taken to see his wasted and destroyed life and witnesses the series of misguided decisions that served to create a ruined life. One especially poignant scene is where he watches his younger self give up the love of his life because of his lust for money and selfishness. As Scrooge watches the scene unfold, we can see the emotions playing out over his face. We can imagine what is going through his mind: What a fool he had been! How his life would have been different if he had married, if his heart hadn’t been hardened by the love of money. Perhaps that young man wouldn’t have become this wretched, bitter old miser. He realizes his life has turned out totally different then he thought it would.

Consider this: How would you like to be visited by the ghost of your past? How would you like to go back and relive your sins, your mistakes, the foolish choices that changed your life? How would you like to be forced to watch helplessly, knowing what the outcome is going to be, unable to do anything to change the result, feeling the sharp pain of regret at not having taken the other path, or at least wondering what would have happened had your choices been different.

For most people there’s really no need for a night-time visit from one of Charles Dickens’ three spirits, because we do it ourselves. We replay the past, again and again. We see it projected on the screen of our minds. We are experts at reliving our failures. I have often told people that there is no need to tell me my shortcomings because most of us are keenly aware of the many ways we do not measure up. We are encyclopedias of our faults.

Don’t you sometimes wish you could go back and talk to yourself at those key moments, talk to that person in the movie of your life, warn them, tell them where the road they’re taking will lead?

When I look back over my past I am keenly aware of the many times I have chosen what is easiest over what is best. I get paid to tell people how to live their lives and yet know that I have often fallen far short of what I would like to pretend happened. After I found myself a single parent twelve years ago I made a series of blunders and even lost friends in the process. I look back at that person and realize that grief and loneliness drove me insane. There they are, the ghosts of Christmas’s past. It took years and many mistakes to find my way back and there are people who still hold those days against me.

The question is, will I still hold those Christmas’s against me?

They say time heals, or so the story goes. It is easy to hold ourselves responsible for things we did when we were young, or childish, or stupid. For decisions made when we were in the midst of abuse. For bad moves that we cannot take back. For things said, even career moves, which were a result of our insanity and pain.

They say it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. There are few things more true, I have found. Unfortunately, however, it is very difficult to move forward when we still listen… to the ghosts of Christmas past.