"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there," reads the first line in L.P. Hartley's novel, "The Go-Between."
There is a lot of pure and simple wisdom in that line. Lots of us are hang-around-ers. Somehow we rationalize that if we stay there, it will remind us of what never to do again or who never to be with again. That's kind of like a recovered alcoholic hanging around a bar. There is a constant reminder that takes up a lot of space in your head and in your senses.
The beauty is, that you can generally extract the parts of foreign countries that are healthy for you without the parts that are not.
I love the culture of France, but not necessarily the food. I love the food of Mexico, but not necessarily the heat. I love the people of Scotland, but not necessarily — OK, there's not much I don't love about Scotland.
So here is a sampling of how I have applied Hartley's wise words to my own life and my pasts:
I lived in a country called Norris for 17 years
In this country, there was abuse and oppression. There was also laughter, beautiful children and learning. I left that country and took the laughter and beautiful children and lessons learned and I left the abuse and oppression behind. I didn't like the way things were done there, so I moved into a place called Single.
I lived in a country called Single for five years
In this country there was poverty, very little sleep, lots of worry and loneliness. But there was also tremendous growth, self-awareness, joy, and strength. I took those with me but left behind the bad things and moved into a country called Wilson.
I lived in a country called Wilson for four years
It wasn't long before I figured out that I really didn't like the way things were done there. There was much heartache. There were also five amazing citizens of that place called stepchildren. There were also happy dates, silliness and again, lots of growth. These I took with me and left the ugly behind and moved to a country called Homeless.
I lived in a country called Homeless for 15 months
This was a place of mind-blowing transition, disorientation, poverty, begging, and guilt. But this amazing kingdom also had many, many citizens who reached out their arms and cared for us. I took that wonderful knowledge of the goodness of people and the kindness of strangers and I left behind the guilt and poverty. With the good things, I moved into a country called Taking Care of Yourself.
I moved in a country called Taking Care of Myself and I still live here
I have taken up residence in a wonderful realm called Taking Care of Myself. Though there has been transition, it has been wonderful here. I have decided to stay here because I like the way things are done here.
So how can you follow L.P. Hartley's pattern yourself?
If the different way they do things where you are is not healthy for you, you can leave them — addictions, broken relationships, bad habits — behind and move to a different "country."
Make a travel plan
Form an itinerary. Check things off and then go for it.
Keep the good
When you decide to leave the foreign country of the past behind, collect up all the good things that helped you through. What did you learn? How are you better for having been there?
Decide if you will ever return
Once you have moved, take time to contemplate whether it is a place you should ever go again. Is your life in the new place better? Think about it as you transition. If it is not, tear that page out of your passport and stay where you are.
It is important to realize that, as my mother puts it, "When you know better, you do better." Maybe when you were in that foreign country, you just didn't know better. But now you do. And it is perfectly alright to take the good things and leave the bad things and move to a safe place. I highly recommend a country called
Taking Care of Yourself
The sun shines, the water is clear and beautiful, and the food unforgettable.