My father encouraged us to be handy. He encouraged us to read the instructions and do it ourselves if we could. One of my fond memories of childhood is reaffixing the car rearview mirror after it fell off. Although I did wonder a bit why a rearview mirror was important – after all, people drive forward not backward – I proceeded to reaffix the mirror. I bought the glue, positioned the mirror, and then followed the instructions, holding the freshly glued mirror in place without moving for 40 minutes as I waited for the glue to dry.
When we moved to Baltimore, my wife and I decided to do part of the move as a self-move. I rented a Penske 16-foot truck, loaded it, and drove it. How did I find the driving compared to the regular cars and minivan that I was used to? The truck is certainly bigger. But the biggest difference I noticed was that the truck did not have a working rearview mirror. You see, although a mirror was affixed to the windshield, the large 16-foot cabin behind me blocked its view. I found it challenging to drive without a rearview mirror.
Sometimes in life we need to disengage from a long-lasting relationship and move on. It could be friendship that has broken, a business relationship that has been terminated, or a marriage that is at the point of divorce. Striving to find the correct emotional balance can be challenging. It can be hard to find the right emotional way to view our past, being that we will be focused largely on the future, hoping that it will be better. Yet I do believe that it is critical not to trash our past because of our current pain and disappointment. It is necessary to still have a rearview mirror to see the past behind us.
I once visited the home of a wealthy man. While I was waiting for our meeting to begin, I looked at a wheel of pictures that he had on display. As I flipped through, looking at his vacation pictures, I noticed many that had cut marks removing a certain face from the pictures in which this person appeared. He later told me that he cut out the picture of his once-beloved brother-in-law because of a fallout in the family. Neither he nor his wife “will ever talk to him again.” I expressed sorrow for his pain and on the fallout. Everyone has their way to deal with the past. The ideal, however, I believe, is softer than excising someone and their picture from our life. The treasured memories of the past might possibly still have a place to be treasured.
Consider this real-life question: A woman, just divorced, asks her trusted friend if she should keep her engagement ring or sell it. There is certainly no one answer that will work for all people. But one therapist suggested that she keep it. The therapist related how she found that children of divorced parents will often think back to the time that their family unit was whole. “It is possible, maybe even probable, that your son or daughter will one day want that ring. It may provide an emotional anchor for them – a memento of sorts – of a time when things were whole.” What we do with what we see in the rearview mirror is up to us. But a rearview mirror is important.
Exiting any relationship is hard. This is true both in marriages and business relationships. There can be feelings of betrayal, failure, unfairness, and hurt. Transitions in any case can be difficult. A person might have quite a bit of resulting emotional baggage which will at some point need to be sorted out. Indeed, it may be wise initially to look forward and not back. Our heart can and should be set with optimism on the future.
Yet we must not allow baggage to obscure the view of the rearview mirror. Experiences and relationships of the past form us to be the people that we are. There are lessons, treasured moments, and fond experiences. Don’t discard the rearview mirror. Keep it. But choose productively and wisely when to look in it.