when the only way forward is not turning back

I’m a muller of the past.

Maybe mulling isn’t even a strong enough word. I think percolating might be better, except my percolating doesn’t ever seem to stop. I used to pride myself with having a memory like Cam Jansen’s – you know, the girl with the photographic memories in the books who could solve puzzles by simply seeing them – well, that’s kind of me.

In college I’d close my eyes and reread a chapter – although fuzzy – in my head when taking a test. I could see some of the words and the images and I’d strain and strain to just figure out that one part of the physics formula in hopes that I’d be able to solve the question I was stuck on.

Most times I still got it wrong.

That’s because my brain didn’t remember it precisely enough.

I’ve kind been living with one step in the future and one step in the past. Really in a way, afraid to make that step totally forward for fear that I would have missed a detail that was from the past that would save me from potential hurt in the future.

The only issue was that living straddling the fence of past and present meant that the future was spent with me wrestling with anxiety or worry and not really living fully in the now. I was letting the moments that I celebrate slip through my fingers with such speed but I had such fear of missing critical details so that I could have a guaranteed formula for a hypothetical pain free tomorrow.

Except, I became sad.


The joy escaped.

My friends told me they didn’t recognize me anymore. Maybe getting divorced will do that too. A person has to change and get stripped down to the rawest places when one goes through that. And there’s a ton of emotions and grief and sadness mixed in with it too. I think part of the recognizing of me is because I have been frozen in fear of making a mistake.

I’ve had those moments as a mom too – big moments and little moments – from decisions about vaccines to schools to discipline to birthday parties to you name it. I think the worst part of not making a conscious choice to move forward with a decision is the perpetual and never-ending, shall we say percolating, questions that are allowed to mull in our brains.

I’ve learned stuff too. Not making a choice means that your journey is in essence stuck. The train of time doesn’t slow down for fear and worry and anxiety – time just moves and moves and as I’ve learned speeds up as we age. And if I allowed the it’s not fair feeling to creep in then I spent even more time wondering about past issues and losing out on now.

So I guess to my friends who have stuck with me in this journey – holy moly – I love you. You’re kind of the testament to being a friend. Loving someone who is stuck and striving and giving her grace when she falls flat on her face is the kind of friend that I hope I can be. I never meant to fall on my face so much. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore or live in a life where that could happen. But friends, living in that place doesn’t even acknowledge the realness of life. Life isn’t a guarantee of smooth seas and sailing – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a place of storms and trials and tears behind the door and in it there are pockets of joy and moments that  we wouldn’t trade for the world.


I’m tired of living straddling the fence. I’m even more tired of feeling like I’m just watching life move by and me too afraid to step into and embrace the now.

So I’m going to try and really live by that quote by Eleanor Roosevelt – Do one thing every day that scares you – and today and tomorrow I’m going to try to live without pictures of the past in my view causing me to question today. Instead, I’m going to drop the images and fears and anxiety that has tainted my hope and I’m just going to free fall and trust and grow.

It terrifies me.

But staying stuck terrifies me even more.

I’m kind of broken down and tired of not really leaping and embracing the me now. I think I worried too much about keeping everyone happy and content and working really hard to prove that I was good enough and forgot the intrinsic value that we all bring to the table. I forgot to look in the mirror and to see the good – I just saw the flaws – and let myself become a mess of tangled emotions.

I know there are some of you who are sitting there right now reading these words who know that there are things in your life that you need to let go of. I know it. I want to challenge you to look at those things head on and to not let them define you or your tomorrow for one more second. Cut them out of the fabric of who you are. In fact, I don’t think we’re able to grow until that part of us, the holding us part back is removed so that we have space to cultivate newness and hope and joy.

Tomorrow I want you to wake and to remind yourself that this day is new. It’s a day full of potential and that you will embrace it. You’ll give yourself grace needed if you stumble but more than that you will push yourself to stand back up and start again. And no more rumbling stuff in the mind – those fears, those worries, those definers – they aren’t you.

They’re memories.


And chances are, if they’re like me trying to read the Physics book from years ago, they’ve changed and distorted. And more than that they don’t define you now. I think you learned the lesson from them. So do what I’m doing – learn the lesson, be grateful and let’s move forward.

This is the first time in months that I’ve been able to breathe deep.

Funny how excess baggage effects all parts.

So to end with the beginning – the only way forward is in not turning back

Breathe deep my friend.


You and I will be just fine.



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15 Responses to “when the only way forward is not turning back”

  1. March 29, 2016

    Donna Reply

    “My friends told me they didn’t recognize me anymore”
    I’ve been feeling this since returning from 2 years overseas. They might not say these exact words but I feel them. I’m not the same and I don’t recognize myself very well either.

    Then I read this —> “I don’t think we’re able to grow until that part of us, the holding us part back is removed so that we have space to cultivate newness and hope and joy.”
    Cultivating the newness… there’s hope in this for me, thank you Rachel!

  2. March 29, 2016

    Sara Reply

    I’ve taken up running. I am NOT a runner – although the idea of it has always been attractive to me. I HATE getting up early – yet there I am now at 5 AM going outside in the dark and running. I was stuck deep in a funk. My choices were suddenly clear: let the idea of a second child go or leave my husband and go after that dream. The wallowing in my wish was bringing us down and creating such pressure and tension. So I signed up for a 10K in August, and here I am, 3 weeks later…I now run. To heal, to find me again, to do something for only me, to move on. Unsticking myself. Finding a new dream. Thank you so much for all your inspiration. You drive us every day, let me drive you: let it go – move forward – lose the glue. If I can, you can.

  3. March 30, 2016

    KatieJ Reply

    Wow, can I relate to this!

    Your post came at a perfect time for me, too. I had just recently really let someone new in, and then I was let go by him. The pain is intense and very raw, probably because it came after such hope & promise of something better. (As you know, finding hope after a divorce is quite difficult at times.)

    I guess I need to continue to keep my heart open, knowing that I will continue to be hurt. It won’t be easy as I’m really struggling with this pain.

    I need to remember that “the only way forward is not turning back.” As always, thank you Rachel <3

  4. March 30, 2016

    Heather Reply

    Thank you!!!

  5. March 30, 2016

    Kim Reply

    Love that mantra “the only way forward is in not turning back”! Because boy, don’t we all have junk holding us back from our full potential of who we were meant to be?

    Good, bad or ugly, we need to own our choices and just keep plugging away. I saw a wall hanging w the quote “do not look back, you are not going that way”. Hopefully I didn’t misquote it, but you get the idea!

    Now if only I can take my own advice, right? 😉

    Thank you for always speaking truth and reminding me that being real IS good enough. ❤️

  6. April 1, 2016

    Pam Reply

    Dear Rachel,
    What a timely message… I really needed this !
    You really spoke to my heart! Don’t know how I ever stumbled upon “finding joy”, but so glad I did . Sending Love & Prayers your way.

  7. April 11, 2016

    Diana Reply

    I have been divorced for 2 years after a 46 years of marriage.My ex was a verbal abuser! After leaving I find it hard to move on because we are ever connected because of children and grandchildren! Sometimes I am frozen in fear because It’s so difficult. I am 67 years old and that seems to make it more difficult to move forward!

  8. April 14, 2016

    Renee Reply

    I have never posted anything online before. However,I want you to know that I am moved by your post here. I am 46 in September and have not finished college, have two kids 6 and 9 and my husband left me after years of economic and verbal abuse.
    He came from a great deal of family wealth and power.
    His family swooped in and took my kids to their home and began to try and brainwash them against me. Speak to me like a dog and refuse to allow me to so much as see the bedrooms they prepared behind my back to give to my children. It has been abuse of the worst sort and I know that I will never be the person I once believed I could be. I will never achieve much personally in the world of status and money and career power. However, I endure it and find it peaceful to watch TV online or snuggle with my kids and my dog.
    I am not writing just because I feel the weight of my loss and the endurance of pain in life and need to share it with you. I’m writing to et you know I hear you and realize where you are and I am sitting in bed, with my kids next to me sleeping and the lights off, wanting you to know that I get it.
    Let it go and do what you want in the moment and let the chips fall.
    Take pleasure for your sake. Do whatever you need to do but find some joy for yourself.
    I’m praying for you and grateful for your post. I feel less alone having read it.

    • April 19, 2016

      Diana Reply

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement! It does make it easier to know I am not alone in this struggle. I still have work to do but I am so much better than I was 2 years ago! Women need to draw strength from each other because we can understand the feelings that go along with this situation.Thanks again

  9. April 15, 2016

    Nellie Rivera Reply

    I wonder if i could do this. It would help so much…

  10. May 8, 2016

    Manon Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I am stuck and terrified. My husband left me 8 weeks ago, suddenly and out of the blue with no explanation after 13 years. Yesterday I ended up at a hospital because I was having scary thoughts. Your post helps, I find it reassuring to know I’m not alone in this stage, that someone else has been here and has been able to move on. Thank you for sharing xox

  11. June 9, 2016

    Jane Allen Reply

    Reading this encouraged me greatly. At least, I’m not alone. This post is an answer I was asking myself this morning. And, you delivered what I needed in the title of this post and this:

    “In fact, I don’t think we’re able to grow until that part of us, the holding us part back is removed so that we have space to cultivate newness and hope and joy.”

    Thank you for all that you do. I just found your blog but I must say your posts have helped me immensely.

  12. June 12, 2016

    Amber Reply

    Wow. Just wow. I have been following your blog for years now and I caught this one just today and the words were just the perfect thing for me. I’ve been through some hell this year with my son who has gone through some things. Through what he’s gone through I have had to make some really tough decisions and I have questioned them all, worried about them, wondered if they’re right. I’ve stewed over them. Agonized over them. Wondered if they were right. Knowing that I have possibly made some missteps along the way and I have let it trickle into my now. Your visual of straddling and one foot in the past and one foot in the future is so me right now. Thank you for this — I really needed it today!

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