Common wisdom insists that you can’t change the past.
Ten years ago, via the Great Gregory Garage Door Mystery, I discovered just how easy-to-change the past can be.
The Great Gregory Garage Door Mystery
I can see that Daniel’s patience is hanging on by a thread even before he says, “You left the garage door open again. This makes five times this week, and today someone stole all my father’s tools!”
Too confused to be defensive, I wonder How does this keep happening? I know I’m an air-headed Sanguine. But this is too much, even for me!
I feel awful about the missing tools, which were Daniel’s few remaining connections to his father.
I must learn to pay attention to details! I tell myself for the billionth time in my life.
So, I write “Close Garage Door” in bold Sharpie letters on a bright yellow Post-It note and tape it to my steering wheel.
If this doesn’t work, I’m truly hopeless.
I show Daniel my reminder sign. He shrugs. He’ll believe it works when he sees the evidence.
The next morning, as I leave for work, I notice my “Close the Garage Door” note right after I’ve pushed the remote.
Done! I congratulate myself.
But when I glance back, I see the garage door on its way UP, not down.
What on earth…?!?
I push the remote again, watch the garage door until it closes, and drive away, baffled. That night, I mention the incident to Daniel. He looks skeptical but says nothing.
A few days later, however, I come home to find him all up in arms.
“I know I pushed the remote as I left. I know I did. But I came home to find the garage wide open! The door must be busted…or the remote is defective…”
I’m relieved that he’s had a similar experience with the garage door. And I’m ever-so-hopeful that perhaps the stolen tools aren’t entirely my fault.
Turns out, they aren’t my fault at all.
We catch the actual culprit that same day.
As we return home from grocery shopping, Daniel parks in the garage and hits the remote. Right before we expect to hear the garage door bang shut, we hear it grind to a halt and start to open instead.
And we both hear another tell-tale sound: the flap-flap-flap of the cat door.
Our daughter’s Siamese cat, Kitsy, has been playing a feline form of “chicken,” waiting until the garage door is almost shut before dashing in, breaking the laser beam and activating the reverse mechanism.
Once we know the real problem, we easily solve it.
Yes, You Can Change the Past
Ten years ago, The Great Gregory Garage Door Mystery reinforced this truth:
Limited knowledge leads to incorrect conclusions.
This is why I vehemently disagree with the plethora of pithy platitudes that pockmark Facebook:
- “Remember, you can’t reach what’s in front of you until you let go of what’s behind you. Move forward without looking back.”
- “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
- “The past is like an anchor holding us back. You have to let go of who you are to become who you will be.”
No, I do not recommend that we stick our noses in our navels and snivel about our past miseries until we become catatonic victims.
But the assertion that moving forward requires avoidance of the past is absurd.
New information allows us to re-write the past. (Click to Tweet this.)
- New information gives us greater understanding.
- Greater understanding allows us to revise the stories we’re telling ourselves.
- New stories create new feelings.
One day you’ll look back and realize in surprise: Everything looks so different!
And that’s when you’ll realize that you can, in fact, change the past.
I’d love to hear your perspective…
What’s your approach to the past?