“Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.” — Doménico Cieri Estrada, award-winning Mexican writer
Will pay cash for old glass. That’s what the poster read. I had just tacked it to the bulletin board of a local grocery store. It was the third poster I’d hung that noon hour.
I was in Grade 9 at the time. I’d been bitten by the bottle bug while rummaging around an old derelict farmstead a couple miles from home. My efforts garnered three intact beverage bottles and a couple fruit jars. Certain I had found something of value, I began looking through newspapers for collectors. A small ad in the Western Producer told of an antique glassware guild. I eagerly mailed off my $12 members fee. When a package from the guild arrived in the mail, I ripped it open to discover a welcome letter, a price guide and half a dozen posters.
Soon after that I started poking around our vegetable room for antique fruit jars. I wasn’t disappointed. Mom had a great assortment of old Mason jars — the kind with a wire latch to lock the lid. Each was worth a few bucks according to my new price guide.
Shortly after the posters went up, the phone started to ring.
Nearly everyone calling had a cache of old long-neck beer bottles for sale.
Sometime prior, brewers had gone to using stubby beer bottles and thus there was no return offered on the old long-necks.
“You’d better find out if there’s a market for these relics before you buy any more!”
Mom was right. I had already spent my allowance and borrowed another $10 from her. I decided to confirm the value of my cache by calling one of the “trusted” glass collectors listed in my guide. I was shocked to discover that most of the numbers were no longer in service and the couple collectors I reached were not interested. My relics were worthless. And I was stuck with them.
Relics are things that have outlived their intended use, but we keep them around anyway. Some are tangible relics, like old bottles or jars, that take up space in our garages or sheds. Others relics are more subtle: emotional relics that we hang onto for years, filling up our memories. Like the tangible relics, some of these feelings are positive and valuable, attached to people or events that had positive influences on our lives. They’re more like an antique lamp passed down from a grandparent that might occupy a prized position in the living room. But other feelings are more like my old beer bottles: valueless, cluttering up our minds and weighing us down, harming our self-esteem. They might be old hurts, unresolved issues, unrequited love or grudges. Are these relics truly worth keeping?
Take some time to examine your relic emotions and determine the value of each one. If the relic is one of love or joy, a precious memory that makes you smile, then tuck it away for safekeeping. If the relic is anger or pain, then haul it off to the mental landfill. Acknowledge it, keep the lesson it brings, but dispose of it.
This disposal often requires forgiving whoever caused those feelings in you. It doesn’t mean that you forget about the past or erase it from your memory; it does mean that you recognize that it is part of the past, something you cannot control or change.
Of course forgiving is not always easy. Sometimes the person you need to forgive may have moved away or even died, so talking it out and resolving the issue might be impossible. But in those cases, try considering the other person’s point of view. It is often tremendously rewarding. I usually advise against assumptions but for an interesting exercise, assume the person never intended to hurt you. OK, that can be a stretch, but bear with me. Ask the question: what might he or she have been thinking that led to what was said or done? What early programming might have been in place? What fears or insecurities were haunting this person? Remember, you’re not making the person right or the act justifiable; you’re simply looking for understanding and awareness by shifting your perception to a different vantage point – one that allows forgiveness.
If the relic was an altercation ask yourself, “What was my part in all this?” Could you have handled the situation differently? Is there something to be learned from reflection? You are not releasing the individual from responsibility; you are simply acknowledging that you are an active participant in all events in your life – both past and present.
Once you’ve examined your relics, bring your focus back to the present. What are you doing now? How has this relic affected you? Has it affected your own self-image? Has it made you comfortable as a victim, or afraid of accountability? What can you draw from the past that will help you to become a more loving, self-aware and heart-centred individual? Allow peace to enter your life – free yourself from the past so you can reclaim the present and become the change you desire in yourself.
After I discovered how worthless my old bottles were, Mom suggested a better way to collect glassware than putting up posters and spending my hard-earned money. As it turned out, most of the farm wives were happy to have me rummage through their fruit cellars to “collect” old glassware. Mom told me most of the ladies had upgraded to new Jewel jars with the screw-on lids as the old Masons were the devil to get a seal. They recognized when it was time to let go of their relics.
I never did find anyone interested in buying my relics. They might be worth something today, but that’s no longer relevant; I decided years ago to keep them. Yes, I had been disappointed to learn they held no monetary value, but I soon discovered those relics held a different value. They brought and still bring me the joy of the memories associated with my childhood: a jar of home-canned fruit prepared with love by Mom, or a 13-year-old’s infatuation with the next great business scheme.
“We could imagine nothing pleasanter,” declared Heinrich Schliemann, German businessman and amateur archaeologist, “than to spend all of our lives digging for relics of the past.”
As you inventory the relics in your life, may they be ones chosen for the peace, happiness and the fond memories they bring you.