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“I feel like I’ve wasted the last year,” she said, as she looked at me through the camera on her laptop.

“Perhaps not,” I said back.” She and I were miles apart, but it felt like we were close together. We had screen faces and screen smiles and screen delivered nuances of expression that helped us to speak freely.

“We learn from everything we go through,” I said. It sounded cliched.  “Now you know more about yourself and about the kind of relationship you want in the future. If you hadn’t gone through this then you wouldn’t understand yourself or other people as well as you do now.” That sounded better.

It was really not much me telling her that.  My wife said something like that to me recently, and  I was paraphrasing  her, as I so often do. There is a significant advantage in being married to a smart women. Not long ago, I had bemoaned to my wife my regret over the emotionally difficult experience that I went through in switching jobs in 2008.

My wife had listened, and then responded. “It’s made you who you are.”

She got it right, as she usually does, and I liked it as I tried it on,  for me, for my friends and everyone else.

“Hmm.” We may not like what we’ve been through and it may seem a loss, a waste, an unwanted detour, but that is not the only way to view our experience.

Every hard thing we go through has the potential to shape us, make us.

When someone has been hurtful to us, this might at first bury us, but then  we might learn that we really don’t want to do something like that to anyone else. When someone has dominated us,  we may learn something mean from this, how to dominate others, or we may learn a much better lesson — to not dominate others. When someone has not honored our emotions, we might learn that only some people are safely entrusted  with our deepest emotions. When we have made a mistake, we may know not to make it again, maybe.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.

The past is a form of truth, so “the  past will set you free too,” if you can  see the truth extruding out of it.

I am learning to make friends with my past. The past is my best friend. It has given me everything I now have. It has been my teacher. It has been my lover.  The past has humbled me, and it has honored me.  It has left me angry; it has also taken anger out of me. The past has shaped me into the me of the very me inside the core of the very me.

And lately, I am realizing that the past has turned me into the me that I am learning to treasure.

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