The thing about memories, and the reason they can cause sadness, directly relates to the fact that sometimes the present can seem so far from a seemingly better time and place. This in turn can cause terrible anxieties in regards to the future: “what if”…What if I never get that level back? What if that’s the happiest I’ll ever be? What if I can’t accept today because it’s comprised of stolen dreams and is an existence that is so unlike where I thought my yesterdays would lead me?
So I go back. I want a pause button. I don’t want the past to stay in the past because I took so many things for granted when I was there. I’d like to experience some moments just a little while longer. It’s a triumphant history, and I enjoy savoring times that are gone but not forgotten. Like the first time my arms felt the weight of my little heart hero…when did he become such a chunk? From preemie to perfect toddler…thousands of instances I’d love to feel again. It’s not that I don’t want my son to grow up. I thank God for each new milestone and rejoice in every beat of his heart. I still hold him now. It’s just that my arms shouldn’t be the only ones that embrace him. It felt more secure holding him before I became a single mom. He’s supposed to have an every day chase-til-you’re-sleepy-and-tucked-in-by-two-loving-parents existence.
Another moment that’s gone and not at all like today? One that I never saw leading me here? The smell of savory scents from my oven while splashes of water sprayed the window overlooking our backyard as my child and I made doing the dishes a fun experience. I worked hard to become a home owner and loved living the American dream. It was a place and time with family where we bowed our heads to pray, said “amen” before supper, and had next-door neighbor chats through the fence. These things were sweeter than the desserts tiny hands helped me prepare. Now? We still cook, except the splashes from sink play aren’t from a mudpuppy, but rather, a whale, and have become more of a tidal wave. There’s laughter and enough good food to elicit a smile that could mask a flood of tears. Except there’s no backyard, and there won’t be a chat with a five year friend that once helped us make a house a home. Apartments aren’t like that. We can bloom where we’re planted, but what if we’ve been uprooted and are scattered seeds blowing in the wind? Transitions are hard, and I miss the gifts that come with being in a more grounded state.
Then there are short flashes of joys still fresh on my mind. Comfort from my closest friends. Made up lullabies and back scratches before bed. Sitting side by side conversing on the patio. Happy hours that became all nighters and made me laugh. Trips to the zoo and museum with our children. These were times with people that make me happy. So recent that I still can’t believe it’s not a part of my present. Or maybe it is? I carry that happiness in my heart.
Perhaps the toughest part of the past isn’t just the happy moments and beautiful people that occupy it, but my old self. I miss the me that I once was. The one that didn’t know her plans could derail to such a horrific degree. I remember writing (yes, with pen and paper) my goals. The euphoria in accomplishing them! College? Check. Career? Yes. Marriage? Check. House? Done. Baby? Yay! Pride would be an understatement. The struggles, effort, perseverance and ensuing achievement gave me a sense of love, hope and self-respect that still remains. But now, I also have the emptiness that comes with letting go. (I let go of a lot…not my loves though…I hold my son tighter than ever.) Now, I write my plans in pencil, and my aim is much loftier. I’m not sure if this is childish or wise. Ignorance is bliss: I thought tangible achievements came first and the rest fell into place. Nope. The things I strive for now are much more permanent: love, faith, honor, courage, knowledge, peace, humility, gratitude, and kindness. I believe these come first, and the rest will take care of itself. These things, you can take with you, and they stay regardless of what life delivers. The rest is temporal. (Wasn’t some of it supposed to be forever though?)
There. I glanced into my past and felt some nostalgia- a mix of joy and sadness. Sometimes we have to do that. To see how far we’ve come and assess where we’ve arrived. I’m tempted to fulfill the second piece… “what if?” Tomorrow is full of unknowns, and I dare say, my mind will think of catastrophic possibilities, or worse, a life better than the one I’m living now. But I know better. The past is gone and the future remains to be seen. Besides, what a waste to think tomorrow has something more lovely than today…
So instead, I live in this moment and give thanks. We’re at a baseball game immersed in diversity- our bellies full of funnel cake and hearts overflowing with happiness. My brother is explaining the ins and outs of the sport to Charlie while I write between sips of Coke and bites of peanuts. We’re more than an address, labels, and our losses. We’re people defined by our character and presence. My face hurts from smiling, and I know standing during the National Anthem right between two amazing guys is right where I’m supposed to be. I’ll put my writing down and wrap myself up in our good life. I’ll forget about yesterday so that I can live today. I smile at our existence and pause my mind’s worries over tomorrow. I take in the glory of now. Because, someday, it’ll be just a memory.
Cheers to being present and shaking off the thoughts that steal joy! Find comfort in the things that never end. Hold on to the people you love even through life’s changes. If you do visit the past, don’t stay there long. It takes you away from today. And there’s nothing like opening each morning as if it’s the gift God wrapped especially for you. 🙂