Our memories are emotional snapshots of a single moment in our lives. They may evolve around events, people or places. We take those memories and we colour them with years of handling and layering with bits and pieces of detail and meaning.
Those memories that make us yearn with an aching need to recapture what once was, cannot ever be found again by simply returning to the scene of the snapshot. It has nothing to do with a place or even really the people. It has to do with the emotions we felt in a moment during the journey of our life. Often, the very process of trying to recreate what was, shatters it forever. Somehow the idea that we could return is a greater comfort than the failed attempt to do exactly that.
Going back leads us to stand in our past. What we saw and knew as a child is often explained. The magic is lost and our own growth and understanding lend shading and depth to it that we see now because we have matured and are now capable of understanding. The huge tree we used to climb almost to the sky, where we would sit for hours, is actually a pretty average old tree of no real consequence. Our first kiss can never be re-experienced because everything in that moment was coloured with the sensory overload of new emotions. The very air we breathed seemed full of promises and all the hopes and dreams of our expectations and imaginings not only heighten our interpretations of the event as it happened, but also as we thought about it later. A first kiss from someone we loved is very different from a first kiss from someone we are not at all attracted to. The difference is not in the kiss, it is in the meaning we attach to it. Those layers of meaning are not real in the sense that they exist independent of our producing them and applying them to the event, and they are not static.
So we call an old friend, or visit home, or arrange a Christmas like it used to be …. and none of it feeds the longing in our souls to reconnect with a part of our life when we were happy. Instead of finding what we are looking for, we feel cheated out of the very memory we were chasing.
We will skip through our current lives and arrive somewhere down the road where we will look back and find that while we were skipping, a moment happened that we can see had meaning. We suddenly feel deeply connected to it, made more intense because the emotion of regret is now attached. It seems like all happiness and meaning lies somewhere behind us and we cannot ever touch those memories again.
You can root yourself to the earth where you stand and breathe deep into your belly and feel your lungs fill with the air of now. You can place your hand over your heart and feel it pumping blood into your body. You are alive. Feel the air that surrounds you, feel it on your skin. Notice the aromas and smells, hear what people are saying. See what they are doing. Look at their faces. Hold on to right now.
When people come to visit me here in Australia, I take them to the ocean and stand them on a long stretch of beach, their toes in the sand, the water dancing up the beach to tickle their toes before receding back from where it came from. I tell them to look around, to hear the cries of the birds off in the distance, the waves pounding against the shore. I ask them to feel the heat of the sun on their face, the cool caress of the wind across their cheeks now and then. They can feel the sand between their toes, and the water that rushes around their feet and then is gone, burying them deeper into the sand. I have them smell the freshness of the air, full of life. Sometimes they spread their arms and throw their heads back and twirl with joy. And then I ask them to close their eyes, to put their hands on their hearts and to take it all in, to keep this moment so that when they are stressed or sad when they go home, that they can come back here and be as they are now. They can remember that they are alive and reconnect themselves, find peace.
That moment is theirs forever, to keep as a gift.
And life gives us billions and trillions of moments that we can root ourselves in and treasure forever. They are not what we are intended to cry over, but instead, they are what reminds us that we are alive and that life has meaning. We have meaning.
Our happiness is not back there, with the person we used to be. These memories are not evidence of a love that is limited to that set of circumstances. There is not need to try and find them again, or to recreate them in our present life. Love goes with us. Love molds and shapes us. It is always with us. All the meaning we attach to a memory is real to us and it carries us on. We created that moment and we made it special because we witnessed it and valued it. That is the true essence of our power and our value. We don’t get to keep the people, the place or the event, but we do keep the lesson, the meaning and the love. And THAT we can apply to the now.