As I have gotten older I have come to see the past differently, something I think all of us do if we think about it a moment. The past was once a warm place where I could look back to when times were tough. The past offered respite and solace and the warmth of memories.
As I have gotten older though I see the past differently.
The past has become a well to me that offers merely echoes of what I call down into it. It isn’t my voice but a facsimile of my voice repeating what I had already said.
It’s a sad mental image but not necessarily untrue.
The problem with memories and our attachment to them is that as time passes so to does our recollection. We gloss over the bad and amplify the good, or vice verse, focusing on how utterly terrible something was while pushing aside the goodness therein. There isn’t room for a lot of gray in the past, no, it’s mostly just black and white. It’s easier that way. Looking back gives us the perspective to obsessively scour moments for some truth that may just not exist. Did he say that? Did she mean that? Did they feel this? On top of all that there is the fact that we can only experience one half of a relationship and one piece of an experience. DID they love you? DID they hate you? Was ANY of it real? We can’t ever really know. We only have our memories and our experiences to guide us and those are only as clear as we’ll allow them to remain. We prefer the world through frosted glass because it’s the easiest and best way to deal with it. Life’s complicated and bloody as it is, pulling off scabs doesn’t make it any better, it just makes us have to process more crap. And obsessing over a warm memory does little more than leave another piece of your heart behind, where you can’t necessarily retrieve it.
People come and go from our lives, that is just a fact.
Love comes and goes.
Friendships rise and fall.
Good times and bad are the wallpaper of our souls.
It’s all a part of the ride.
Remembering the past, looking at it from time to time, for whatever the reason, isn’t wrong at all because it informs who we are and have become. We grow, recede, or learn from the past. The thing is though that the past is a haunted house. It’s often beautiful but holds secrets, and when you are there, you are never alone. We bring with us the ghosts of our expectations and needs. We bring our baggage with us, not wanting to move in, exactly, but we can get trapped there. People get trapped all the time. Looking back so long, so longingly, that they miss out on the wonder of the moment they are living in. Or they look back and are poisoned by pain and frustration so that it destroys everything they hold dear.
The thing we miss when we look back is that it WAS and is not an IS. Those things that gave us joy or pain are gone. The past, as they say, is a fun place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there. So too with the people and things that live there. The cool thing about getting older is that perspective and time allow you to forgive things and to move on. It allows you to smile at the good things and let them live in that moment without needing them to be all moments. We move on, from things and people, out of necessity and out of the sheer, awful nature of living. We lose people we adore and we forget times we loved. It’s just the way it is. Some day we’ll find a way to indelibly implant those memories onto hard drives and implants that let us visit and revisit them but all we could ever do is be a voyeur to our own lives. We cannot change the past. We cannot recapture it. We can relive it softly lit or as a burning pyre and that is all. We can take the things the past taught us and move forward and be better, become better, and act better. We can remember the lost loves and lost friends and we can mourn their absence but they are gone, and gone for a reason, even if we don’t want to accept those reasons. You can’t relight something that’s already ash. Some relationships can be rekindled, sure, most of us have friendships that were resurrected at some point or another, but they are different. They are changed. Whatever magic they were first born of is gone and you have to find new reasons to be connected. Happy and sad times are only places to visit, but not to stay. Living is for creating the new memories and for giving them meaning but without us they have none.
If you aren’t present, then there’s nothing but memories made, not memories to make.
In this time more than any other we tend to look back wistfully or bitterly and re-assess for a hundredth time the things that have come to pass. And it’s fine to visit the past, so long as we understand that the echoes we hear are simply our own voices repeating what we want to hear, good, bad, or indifferent. The worst day of our lives could have been someone else’s best and the best relationship we ever had could be someone else’s worst. The past is a prism which will never tell a full tale but only dole out pieces, and that’s just how it is. Better to glimpse it then, from time to time, reminding ourselves of why we are on the path we are on and what it took to get us here. Better to focus on weaving new moments and making new memories and seeing where the story will take us in the end.