Sometimes beautiful, sometimes painful, memories are the mind and heart’s way of holding a historic account of our lives, our feelings, and our dreams. Like a patchwork quilt, they make up the rich and colorful tapestry of our lives, weaving a story through moments in time stitched together with love. Memories, whether good or bad, color the lens through which we view our past, as well as the lens through which we see our present and the possibilities for our future.
Memories may elude us from time to time – distant and hard to grab hold of, as if just out of reach. A forgotten name, a forgotten moment, a forgotten feeling; brain synapses slow to fire. At those times, it seems impossible to imagine that someone or something we once deemed so important could slip from our memories, swiftly and without warning. At other times, a mere scent or sound can carry our minds and hearts back to places and feelings with such a frightening degree of clarity that it seems hard to believe they are now a part of our past.
When we hold someone in our heart, for example, we can often recall the tiniest details, sometimes from years past. Perhaps it’s the memory of laughter shared, a dance, a song, an embrace, or even the memory of smile lines formed at the creases of another’s eyes. Sometimes the memory is of quiet moments shared, without words, yet intimate all the same. I believe that when someone truly touches our heart, whether for a moment or lifetime, an imprint remains, etched in our heart forever. Our memories remind us of those etchings…of choices made…even when we can no longer return to the past.
There are other kinds of memories, too. Remembrances of people and places and moments that perhaps caused us pain, either in and of themselves, or because they are now lost to us and cannot be reclaimed. These are the hardest kinds of memories. They are our hauntings – those thoughts and feelings that can sometimes stop us in our tracks, cause us to question choices of the past and present, and generally keep us stuck. Perhaps we remember a mistake made that cannot be undone or the pain we felt in relationship with another. For those memories that are rooted in pain, the answer is forgiveness – of ourselves and others. For those memories that keep us trapped in the illusions of the past, we learn to let go. Sometimes our memories are simply reminders of unfinished business that we still need to attend to. In those cases, we honor the truths they reveal and the lessons they teach, then roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of working through them to a place of peaceful acceptance.
Whatever your memories, consider a wonderful tweet I stumbled upon this week. It went something like this: Do not be sad for what is lost, but instead be grateful for what you had in that moment. The next time you are swept up in a wave of memories, honor them, cherish them, accept them as a necessary part of your journey, and then let go with love. It is not a betrayal of the past to live fully in the present, but to stay stuck in the memories of our past, is surely to deny ourselves the possibilities of the future.
How do you honor your past, while still living in the present? Are your memories a friend or foe? Do they propel you forward or keep you stuck? How do you balance all that has come before with what is now and is still yet to be?
PostScript: When my grandmother passed away several years ago, my father asked me if there was anything special of hers that I wanted to keep. “Only two things,” I replied. The first was a beautiful porcelain washbowl and basin she lovingly crafted with her own hands. The second was a large assortment of quilt squares she had accumulated over decades of quilting, some partially woven together, others threadbare and just tossed together. I did not request the completed quilts. My thinking? How wonderful to take the pieces of her past and weave them into a new vision…something beautiful for the future.