Memory Lanes

Memory is an imperfect thing. Over the years, I’ve heard “that’s not how I remember it” so many times, I’ve lost count. When I was younger, I blamed it on everyone else’s lack of attention to detail. “Oh, yeah, sure you don’t remember it that way, because if you did, you’d know you were so wrong.” But then I started getting the same remark from people that had no stake in their version of events being right and I started to think maybe I was misremembering.

I’ve also gotten “remember the time” a few times over the years, only to wrack my memory trying to remember the time and not finding a clue. At first, I blamed that on them too. They are probably thinking of someone else. I never went there or did that. I never would. And then there were pictures and I still don’t remember being there. It’s like looking at photos that slipped in from an alternate universe. Or maybe it’s me that slipped into an alternate universe. And if I did, what happened to the me that was here first?

It seems that events and details fade in time. Details about my life, things that have happened, relationships that were so important to me at one time have started to fade into the background. There were things I swore I’d never forget every detail of, things I wrote scarce words about in my journals, that I can’t recall as clearly as I used to.

They say time heals all wounds. I’m starting to see how much it does, especially if we don’t have detailed reminders about the past. I wonder why humans are set up this way. Why do we have such imperfect memories? Is it because it’s not important to our survival? Maybe it is better to let those things fade away.

What about holding on to anger and pain from the past? Are we right to be angry about old hurts and insults, knowing that our memory is so unreliable? Is it helping us to stand the high ground on a memory that is most likely wrong and changing each passing year?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s not better to just live in the moment and experience the world and the people in it as it is presented. Yes, you’ve probably done something to hurt me or piss me off in the past, but if you haven’t done it lately, maybe I’ll let it go. It doesn’t mean I have to relate with people I believe have caused me harm, but I don’t have to hold a grudge and carry that anger and insult with me into the future.

We could be holding on to memories that aren’t exactly true. In fact, it’s very likely we don’t remember it as it really happened but as we experienced it. And everyone else is doing the same. It’s like we’re all walking around in worlds of our own making and not realizing that everyone else is living in a different one, their own alternate universe. Actual infinite universes, right in our own heads.

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

Learning to Understand and Accept Change

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Photo by Ramiro Martinez on Unsplash

There is something important that I’ve recently learned to understand and accept. Things change. And they don’t always change permanently. Analogies about the cycles of the moon have become cliché but maybe there’s something to it after all.

I never really noticed the changes in the moon until I moved to the rural desert. The living room of our desert home is mostly windows, which makes the moon-rise, and the sunrise for that matter, very visible. Through our mostly uncovered windows, it’s obvious that the sun and moon rise and set each day more and more to the north and south as the earth wobbles on its axis. It’s amazing to watch and makes one see very clearly why ancient people might worship this cycle. It’s very comforting.

While the sun takes its sweet time moving across the sky, the seasons change day by day, week by week, the moon gives us a whole different feeling. To me, the sun is the big picture, the whole life, but the moon is our daily struggle. She rushes across the night, coming up at different times of the day or night, in different shapes and sizes. Her cycles are quicker and more dramatic than the sun’s. One week she comes up at sunset full of herself. The next week she’s late and half-dressed. Sometimes she comes up a shell of her usual self, right in the middle of the day. Some days we can’t see her at all. And yet, no one stresses about it. No one thinks, “Oh shit! The moon! Something has upset her. We have to fix it!” We just wait, because we know she’ll be back if we leave her to her own devices.

And the moon? I don’t see her as caring much about what the sun is up to, or the earth, or us. She just does her thing and we love her for it.

What if we were more like that? What if we became more aware of our own cycles and simply accepted them? What if we understood other people will have different cycles that have nothing to do with us, and accepted them right where they are?

And why is it that we think that we must live in a straight line or a climbing staircase? These analogies cause us to believe that if we fall to the left or right of the line or reach the end of a set of stairs with no way to go up farther, we fail. We look at our relationships with the world around us as if they can only escalate or die, reach the next level or die off.

For me seems to be more of a cycle that comes around again and again, sometimes with the same person, sometimes with a different person, with any type of relationship. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, a platonic friendship, a sexual relationship, or a parent, child, or sibling, etc., makes no difference. All relationships cycle through and around and back, spiraling up, down, or laterally. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.

My relationship with myself is complicated. There are days and weeks that I feel like she’s doing a fine job of all the things I expect of her. I’m proud of her accomplishments, her strength. She’s a good, responsible friend to have. And then, even though she has not changed one bit in reality, my feelings toward her change. She forgot something I wanted her to remember or took a day off from responsibility to play. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong with our life. In time, again though she’s not changed at all, I begin to fall in love with her. She’s sexy and confident and I want to be close to her, to spend time alone with her. Then it’s gone again, she’s just another woman in my way and I long to break free. Days later, there she is again impressing me with her strength and brilliance. And we’re coming around on the cycle again.

In every relationship we have, each time we go around this cycle we learn more about each other. With every successful ebb and flow of the tide of emotions, we learn to trust each other more. What constitutes “successful?” We don’t walk away from the relationship and we don’t throw hurtful words or actions at each other to make the other do or act the way we want them to only to make us feel better. Success is loving the other unconditionally, regardless of our feelings at the moment.

The more I come to understand that how I feel is not necessarily a reflection of anyone else’s behavior, but merely a season or phase of the moon, the stronger my relationships grow. Every time I learn again that the cycle will return, that every feeling is temporary, the stronger that cycle turns into a spiral ascending into the sky.

Pretty “out there” isn’t it? It’s the truth though. You won’t always be happy. You won’t always be sad. No one needs to be fixed. No one needs to be set straight. It all just is. Accept it. Be in it. And wait for the moon to cycle back again.

Wild For A Time

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Photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

Do you trust me?

Will you let me go feral for a time?
Will you take the reins and tame me again when I return?
Will you be the stable I can return to, hot and sweaty from my run in the wild?
Will you hold me tight, wash the dirt and sweat away, and bed me down?

Can I trust you?

A New Passion Has Emerged

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https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!

It’s The Little Things

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Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash

Today I noticed…

The build-up of a manic episode. The first sparks that light the fire. The fire that can warm and cook to perfection, or burn out of control and destroy.

Thoughts race, mood lifts, creativity flows. Words race out in text, building up fantastic castles in the air.

Projects are conceived and begun. Materials gathered.

Commitments are made. Parties planned.

People are contacted. Apologies made.

It’s a mental spring after a dark winter. Warmth comes from within and dares to spill out into the world of reality.

These are the good days. The days that so much seems so possible, so achievable. But will it last?

Can I build a useful fire? A controlled and sustainable burn?

A feeling that always escaped me in the past, never noticing the build-up until it has begun to burn me.

It’s a start.

To Wisdom!

From Philosophy Now magazine, “Hegel on History” by Lawrence Evans

“As he famously writes, “the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” In other words, philosophy (or ‘wisdom’, hence his reference to the Roman goddess of wisdom) can only analyze history retrospectively, from the standpoint of the present.”

Hegel was speaking of philosophy, but I’m going to take it personally and apply it to personal wisdom.

“The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.” Wisdom can only come at the end of events, not before or during. As the sun rises and makes its way across the sky, we’ll have to rely on our wits and keep working. But once the sun sets, the owl comes out to hunt.

What is “wisdom”? The dictionary says, the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. You can’t have wisdom without experience. You can borrow someone else’s wisdom though and, adding it to your own experience, have greater wisdom in the long run, but you’ll have to have some negative and positive experience to have real wisdom.

So, while I’m having one too many drinks with a friend over lunch and going a bit too far, and afterwards texting a bit too many of the conflicting thoughts that are running through my head in words that are not that clear, I’m making some serious mistakes that may cost me a friendship. Maybe some better laid out principles would have made this situation go more smoothly? Listening to the wisdom of another friend may have spared me. But here I am muddling through voluntarily on my own. The least I can do is watch for the owl.

What wisdom have I gained? I’d elucidate, but I’m afraid it’s far to personal. That’s a rarity for me. Why write about it here if I’m not going to tell you what I learned? Because everyone gains their own wisdom from their own experiences. The key is to know that you can learn instead of just getting up and falling down again.

Experiences are just that, experience. What I wish I could do better is have patience with myself and wait to react after I’ve taken some time from the experience. Instead of reacting right away while I and those that had the experience along side of me are still…recovering…maybe I could have some key phrases and responses that will give me time to process and then say something helpful.

Writing that down for next time, although, at this age you’d think I’d have already learned that and would remember. Some days I wish there was a smart phone app that listened to everything I said and knew where I was and with whom and would pop up with great reminders as a text from a friend. It would say things like, “Do not order another drink.” and “Remember what how she reacted last time?” or “Your mother doesn’t appreciate that kind of language.”

Well, here’s to experience and (hopefully) wisdom!

Down The Rabbit Hole

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“The hardest advice to listen to is your own.

No one to blame when it all turns to shit, right?!

But then it’s worked before. And usually gets the best results because I know my own heart, strength, and situation, best.

But…being responsible for my own actions just sucks sometimes.

How do you guys like listening to me talk to myself?”

My morning Facebook post, one line at a time. The first line was the post. Each following line was a comment as I thought of them over the course of an hour. I typically don’t post things like this. They are cryptic. People don’t know the situation I’m talking about and usually think I’m talking about them…which reminds me of song…

I try to limit my personal posts to what’s happening at our house and what I find interesting. You know, posts about what the kids are going (which are fewer and fewer since they are becoming grown and on their own), awesome things I find in the yard or around town, and cool articles and podcasts. Things people would be interested in. Things that might bring my friends to know me better, as if we are interacting in person instead of online. But then I thought, why wouldn’t my friends be interested in what I’m thinking? And I’ve been thinking a lot lately! So here it is. Use it if you like.

I won’t go into the details of who and what. I’ll just say that he hurt me with his words, but I know he lashed out because he’s hurting too. I had a part in why he’s lashing out. Much like when one of my kids has been pushed to the limit and lashes out in anger, I want to help. He’s a friend, a fellow traveler. But I also know that people need their space when they are hurting. They also need to know someone loves them and is waiting to love them more, but they need to be alone in their feelings until they reach out for help.

He said his piece, probably in frustration and anger. I tried to express my feelings of interest and friendship better. And now I have to leave it at that.

If you love someone, set them free. Right? But, to tell you the truth, I’m not very good at that. I loath so much to be misunderstood or to be on someone’s shit list that I push to have my heart known and sometimes that comes off as desparate or fake.

I do love every one of my online friends. It’s why I have them there. And I’ll always be there for any friend that reaches out, regardless of how many years it’s been or what has happened between us.

Healing Hate

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“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”
From Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

There are all kinds of hate and all of them cover up some kind of past pain, some hidden fear. It’s a primal instinct to push away and demonize that which may cause us pain, that which scares us. A friend asked how we can help people deal with it and I had to think about it. My first instinct is to think that you can’t help, but maybe you can.

When I sense that someone hates someone or something, I don’t insist that they not. I try to respect where they are and know in the back of my mind that they have some fear or pain they are working though. I let people have their opinions, let them speak them and feel them, hold space for them, even if I don’t agree with them.

There is a difference between hateful feelings and hateful actions, though. Making a law to ban certain people from places or activities, physically or verbally harassing someone because they are hated, etc., cannot be tolerated by anyone. But a person saying they hate certain people and don’t want to interact with them can be left alone. They are hurting no one but themselves.

If we allow people to have their hate, if we love them anyway, and respect their opinions, give them space to feel what they feel, we have the chance to open a dialog about where that hatred comes from. Hate is a natural, instinctive feeling, and it takes time to work through. When someone makes a statement about something they hate, I ask questions about it. I ask why and respect their answers, maybe give an opinion of my own. This gives people a chance to reflect on their feelings and possibly change them.

If we shut people down when they express hate, we cut off that dialog and let that feeling ferment in the darkness. In that quiet feedback of the mind, that hatred grows and turns into action.

Hate isn’t going anywhere. You can’t get rid of it, but we can minimize it and give it a shorter lifespan.