There is no escaping the memories of our life even if we want to or at least no escaping them for long, even the times when we don’t want to remember. In one sense the past is dead and gone, never to be repeated, over and done with, but in another sense, it is of course not done with at all or at least not done with us.
Every person we have ever known, every place we have ever seen, everything that has ever happened to us somewhere whether, we like it or not the memories are there waiting for us.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to bring them back to the surface in bits and pieces. The words in a song that was popular years ago. A book we read as a child. A stretch of road we use to travel. An old photograph, an old letter, an old hallmark card. And don’t forget the good, bad, and ugly ones that come rushing back like an uninvited guest who just won’t leave.
There is no telling what trivial thing may do it, and then suddenly there it all is something that happened to us once. And it is not just as a picture on the wall to stand back and gaze at but as a reality, we are so much a part of still. Sometimes we feel a memory with the feelings something close to the original intensity and freshness of it.
Remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time? It doesn’t matter how many years ago it was the memories come rushing back and our senses come alive again. We smell the smells, hear the sounds of laughter, we feel the love and feel the tears that ran down our checks when we remember how that love ended so many years ago. Times too beautiful to forget and too terrible to remember.
Memories come at us helter-skelter and unbidden, sometimes so thick and fast that they are more than we can handle in their poignant, sometimes so sparsely that we all but cry out to remember more. Sometimes a dream seems to say more than that, to speak of a different kind of memory and to speak of remembering in a different kind of way. The kind of memories I have been naming are memories that come and go more or less on their own and apart from any choice of our own. Things remind us, and the power is in the things’, not our power. On the other hand we can gain power over our memories and how they affect us.
We are all such escape artists you and I we don’t like to get too serious about things, especially about ourselves. When we are with other people, we are apt to talk about almost anything under the sun except for our own lives, except for what is going on in our own skins. We pass the time of day with endless chat, chat, chat, (emailing, texting, and, messaging).
We hold people at bay, keep our distance from them even when we know it’s not what we want. And it’s the same thing when we are alone. Let’s say it’s late evening and everybody else has gone away or gone to bed. The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where you have come from and where you are going to, for sifting through the things you have done and the things you have left undone for a clue to who you are for better or worse.
We turn on the television and check our emails or read a book. We find some chore to do that could easily wait for the next day. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. We cling to the surface out of fear of what lies beneath the surface. You may be thinking, ” Nobody know the trouble I’ve seen,” and of course nobody knows the trouble you’ve had. Nobody knows the hurt, the sadness, the bad mistakes, the crippling losses but you.
Don’t forget the happiness you’ve seen too. The precious times, the precious people, the moments in your life when you were better than you knew how to be. Nobody knows that either, but you do. We are to remember it. And then, if your dream was really a true dream, you will find it, beyond any feelings of joy or regret that one by one the memories give rise to, a profound and undergirding peace, a sense that is some unfathomable way all is well.
You have survived and maybe that is at the heart of your remembering after twenty years, forty years, sixty years or eighty, you have made it to this year, this day. Each of us must speak for ourselves, you may have seen so much sorrow and enough pain to turn your heart to stone. Who hasn’t? Many people can tell you that they have chosen the wrong road, or the right road for the wrong reason.
You may have loved the people in your life too much for either their good or yours. You might have loved with the devices and desires of your own heart, as the old prayer goes, yet often when your heart called out to be brave, to be kind, to be honest, to be loving, to be generous, you may have not followed this prayer and lost at love.
To remember your life is to remember countless times when you might have given up, gone under, when humanly speaking you might have gotten lost beyond the power to find you but you didn’t. You haven’t given up and with all the memories you have and the tales you could tell, you are a survivor and are here. And what does that tell us, about surviving? It tells us that weak as we are, a strength beyond our strength has pulled us through at least this far, at least to this day.
Foolish as we are, a wisdom beyond our wisdom has flickered up just often enough to shed its light and show us the right path through the forest, at least to path that leads forward, that is bearable. Faint of heart as you can be, a love beyond your own power has kept your heart alive. Is there away to escape memories? I wonder…