I’ve been catching myself lately as I lament days of yore. You know those days … when the grass was greener, the sun was brighter, and everything was better. It’s easy to do because we have a tendency to look at the past through the lens of experience and I have a long lens of experience. But at my age, I know that all of those experiences created who I am today and I’m not all that bad. So what has happened is that I’ve forgotten (or am ignoring) many of the negative memories in favor of the pleasant.
But, one thing I do remember are several conversations I had when I was younger. Yes … I have a good memory, even though I might exaggerate stories for effect.
The first memory is from my grade school years. I was reading – for the second or third time – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and was completely enamored with prairie life. My mother didn’t help the matter any. She was in the middle of writing a wonderful little story about three small children who lived during the mid 1850s on the land where our cabin sits. One night, though, I told mom that I wished I had lived during that time. The adventure, the simple lifestyle, the fascinating people all captured my imagination.
Never one to ignore a teaching moment, she stopped me and said. “You’d be dead.”
“What? Dead? From the Indians? Surely Dad would protect us.”
“No, you wouldn’t be alive.” She went on to explain that the heart trouble that had put me in the hospital in third grade would have killed me. If it weren’t for modern medicine, I would not have lived through that episode. I couldn’t argue with her. The doctors all told my parents that if I lived through that week, my heart would be so weakened, I would practically be an invalid. God worked out that miracle.
The second memory comes from several years later. I was in high school and listened to older generations complain about the music kids were listening to. For heaven’s sake, this was the 70s. It was the best music ever, right? But it offended their sensibilities and even though these people had gone through the rejection of Elvis Presley and the Beatles, they weren’t about to accept anything new. The conversation I had was with myself. I would never reject current pop culture because I was offended. I didn’t have to like it, but I was not going to be judgmental about it. Truth be told, there is much that I don’t like, but that’s my business – and I don’t have to splatter it over others who do enjoy it.
The third thing happened more than once, so it wasn’t a singular conversation. Every time we moved into a new church or … every time a new pastor came to a church I was part of, I listened as people complained that things weren’t being done the way they’d always been done, making it nearly impossible for a pastor to do his job. It was easier to suffer through the mistakes they’d made in the past than to make changes and become something new and wonderful. Because of their focus on the past, those congregations refused to look into the future with any anticipation or excitement. It was better to do things the way they’d always done them, because that was a known experience.
You know what? I’d be more comfortable with things staying the way they’d always been. I’d like to stay as anonymous to the world as I was in the 1970s, so no one could threaten me with identity theft or mess with my privacy on line. In 1996, Max began talking to me about getting cable internet service. Always online? Hell no. I fought him and fought him for a year, at least. I was perfectly fine with logging off AOL and severing my connection to the world. He finally wore me down and we made the switch. The world was changing. The future was upon us. I never looked back.
Now I could to do my banking online and find wonderful things in online shops. I’ve found old friends and long lost family. I got a Master’s Degree while writing novels and I began to meet amazing people throughout the process.
The world is different now. We can’t go back and change it. We can’t make the past be in the present. We CAN complain that it’s not like it was and we CAN whine about the fact that things aren’t perfect.
But, what we must realize is that they never were, even when we were young. We are where we are at right now and the choice is in front of us. Live in the moment, look to the future and be grateful for the past that has brought us to today. Don’t carry the baggage of that past into the present or the future. Let it be what it was … and let it stay in our memories.
I will still lament, complain and whine. I can hardly stop myself sometimes. But I will choose to move forward with anticipation and excitement because these are exciting times we live in. I am living a life that is so far beyond my childhood imagination. I don’t want to go back there. I want to be here.