I was out the other evening location scouting with my nephew and his mum. She’s got a new album coming out and needed some promo shots for it. We wanted to find a good spot during golden hour, that magical hour just after sunrise or before sunset, when the sun hits the horizon, slicing through the atmosphere in such a way that the light refracts all glowy and full of wonderment. It turns average pictures into something special.
I felt like we found it, but I always feel like it’s a good spot and a golden hour when I’m with my nephew. That sounds cracked ’cause it’s so corny, but it’s true. Last year at this time I was pretty depressed and taking a meditation class during which I was reminded yet again how important it is to stay in the present. I observed how easy that was to do around him.
Lately that seems more and more important. There’s a very brief window of time here before he begins to develop a sense of time. Until then he lives like a goldfish, with no memory. Well, not no memory, of course. He remembers who I am and greets me almost every time by smiling big and running at me arms outstretched till I gather him up wordlessly and hold him to my chest, rocking him back and forth. It’s our ritual. I hope for everyone and anyone reading this you’ve got one like it somewhere in your life and someone to greet you at the door in just such a way. It’s the best, most precious thing imaginable.
And it’s disappearing by the second. Trying to hang onto these moments is futile. Already T is wriggling from our grasp, putting his hands in front of his face, saying, “no pictures!!” He isn’t interested in our need to capture this moment, bottle it, try to hold on to it, but he is aware, on some level, that we’re trying to. Right now he still sees it as an interruption to his flow. He would rather be collecting leaves and sticks and stones and handing them to me asking me if I want some “mac and cheese.”
He isn’t interested in “capturing the moment,” he isn’t even aware it’s disappearing so why would he want to hang onto it? Why would we? Thinking about this the other day I saw for the first time that my “good” memories are as poisonous to me as my “bad” ones. When I’m down and feeling blue I’ve grown accustomed to comforting myself with memories from my past when I was happier. But thinking about how happy T makes me the other day and how sad I am that he is going to grow older and change and probably not remember any of this it struck me suddenly that a happy memory can be just as toxic – maybe more – than a bad one.
It’s obvious, isn’t it? How it can have escaped my notice I can’t say, exactly, but there it is. Every time I remember a past love, a long ago triumph, or an old revelation it’s like I’m trying to prove to myself that my life is about that, (proven – though past – happiness) not this (current sadness). But holding onto a happy memory from the past creates a barometer of what your life “should” be like. It becomes a perfect example of something perfect. Which, of course, is imaginary. Only a Capricorn would believe anything could ever really be perfect. Used in this way, a happy memory becomes toxic because it’s so easily used to show us what “failures” we are in the present.
But the real problem with allowing your memories to dictate your current emotional state is that they will. In other words, living in the past, no matter how happy, is still living in the past. It’s not now. It’s not happening now. And, the truth is, maybe it never really even happened the way we remember it. It’s a fact that the more we remember something the further away from the original moment we get. It’s not like a film we just rewind and replay over and over again. Every time we remember something we recreate it. It’s not a file we access, it’s an event we recreate.
Which speaks to some larger truth I think I’m only just beginning to grasp, to be honest. Because to re-create something we first need to create it. I think I’m only just now beginning to perceive after years of reading and studying this phenomenon how very much I truly am responsible for the creation of my perception of things.
It would be a mistake to think that understanding this necessarily translates into the practice of it. If I’ve learned anything from T it would be that only the practice of it translates to the practice of it. But it’s a start.