anticipation and the danger of happy memories

24-Montalut - Presenting life as we know it

I just went through a life exercise in anticipation and harvest. Those who know me know that patience is one of my weakest points.

Months ago, I planned to make space for something possibly life-changing.

It’s tricky to frame something this way, then consciously work on downplaying it while it draws near, just to avoid any false romanticism or expectation. When it does unfold, the biggest struggle is to be fully in it, without referencing to the time, effort and anticipation that built it up. It is like a photographer who prepares his gear with full diligence, and patiently waits for the deer to come out and play, or the desert flowers to bloom. He doesn’t know exactly when the anticipated moment will come, if it ever does, and when it does, he prays he is able to recognize it, witness it and play his role in it by taking a picture.

My college teacher once said that life never goes as planned, so don’t get caught up in the details. Go out there with a skeleton plan, then do your thing and have a blast.

When a life-changing moment hits us, we don’t necessarily become aware of it until it is over. And then we immediately want to box it up in a memory. The experience remains in tact, it is complete, and it fills us with inspiration and joy, maybe even pain, the kind that wakes us up and keeps us on our toes. And we love it, having permanent access to this box of stories, which were once very real to us. We stock up on happy memories then we feel we have lived a good life.

What’s the danger here?

When we commit an experience to memory, we make it complete, and also unmoving. It stops. It doesn’t make room for change anymore– it becomes a fixture, albeit a happy, inspiring one.

When these stories involve people who are still in our lives, the encounter becomes stunted. The memory of something great has the danger of keeping us from welcoming the not-so-great days.

I just came from a series of life-changing events, and I’m caught in between romanticizing them in a capsule, and letting them flow through me without grasping, acknowledging that they were big and important and restorative, maybe even heart-opening (or heart-breaking), but also that they’re over. They came, and they passed.

How does one honor something, and yet let it go?