I recently challenged myself to give up watching TV for a week. I thought it would be hard to do, but I’m finding there are plenty of other, more engaging ways, to while away the evening. Like jigsaw puzzles and reading, listening to music, even cleaning out drawers and cabinets is surprisingly more entertaining than TV. One week has expanded into a month and counting. I’m sorting through old files, travel photos, birthday cards. It occurs to me I’m reliving the past, then happily shredding what no longer applies.
As a psychologist, the past was my bread and butter. Like Socrates, who said, “the unexamined life isn’t worth living,” I encouraged my clients to make friends with the past, to take seriously their lived experience, embrace their own truth. I delighted in the many “aha” moments awakened in the process. Sometimes just that was enough to make peace with the past.
And yet, it occurs to me that at some point, all the exploring and analyzing, dissecting and probing the past outlives its usefulness. It’s one thing to learn from the past, it’s quite another to live in it.
In the midst of COVID, I miss traveling. And going to the movies. The ease of meeting up with friends for dinner. Maybe all this sorting through old files and swearing off TV is my way of finding a path forward, something fitting for the times we’re living in—the desperation, the fear. The uncertainty.
I, too, have spent my share of hours uncovering and delighting in my own insights about the past. I believe those were hours well spent. As George Santayana famously said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I toss another file folder into the recycling bin, aware of how quickly six decades and change have slipped away one tick-tock at a time. As disconcerting and unsettling as the current times are, I don’t want to sleep through it, to wake up with another decade having evaporated. The past won’t help us now, that’s for sure.
During an afternoon meditation, I remind myself—again—to be present with the breath. After all, that is the practice. For a brief flicker of a moment, I sense a billowing curtain, a shadowy partition, a gap between the present moment and everything else. For that brief moment, there is nothing but the breath.
And in that moment, I feel free and light and filled with joy. Awake for what’s now.
I invite you to read related blogs including When The Best I Can Do Is Pray and Hope Arrives Like the Tap, Tap, Tapping of a Woodpecker. And my novel, Thin Places, that is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Also, look for my second novel, Cross Body Lead, to be published by Propertius Press in November, 2021.