Monday, December 26, 2011

Memories of the Good Old Days

You remember the “good old days” don’t you?  Those were the days we always think back upon when we feel like today isn’t so good.  There is probably a 50/50 chance that those days were as good as it gets and since then it has all been downhill.  I remember old times and activities that are different from my current experiences.  There were the holidays when all of our extended family members got together for great dinners, music and games!  I remember when my dad or mom would sit down at the piano and play the songs everyone knew (the music of the 1930’s and early ‘40’s).  Often dad would play one of his several guitars.  One I was particularly fond of was the steel guitar. There were a lot of the big band songs, patriotic songs from the First World War and, of course, popular ballads of the time.  Sometimes we would play the old 78 RPM records—the Mills Brothers, Glenn Miller, and a lot of artists you probably never heard of.  Yes, THOSE were the good times!

Oh, come on!  Get over it!  The other 50 % of the time things were rotten!  People didn’t treat each other well, siblings weren’t always nice to each other.  And sometimes we just didn’t feel like singing, well, maybe the blues!  Depending on the era during which you made your entry to this world of wonders, you were stressed by the Great Depression (most likely it was your parents who were stressed and you “inherited” it).  Or maybe it was the hostility of a world war.  You could have come along later when nothing seem to matter—the 50’s “Beatnik” generation.  Whenever it was that you showed up, it was what it was.  Whether you ever got over it or not was up to you.  And it still is!

Sometime, sooner or later, we need to “flush” the negativity that has become our memory of those “good old days.”  Maybe the memory of the activities the family engaged in really does feel like the better times, the “home” place in your heart where what you did then represented the most important times of your life.  My image of family gatherings in early 1940’s are among the strongest I have.  Of course, I get sentimental about the home we lived in, the neighborhood and neighbors (all of whom knew each other back then).  But I also remember the neighborhood bully who ripped my Christmas Teddy Bear out of my hands and threw it in a mud puddle.  It was never quite the same after that, but I kept it for years. 

We have to be somewhat careful about how we remember the past.  There is certainly nothing wrong with having the memories, but if we tend toward thinking of them as the good that will never be in our life again, we are doomed to regress and withdraw from our current reality.  When a place where we used to live is more important to us than where we are living, we may not be really living at all in terms of benefiting from our present experience.

Christmas for 2011 is now over.  The presents have been opened and enjoyed.  For many the family has gathered, broken bread and shared in the love of being together.  For those living far apart, as most families seem to today, modern technology has made it possible to share directly through phone or Internet.  It is almost like being there, but not quite.  Whatever our experience, we have set in motion thoughts and feelings that will forever be a part of our memories.  How we choose to characterize our experience will tend to be how it influences us down the road.  It is not really what the event was like that is important.  It is how we remember it from now on.

As we look forward to the New Year and new adventures, new growth, and even new challenges, we will be making a choice as to how we face life, and thus how the events influence our future memories.    It is possible to adopt the attitude that the best is yet to be.  We can cherish the wonder of today and defuse whatever negative charge still exists in our memories by realizing that all that has gone before has made us who and what we are today.  And it is likely that we are better, richer and more blessed than we think. The New Year will be what it is.  How we choose to experience it is up to us.  It is our choice.

May you choose the best that can be!  May you make this the best year ever!