If you spend the front half of your life looking forward, you spend the latter half looking back. And in both perspectives, you lose something important.
When you’re young, you plan, you intend, you hope, you aspire. It is perhaps a marker of some kind of middle age or even (whisper it) maturity, when you realise that you have done none of the things you set out to do, you’ve done others and so absorbed were you by what was going forward, you never felt you missed out.
Or is that a definition of a good life ?
From my teens onward, I was a great little planner and, not to deprecate, I was a doer too.
I did what came to me to do. I followed my nose. Overview came much later and with it the realisation that most of what I had planned didn’t happen.
There are several things I would like to do and see before I die but where I wanted to go and why, has changed. The places and things have changed and my perception of them has changed too.
For example, while it may be the mark of a philistine to say so, but I once went to a great deal of trouble to see the work of a particular minor artist and when I did, I realised why the work was regarded as minor: it looked better on cards.
Were I offered a free trip, there are very few places I would decline to go.
But the younger me didn’t differentiate between tourism and travel and I have learned I need time in places or they remain ciphers in the life of my imagination.
The jokes we used to make about “if it’s Thursday, it must be Belgium” have more serious ramification when you realise that some of the world’s beauty spots are being worn away by the numbers who go to see them.
I don’t want to be waited on hand and foot in a country that can’t feed its children, or that discriminates brutally against anything or anyone differing from the prevailing norm.
I can turn a blind eye but my eye is not blind. And I can choose, so too, I can choose not.
But if you get to the second half of your life and your conversation and thoughts turn mainly on who you were , and who you were with, and how it was then – even with a memory as good as mine currently is – you don’t recall like a tape recording. You remember in context and context colours remembrance.
|I will always recall Crete with affection because I had wanted to go there for so long, because I went there with a man I loved, because we took our son there when he was little. But I can’t live in those memories.
The man is gone, the boy is grown to manhood and the island will be changed (I hope oh I hope not much) but to hope it is not changed at all is a pie in the sky.
That’s why “going back” is such a trap as an idea. It suggests that you are as you were and what you are going back to is as you remember it, and very little if any of that will be true.
Worse, if you spend your life in projection and recall, you forget (as the Americans say) to wake up and smell the coffee.
I say with humility that I had to learn to cherish the present. If things go wrong, and you have lost the present, you lose that which will nourish you as you go forward into the future.
Becoming fascinated with visualisation, I began to use past images to help me calm down, to sleep, to rest and focus. When I first talked about it on air, the woman with whom I was in conversation said “But I haven’t got 15 minutes a day !” And I felt and said that if you couldn’t find 15 minutes in a day, to sit quietly and draw breath and be, you hadn’t got much and perhaps you would like to think about that ?
The other day a dear friend was talking about how illness changes perspectives, how life becomes the next bout, the next lot of tests, the side effects, the hospital appointments and she used a wonderful phrase: “You lose the now” she said.
And I suddenly saw the now as the head of a beautiful horse that I have ridden from time to time and I didn’t want to lose it.
Dear Anna, I so agree. The now is all we have. When my mind wanders off, I try to focus on my breathing if I am sitting or my footsteps if I am walking. It really does slow your life down. Hope you are very well Anna – would love to hear you back on the radio. x
The ‘now’ really is all we have and we get lost in the past and the future. Concentrating on ‘the now’ slows life down and stops it flashing past. A good tip is to listen to your footsteps if you are walking or just focus on your breathing. xx
Some good advice on here, i find it really hard to stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future .