Since my last post (July 5 2020) was the AMAZING “letter from the future” – I decided to write back – to Future NormL! Of course, this raises all sorts of issues with chronology conflicts – has future me (and presumably future you) already read what I am writing now? If so … did that influence what future me wrote to begin with? Whatever – here is what I want the future to remember, one day.
Hello Future NormL! Thanks for your note. I just realized – I have no idea when you might be reading this – or already have? Let’s say … Summer 2040, 20 years from now. By then I will be in my 80’s and hopefully still vital and functional – I guess that is somewhat up to me right now, and I think I am doing ok on that front. Mom and Dad both passed at around age 80; now, in this COVID era, well, nothing is certain.
I wonder what you will remember of these days – memory is such a slippery critter. It scurries around in your brain, popping up and slides where it will … like a playful dolphin. Perhaps it laughs as well – at how we reshape our perception, letting go of some things until they suddenly reappear like some Vegas illusionist, or haunting flashback. “The way we were” lyrics say, of course, “what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget” – I have not found that to necessarily be true, but considering how turbulent this year has been so far, setting it aside might be a gift!
On the other hand … sometimes we learn the most from the situations we wish we could avoid. Being isolated, cut off from the “busyness” – makes it difficult to ignore those ongoing questions we often sense within, trying to cut through the “noise” of the everyday. Right now, the world seems to be going through a kind of upheaval – “unrest” is the polite word the news uses mostly. It’s odd that one can read encouraging stories about where the virus is going – and then turn on TV or go to another news site and be told everything is falling apart. It isn’t so much that you don’t know who to believe – but you can’t be certain that anyone really has all the facts! Hopefully by 2040, those questions will be answered – but more will arise!
Today, we are inundated by voices demanding change – things that need to stop, things that others want to hold on to – traditions, artifacts, cultural standards, socio political systems, governments, laws. It is a storm of fervor, energy, expectations being expressed (few in harmony) – one wonders what will be left if everyone got their wishes? What will continue to be celebrated and treasured, and what will be tossed aside as no longer having meaning? There are certainly plenty of people shouting out there who claim to be the best qualified to make that decision for us all. Certainly, for all the people shouting they have the answers, there is a time to listen – but eventually, the voice I need to hear the most is probably the quietest – within me. Perhaps the most valuable discovery from this era for me will be learning to listen to that still, small voice.
Right now, I’m having trouble making out that voice. Feeling my way through just what it is that I can say to you 20 years from now that will have some sort or insight or meaning. That’s one of the hardest things about writing, sorting through all the mental and emotional “little yellow stickies” that line the walls of my brain and heart, to make sense of it all, somehow. I realize my perception, my vision is filtered through the lens of time from my ongoing interest in family history – the fascination I have in reflecting on the stream of events, seemingly random, that brought together my own ancestors from all the other lands and eras here to the West, their lives, loves and losses. They speak to me of what endures – and what is forgotten. A sobering truth – we cannot know what will be remembered of our lives, nor do much to ensure that we will be remembered at all. I am the curator of their lives, to a degree – and of their voices. In some ways, the fact that their lives are little remembered for the most part teaches me that perhaps my needs that seem SO important, SO vital today – will be forgotten, their urgency being replaced by the next crisis. Most of what seems so critical in this moment will fade in time.
That may seem like a sad statement – but in reality, it is a freeing statement. We are free to determine how we spend our time and energy, within of course limits that we cannot change – but still free to choose each new day what matters most NOW. We can get up, repeat what we did the day before, the week, month and year before – or we can stop, or at least pause – look around – listen – and consider whether there may be a better path. This singular crisis offers that window to new understanding. Will I – we – gaze beyond? For me, that is what change looks like – giving our eyes a chance to look at things differently, and our hearts a chance to open, again.
Ultimately, the change that I have the opportunity to put into motion is – mostly, if not solely – about the future I am building, day by day, thought by thought, choice by choice. For us. You, me – and the people who are in my life and yet to wander through. So future me, remember these things as you gaze back on these words –
Don’t take anyone, or anything in your life, for granted. These family and friends, these moments and joys and opportunities to grow, explore and learn may not pass your way again – so treasure them. The people, the places, and all these tiny shimmering hues and colors that constitute “everyday life” will in time fade. Whatever seems vital right now, realize that the impermanence of all our momentary crises leaves us with less control over the outcome, but also grants us a choice to work towards a better, more complete life. This is not a drill, not a practice game, not a “pause” button – it is an OPPORTUNITY – an invitation to create an existence that has real meaning. Progress, not perfection! Don’t worry that you have not made it, instead, relax in accepting you never will. Truth does set you free – you can’t achieve all your dreams, no one will complete you, and you will always fall short of you wishes in countless ways – but today you can give from your heart, and matter in this moment. Live – now.
When you remember this time, yes – recall the sadness and uncertainty, when threats seem to rise taller and threaten to crush out tomorrow, but also see triumph and survival; determination and sacrifice; overcoming – just like our parents before us, and theirs before them. All of us are incomplete people who struggled but loved. Then see in others that shining potential, that glowing hope that with a little encouragement for one another – a smile, a touch, a song or a quiet moment – we will find our way. I thank you for your letter, again – and I will work to keep building. One day you can thank me in return.
Will future me have learned from what choices I am making today? I hope so. Aspiration and achievement continue to be separated, but my climbing continues. “Living in the Moment” by Jason Mraz reminds me to keep my focus on where it will make the most difference. Until next time, friends – love always.