Saturday, January 3, 2015

Embracing the good ole’ days before you’ve actually left them

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
F. Scott Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby

Martin Sloan-Then one day I knew I had to come back here.
I had to come back and ride the merry-go-round and eat cotton candy and listen to a band concert and to stop and breath and close my eyes and smell and listen.

Dad- I guess we all want that. Maybe when you go back Martin, you’ll find there are merry-go-rounds and band concerts where you are. Maybe you haven’t been looking in the right place.

You’ve been looking behind you Martin.
Try looking ahead.

Walking Distance- The Twilight Zone

I promised myself I wouldn’t write a New Year’s essay this year. No “new me in 2015’, no weight loss, healthy eating, and for God’s sake no exercise. No one needs to be preached to about those things. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way. God speed.

But, I did want to write a few words about the past. The timing is just a coincidence.

I thought about this while I was watching football (and not eating healthy) the other day. A college team had a big win, and when one of the kids hoisted the trophy, the announcer said “looking back, this will likely be the greatest moment of this young man’s life.”

STOP! (Hammer time)

It’s one of those things announcers say that sounds perfectly inspirational. And I’m not trying to piss in anyone’s cornflakes by disagreeing. But I DO disagree with the sentiment. It speaks to the idea that our memories have priority over our present and our future. Many of us get caught in this trap I think. We look back and get nostalgic for a time and place in our past, and hold it up as somehow superior to who and where we are now.

There has been a bit of research on this kind of thinking. Philip Zimbardo calls this a “past positive” orientation, and describes how people who think like this often spend their lives yearning for things that have already taken place. They might be overly cautious in their present lives, content to live on the memories of good times that have already occurred.

I reference the show The Twilight Zone in the opening to this essay, and in particular one of my favorites called “Walking Distance.”  In this episode a stressed out man has had enough of his current life and the pressure of deadlines, bills, and commitments. He wants to go home to a simpler life and a more peaceful time.

He finds he can’t go home again.

What I like most is the simplicity of his father’s advice. “You’ve been looking behind you Martin. Try looking ahead.”

Good advice for all of us.

Maybe we’ll find there are some great characters and wonderful stories just waiting to emerge in our present lives if we just take a little bit of a risk. It’s a wonderful thing to find that we still have the ability to surprise ourselves. I’ve been left for dead several times in my life, but somehow like that guy from “Quantum Leap”, a new incarnation always brings some great new adventures. I’m sure you can find them as well. Take a chance. Leap before you look sometimes. Play the hand you’re holding with some balls.

It just might be fun.

I close with one of my all-time favorite lines from one of my all-time favorite shows. I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” 

Love it. Enjoy the now. Have some fun. Take some risks. Lean into the story you’re currently immersed in.

It’s later than you think.

No comments: