A Long Time Ago

215024105_d754cdae26_oLast Friday just before twilight, we were driving through a beautiful hollow near my home. On both sides of the road were fields of freshly cut hay. Someone made the comment, “That (the cut hay) smells like a long time ago.” The truth of the observation immediately resonated with me. The smell of the cut hay brought me back to my early childhood years spent in carefree summers of being spoiled by Aunt Ruby and following after my Uncle Bill on their  farm in the bottoms of the Buffalo River near Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

My mom who passed away at 92 could remember the most mundane things from her long time ago childhood.  Things like what the little girl from down the street was wearing when she came to mom’s tenth birthday party eighty years earlier, or what Uncle Joe said to her when he was home on leave during World War II.  She has every word and memory filed away for easy retrieval. Like so many of the elderly, it was her short term memory that gave her trouble. The long time ago stuff was still vividly available in high definition and minute detail.  For mom a long time ago was a safe, comfortable and hopeful place for her to make a quick visit whenever she was lonely or in a reminiscent mood.

I was on a business website recently and very prominently displayed was a link to another website featuring the businessman’s former athletic career of 40 some years ago.  Even though the man was a backup player and was mediocre at best, his past seems to be his lifeline today. Apparently he has spent quite a bit of time and expense perpetuating his long time ago.  It is obvious that a long time ago is still important to his self-image and his sense of worth and importance. Sadly a long time ago is apparently what still defines him today.

The unchanging truth about the past is that it is over and gone.  Recalling the past can be a fun thing, but clinging to it is a bad thing. Some people choose to live in the past.  A man in his mid- forties is still lamenting the fact that his dad was never pleased with the way he cut the grass as a teen.  He is still trying to please dad through his obsession with looking good, perfection, control, and doing his own thing.  He is blind to the fact that his dad loves him and is proud of him even with his flaws and warts. His flawed perception of a long time ago controls his present. Sometimes it is best to let a long time ago go.   For years I let a bad thing that happened to me as a kid define who I am today. That turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life. I recommend living in the present no matter how good or bad a long time ago was. We have no control over a long time ago but we can control today. Smelling the hay is one thing; bailing it and storing it up to live off of today is something else.

Something to think about

The online version of my book for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

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