Hindsight produces an illogical, rose-colored nostalgia. Simple things I could not (or did not) appreciate then may bring tears to my eyes now. I wish I could bottle up an afternoon five years ago. Not just to get the time back or to right mistakes, but to tangibly experience the moments again: my perspective, the quality of my relationships, the surroundings that would be different even if I traveled back to the same place.
To be a child again, to see the world through my childlike perspective! Sometimes I remember a thought I had at 5, 8, or 16 and while I can see inherent foolishness in my worldview from a now wiser perspective, I can also glimpse truth that I have since lost sight of in all my grown-up “insight.” I fumble for a pen, desperate to capture this thought, this memory, this insight from a past version of myself.
There’s a faulty assumption that we will always grow wiser with each passing year, that the next season will improve upon our current one, that accumulation of things and relationships and experiences will ultimately lead to a better place. We are a people of endless appetite, seeking what we do not have- not just 21st century Americans, but humanity, forever and always. To learn contentment: this is a spiritual discipline, one which comes naturally to no one.
As for me, I am an ambitious seeker of knowledge, wisdom, and success. At the recommendations of trusted mentors, I spend a great deal of time planning my future, setting goals to avoid my greatest fear: thoughtlessly wandering through life, frittering away afternoons and years without becoming what God desires for me.
Haven’t I always been planning my next steps? Making the most of time, though honorable, can steal the present moment.
My recent reading material, Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, started me thinking about this topic in one simple sentence: these are the good old days.
She reflects on the daily marathon of activities with young children, the getting out the door with proper coats, the mother’s battle to hear both children speak to her at once, the frequent call to “watch this.” She knows that in an ever closer future, these will be the good old days.
Her description of life with young children taps into my nostalgia in a different place as I remember being the young child. My parents remember those years fondly, though they were fraught with daily cares and irritations, and, at times, much weightier adversity. For our family, now in three different time zones, those were the good old days. We make new memories every time we get together, but they are all built upon the foundation of daily life in those fast-paced years.
In her chapter on marriage, Rubin remembers her early marriage years. This is our current season, and these are our good old days. Sunday night, when I should have already been asleep, when I had spent much of the weekend dealing with the current challenges and burdens of our life, I couldn’t stop laughing with Mike.
Our conversation was of no consequence, but we had the lightheartedness, energy and creativity to make each other laugh really hard. I don’t know what pain we’ll endure in the future, if grief will steal our breath and laughter for a season, but I hope that in those moments I’ll remember Sunday night as one of the “good old days.”
Even the more burdensome parts of this stage of our lives, student loan debt and the resultant tight budget, have their benefits: we are unencumbered by possessions and responsibilities that enrich life but also add extra weight. We don’t have nice furniture, a mortgage, a yard, or children- all of which we look forward to, sometimes impatiently, but all of which add extra care to full lives.
We always remember life more fondly than we experience it. Reality blurs and we remember the beauty and wonder of a snapshot moment, or even an entire season of life, but somehow manage to forget the frustrations and heartaches.
Perhaps it’s not our memories that are flawed, but our perception of our current reality that’s all wrong. Maybe it’s hindsight that captures the best version of life: the one that emphasizes the precious, irreplaceable, blessed moments instead of the pain, stress and annoyances.
I’m not arguing that there is never regret or deep pain in the past which is painful to remember, but my message is simple: are you missing the good old days? Are you letting daily stress, even when warranted, steal your good old days?
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