Who remembers the good ol’ days?
You know way back when teenagers could ride in the back of a pickup truck, jump off the bridge into the river for an afternoon of swimming, or you could spend the day doing whatever you wanted.
Remember the good ol’ days when you didn’t have social media? You did not have to read everybody’s slightest gripe posted in your face on your facebook page. If you had a problem in your life, nobody needed to know. Nobody wanted to hear. And, by God, if an eight-year-old wanted to ride his bike around the town, he could do it.
I remember very few days in my adulthood where I could do “whatever” I wanted. Responsibilities and bills to be paid controlled a lot of what I was able to do.
Like I said, the good ol’ days!
And, sure, these might not be the golden days you have in mind, or what most people think about while sipping lemonade on the front porch. But, the fact is, it’s easy to cherry-pick our memories and then let selective recall convince us that life was so much rosier in another time.
I know I am guilty of this. I definitely refine my memories by what “good” was going on in my life. It’s the curse of getting older. At least it can be.
But, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard curse to fight, especially when today’s world is so complicated and challenging to navigate.
It’s easy to get lost in nostalgic moments—open the photo album and rewind to simpler days.
And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, we all want to spend a little more time in our own Mayberry—Floyd’s for a haircut and Aunt Bee’s for a piece of pie.
Most of us have our own version of simpler days—a bubble-like period of time when life was easy-going and untroubled. We had no responsibilities, mortgages or debt, along with healthy bodies and sharp minds. Sunscreen was optional. Good hearing was a given. You could do flips off the diving board at Teagarten’s pool whenever you felt like it.
Pick your own rose field. We all have one, even if it’s buried somewhere deep in the confines of our memories.
I might choose to reflect when I was in college, or perhaps that time when I drove down to Florida from Ohio on a whim when my girlfriend (now my wife) broke up with me.… I was alone in my 1976 Pinto with just an AM Radio to keep me company. It was what I needed at the time and it was wonderful way to heal from heartbreak. I might choose to remember the times when I traveled to Brazil and Africa. Swam in the Amazon River and the Indian Ocean all before I was 21.
Truth be told… there are many sweet spots I could reflect upon.
But, if I’m being completely honest, and had to choose just one particular time where my mind travels back most often, it would be when I was nine-years old.
It would be the time before my brother was killed. Long before I would face the awkward phase of my teenage years. Before the loss of my hearing. Before the time when I would lose three of my best friends all in the span of one year. Life before my body became compromised, and suddenly everything became more complicated. Long before I would discover my weaknesses and failures.
I know I’m not alone. Most people who have had struggles in their lives. (and isn’t that all of us?) We can’t help but let our minds occasionally play the “life before” game. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize how exhausting and useless a game that is.
Cliché aside, time does indeed march on. And I have learned that I either march with it or I don’t. Don’t get me wrong; memory lane is a beautiful place to visit. It warms the heart and helps us appreciate all the blessings that have come our way. But, stay there too long, and that sweet nostalgia turns into a dissatisfaction that comes when you don’t want to be where you are, or believe that being where you are is a consolation prize—good, but not quite the real thing.
Unfortunately, this is what age has become for so many—the “runner up” life, a less relevant and not quite as meaningful existence as the one you had. Life before and life after. And go ahead and compound this with physical difficulties and diminishing energy, and it is no wonder we spend so much of our “dream time” back in another day.
But, I’ll say it again, not being where you are takes so much more energy than being where you are. Living in the past (or the future) sucks the life force right out of you. It takes away all the energy you need to live and enjoy today.
In our 24-7, always-on, lightning fast society, we have access to the world at our fingertips. Unfortunately, this comes at the high cost of actually having the world at our fingertips, and with it, every possible bit of bad news imaginable. We don’t just have our own problems and heartaches to deal with, we have 7 billion other people to think about. It’s an impossible load to handle.
And while the world may feel close and connected, it still takes an hour to get to the closest mall. And for all the social connections we may think we’re having online, people are more isolated and lonely than ever before. Get yourself a bowl of ice cream and do a Google search on how many people are dying alone.
And, of course, we all know how dangerous the world has become. Who wouldn’t wish for a life in which we didn’t have to lock the doors, shut the windows, or tell the kids not to talk to strangers? Or if we didn’t have to be suspicious of packages left on the street. Or have to worry if a porch pirate was going to steal the one off your porch. We wouldn’t have to worry about the growing divisions in the country and the world. Hostility. Paranoia. Anxiety. It’s a crazy time to be alive. It’s definitely not Mayberry. But, guess what? Mayberry wasn’t Mayberry. Fun fact: In real life… Aunt Bee wasn’t warm and cuddly. She didn’t even like Andy in real life. And who doesn’t like Andy?
Life might have been simpler in another time, but only if you kept your eyes shut and stayed in your small bubble. It’s a lot easier to find bliss when you’re living on an island in the South Pacific. It’s not so easy when the guy on TV is shouting at you and telling you that YOU are the problem, or when someone gets ten-foot tall and bulletproof on your Facebook page blaming you for all the country’s problems because you support a political candidate that they don’t.
Name calling and threats.
Throw in wildfires, hurricanes, flooded coastlines, and senseless shootings, and you’d be crazy not to want to escape to another time.
But, before you purchase that island in the Pacific, you should probably know there’s a storm heading that way. And, even more important, you should know there is a huge silver lining to the world we live in. And, no, this is not a “look at the bright side of life and keep a stiff upper chin” silver lining. You can’t just put a bumper sticker on the back of your car and will yourself to happier days. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work.
This silver lining is simple, although it’s a hard pill to swallow.
It is this:
The crazier, screwed up and more challenging the world you live in, the more opportunity there is to discover who you are and what you’re made of.
But you have to be willing. You have to step outside your comfort zone. Step away from the past and embrace the future.
In a world filled with such heartache, anxiety, and pain, you have three choices: You can sink, tread water and stay afloat, or swim to higher ground.
Most of us are strong enough (or have enough support systems) to stay afloat, to find a way to keep going and get by. It’s called survival. But, for those who aim to live beyond survival, the alternative is higher ground, where the view is spectacular and life-altering. Of course, this takes conscious effort.
Again… we have to be willing to swim to higher ground.
It calls for us to be stronger than we thought possible—kinder, gentler, more compassionate, forgiving, and loving. In other words, it calls for us to live at the top of our game—balanced, mindful, and awake. Always searching.
Quit being so offended at the drop of a hat.
It is a life that requires us to become fierce warriors committed to a better world.
To live in today’s world, we must be part Mother Theresa, part Gandhi, part Terminator, and part Monty Python.
Wise and humble, fearless and bold, and with eyes to see the humor and absurdity of it all.
To live in today’s world, we have to be immune to the toxic poisons that surround us. We have to choose to live above the noise—to turn off what doesn’t matter and tune into what does.
To live in today’s world, we must honor our past with gratitude, plan for our future with purpose, but live for today.
In the Now.
Visit the past… but don’t stay there.
Live your remining life with…
No judgment. No resistance. Not better or worse. Perfect, just as it is.
To live in today’s world, we have to transcend the madness and illogical world of mind and matter, so that we may pursue who we really are.
And who we really are is wise beyond space and years, and always aware that the good ol’ days are right where they always have been…
Here and Now.