10 June 2010

Special Times

I like to reminisce from time to time, especially to myself as I would not want to bore anyone with recollections of my life.

One of the most irritating habits of some older people is the regular repetition of stories we have heard numerous times before. It is one of the reasons why exploring family history is useful as it takes away the repetition, helps to develop deeper relationships and gives valuable insights into the past.

The art of reminiscing is to keep it in perspective. What is its purpose? It is not necessarily to remember special times from the past, but to turn the present into a special time. It can enrich our cultural awareness and develop our minds, and especially our memories, in useful ways. Reminiscing can also become a disciplined form of meditation.

I have met far too many people who focus only on the worse aspects of their past, and the worst of the present, too. This does not seem to me to be a healthy way to experience life. My own life has not been without trauma or drama or conflict or danger. I have faced, and continue to face, suffering. Just last night, I woke in pain at one o'clock in the morning and know that I will probably require surgery before the end of this year.

I have also witnessed much suffering, but also much joy. For some reason, people often want to tell me all about their troubles. Perhaps they think I am approachable, and a good listener, and compassionate and understanding. I hope I am all of those things but I am also someone who is drained by negativity and confusion. It is selfish to exhaust people, in my view. My energy is renewed by quiet times. They are my special, private times for reflection.

So, here in this blog post today are some of the pictures I use as aids to my reminiscences. The one above was taken in 1984 at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I had just returned from Eastern Europe, having travelled beforehand through Scandinavia. My journey took me through the Soviet Union, Poland and East Germany, and I was very glad I did not live under a communist regime.

I am also glad I have not live the lives of any of my great grandmothers, or their mothers before them. I have had far more freedom than most women have ever had, in any type of society.

The image I see of myself today is younger than the one in the picture from the 1960s. When I look at myself in the mirror in the morning while brushing my teeth or combing my hair, it is a newer image than the one in any old photograph. Have you ever thought of yourself now as being a younger you than the images of your earlier years?

The person I am today appreciates special times for reflection. In the past, I was too busy just living, and sometimes struggling to make the most of the opportunities I found along the way. I don't know what the future will bring so now I make the most of each day, just living quietly.

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