Memory Collector

Memories.  I’m fascinated by them.  What remains, what vanishes, what is sketchy, yet, poignant.  And February 10th, being my son’s birthday (Matthew would have been 32), my memories are speaking to me in many ways.  In fact, I realized, that in terms of life themes (this is the 4th and final blog post of the LifeThemes2012 blog series), I’ve always been a “memory collector.”  Aren’t you?  And while this can sound like a rather generic life theme, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Yes, most of us have memories (good, bad, in-between), but everyone feels differently about the role they play in their lives.  The mysterious aspect of memories is difficult to ignore.  And some memories are so powerful that we can’t let go of them even when we try.

“Don’t be controlled by your memories.”  How often have we heard that piece of advice?

Every man’s memory is his private literature. 
~Aldous Huxley

  • How do memories impact your life?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What memory would you never share with anyone?
  • Do some memories catch you by surprise, sneaking into your awareness when you least expect it?
  • Ever thought about “collective memories” v. “individual memories?”

Memories comprise our stories.  Like sand castles, each life rises and falls.  Even our most dedicated and deliberate efforts can’t prevent the ocean tide from rolling in, leaving nothing behind.  Merely a smooth surface, the castle swept away in an instant.  Yet, that reality is something we stumble over time and time again.

On some level we want our lives to be made of stone, lasting “forever” (whatever forever is), and thus, we miss the beauty of the moment because we are overly focused on the future and making things last.  True?

Memories remind me of sea shells.  Beautiful remnants of various colors, sizes, shapes.  They dot the beach, the sand, and we collect them.  Save them.

Unlike the sand castle, seashells retain their shape.  Some for millions of years.  The ones we pick up and take home are empty, clean … the life they held, no longer visible.  So we marvel at what is left, don’t we?  And memories are what is left …

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.
One can collect only a few, and they are
more beautiful if they are few.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I thought I understood the power of memories until Matthew’s loss nearly 5 years ago now.  But once you experience a profound loss in life, you begin to look at everything differently, especially memories.  Their role is suddenly magnified.  Nearly overpowering.  It seems they seek you out, coming into your awareness with incredible force from out of the blue.

A piece of music can trigger an avalanche of memories.

A picture can lead you down a path you don’t want to travel.

A letter can almost be unbearable to read, because each word leads to one inevitable conclusion.

And memories, as a whole, point to the steady advance of a mortal journey.  The time between today and yesterday forever lengthening.  Always reminding us that our sand castle is temporary, fleeting.

The pear tree Matt is standing beside was on our Christmas cards in 2011.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.

The picture and the quote capture life, as a whole, so eloquently.

Little did Matt know how I would look back on this picture with such deep appreciation for his life: for his season on earth.

This picture was taken in August of 2006, ten months before his death in June of 2007.

And of course my mind still reels with the reality of it all.  We never get used to loss.  We are never “over it” because it is life’s greatest lesson.  Maybe it is the only lesson of life.  Ever thought about it like that?

The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.
~ Rilke

Maybe, like the seashell, when we are “empty, clean” our beauty will be revealed in a different light.  The sand castle will be long gone, of course.  Our futile, nearly silly, efforts unable to withstand the universal tide of loss.  And though unthinkable sorrow is clearly part of this process, we are part of it … we are it, in fact.

Looking at my son’s picture, a sunny morning on the farm with coffee in hand, I could study his smile for limitless hours, days unending.  What was he thinking about?  The pears.  The beauty of harvest.  The warm day.  The blue sky stretching overhead like an eternal peace offering.  The day ahead.

How could it be that the season has ended so soon?

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I forge on, albeit slowly, with a memoir about Matthew, letting the fertile ground of memory guide me.  Not wanting to force a storyline like memoir writers are instructed to do, I’m focusing on the deeper aspects of loss … the moments when I am “defeated by greater and greater things.”

Only love can never be defeated.  Only love remains.

Everybody needs his memories.  They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.  ~Saul Bellow

From day one we carry loss within us.  Yet, we fight its presence in myriad ways.  What would the world be like if we allowed loss to dwell within us more peacefully?  How would that change your relationships, your priorities, your values?  

Isn’t most of the drama, the conflict and violence, the suffering, caused by our fear of loss?  By irrational thinking.  By our subconscious drive to outsmart it, outrun it, out maneuver it? 

If loss is indeed the lesson of each life, does that make our memories more or less important?  What do you think?

The past is never dead, it is not even past.  ~William Faulkner

Because of my memories, Matt is forever “alive.”  His voice as clear as a bell; his life journey, its many twists and turns, something I revisit often.  He had a wonderful sense of humor.  Would have made a great comedian.  Those are endearing memories.  Matt imitating someone, offering a joke or a funny take on a situation.  And since we all represent “loss” (realized or to be realized), our memories are as vital to this moment as what can be seen right in front of us.    

Memories are life. 

It’s all one in the same.  No need to worry about “being controlled” by our memories, because in the grand scheme of things: It is all inseparable.  Bottom-line, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about celebrating, enjoying, or acknowledging the power and place of your memories.  Dwell with them as you choose.  Talk about them.  Write about them.  Savor and treasure them.  Love them.  Allow them to be part of who you are today.  Express them in ways that are meaningful to you.  Trying to wish them away or cut yourself off from them is pure nonsense.  And its painful and pointless.

The whole of life is now. 

As Faulkner so wisely noted, “it is not even past.” 

May you find joy in your memories.  Allow them to release the love in your heart that can never be defeated. 

  • And to you, Matthew, thank you for teaching us that imperfection is part of the universal plan.  None of us could even define perfection if we had to … because it is an illusion.  Yet, we chase its shadow like fools, allowing some make-believe condition to take root in our imaginations.  Imperfection is perfection.  It is all life and it is all inseparable.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
~Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

Winter Flowers

And you?  When will you begin that long journey into yourself? 
~ Rumi

  • And so we return to LifeThemes2012 as part of the 2-year anniversary celebration of SunnyRoomStudio.
  • What life themes have you identified so far?  Are you taking surface themes and digging deeper … looking for the underlying thread?
  • Are you looking for themes that have been part of your life for as long as you can recall?

When I look back on the road that has been my life, yet another theme (besides nature and spirituality) comes to mind.

Writing — Creativity —  Exploration — Reflection

It seems that writing is how the other concepts manifest themselves in my life.  One of the primary ways, at least.  I was a letter writer as a young girl.  And recall a few diaries.  For me, there was always something magical about the written word … going to the library was even great fun.

Words were a way to connect with other people, more deeply than in a quick verbal exchange.  Writing gave me the opportunity to really consider how I was feeling about something … I learned about myself when putting paragraphs together.  Words also provide the cushion of time.  There is space around each one.  I can ponder or meditate on something before  communicating.  Sometimes understanding takes time — the written word can be read again for enjoyment, clarity, or thoughtful consideration.

Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light, but making
the darkness conscious. ~
Carl Jung

  • Were you a letter writer as a young person?  Did you enjoy doing book reports in school?  Did you keep a journal?

I suspect there are plenty of people out there who really haven’t come to terms with their love of writing.  For instance, I took it for granted for many years.  And then one day it dawned on me that nearly every professional position I’d held had provided me with an opportunity to write.  And that’s what I loved the most.  To say it was a significant insight is truly an understatement.  I was blown away by the realization.  It was sort of like finding a sea of colorful flowers amidst the cold of winter.  And I kept wondering: How had I missed it?

All the clues were there from my earliest days.

I’m sure that is one reason I spent so many years working with nonprofits — writing was a key skill when it came to fundraising.  Letters, grants, brochures.  Even as a graduate student in sociology, I should have suspected that I really wanted to write.  Knowing I had to write a research paper was cause for excitement.  Really.

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing also has a certain kind of beauty, doesn’t it?  Consider the poetry that has moved you deeply.  Or the novel with the ending you’ll never forget.   Maybe a love letter you received or wrote to someone.  Perhaps a memoir that helped you see your own life in a new light, or that brought you comfort.  Maybe memories about the loss of someone you will always miss recorded in your journal.  A quote from a great spiritual leader — one that always points you back in the right direction.

  • Is there anything you love doing that you’ve somehow overlooked?  What talents or interests can you set free?  Can you look across the scope of your life, as a whole, and see something there in the pattern … something you’ve missed or minimized until now?
  • When I begin to write, there may be stress or anxiety, but there is also joy.  It’s unmistakable.  It’s palpable.  So thank you for being here to read these words.  I hope they are good food for thought.  And I hope to see you here again next Friday.  Until then, take care.

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

A Whisper Away

Welcome back to LifeThemes2012 — a new blog series celebrating the 2-year anniversary of SunnyRoomStudio.  As you know, this series is based on the wonderful quote by Rilke: “The only journey is the journey within.”  And to facilitate our journey within, we’re looking at life themes … unearthing them for greater self and universal awareness.  I appreciate all of your wonderful comments last week and can see that you are intrigued by this topic, as well.

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust. ~Rumi

Last week I shared a primary theme in my life: nature.  When I try to identify a life theme, I look for something that has been present in my life for as long as I can remember … maybe showing up in various guises, but still there … when I peer closely.

  • Another theme for me is spirituality … seeing life as a journey within … as a wonderful mystery.

This orientation was nurtured in me as a young girl by my grandmother.  A devout woman of the prairie, Anna was a wonderful influence in my life … gently pointing to our mortal journey as something more.  She didn’t lecture me on the subject; she lived her spirituality.  And my curious girlhood nature didn’t miss a beat.

  • I’ve never met a more peaceful person.

Never rattled or short on patience, never bored or malcontent, never finding anything to complain about.

Anna was all about love.  That’s how my young heart perceived her.

She basically lived this quote by Lao Tzu …

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.

It’s an amazing experience to be around someone who personifies contentment.  And somehow, even as a young girl, I sensed it … knew that she’d found that wonderful place within that asks for nothing more.  Of course I couldn’t articulate these things until I was much older, but what a gift … being around someone like her during those impressionable early years.

  • If she’d figured out some things in life, so could I.

A lifestyle so simple … a presence so peaceful … a smile so real.

As I matured, and during times of decision or enormous personal challenge, I’ve always returned to my spirituality — somehow knowing her memory would guide me.  Encourage me.  To dig a little deeper, refusing to live on the surface of life … never having the courage to look within or to grow.

  • For me, Anna is only a whisper away.

Turning to Rilke again …

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

What early encounters did you have that evolved into something more, into a life theme — into a profound and lasting experience?  Are the blossoms of your youth becoming apparent only now?  What happened along the way to confirm your earliest impressions?

Has spirituality been a life theme for you?  How so?

Sometimes we just have to look a little closer at our lives to find what seems hidden from us.  We have to embark on the journey within.  Here’s a bit more encouragement from the author of Conversations with God …

How may you seek the kingdom of heaven?
By providing the kingdom of heaven to others.
By being the kingdom of heaven, in which others may find refuge and strength.
By bringing the kingdom of heaven, and all its blessings,
to all those whose lives you touch.
For what you give, you become.

Neale Donald Walsch
Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.

The Only Journey

Does your life have a theme?  Or several, perhaps?  If you were to change the primary theme, how would you do it — where would you begin?

The only journey is the journey within.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When I launched SunnyRoomStudio about two years ago, I planned to explore life themes in some depth.  So the next several posts will be dedicated to this topic as part of my 2-year anniversary celebration of this sunny, creative space for kindred spirits.  A warm thank you to everyone who has been a Studio Guest (22, so far), commented, or just dropped by to browse a while.  What inspiring connections have been forged!

  • Hope you enjoy LifeThemes2012 — a blog series for anyone who loves Rilke’s quote like I do.  The only journey is the journey within.

Of course, Eckhart Tolle reminds us that we should let go of personal story … not seeking ourselves in the present via limiting scripts from the past.  Agree.  However, I think that part of moving beyond “story” is to look closely first.  Isn’t it easier to let go of outdated self-concepts that you’ve acknowledged and understood in the first place?

Or maybe I’m just a curious writer who will always be drawn to elements of story and what we can glean from dramatic structure.  Fiction or otherwise.  What truths lurk within story?  What insights can be unearthed?

Because there is a natural storytelling urge and ability in all human beings, even just a little nurturing of this impulse can bring about astonishing and delightful results.
~ Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling

Personally, when I ask myself to consider life themes, many of the usual ideas surface.  The big things we all have in common like: family, career, education.  But please don’t be satisfied with a generic answer.  The point of this series is to dig deeper, to identify insightful life themes with the potential to bring greater self and universal awareness.

If you feel stuck, unable to go beyond generic life themes, try breaking your life into segments or chapters.  See what jumps out at you.

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you. ~ Maya Angelou

A love of nature jumps out at me … regardless of my age, location, or life situation.  I loved taking my children to the park when they were young.  Or going on walks.  Anything to be outside with nature.  My book about prairie wisdom highlighted my feelings about nature and its expansive, life-enhancing qualities.

They are evidence of the universal source of life — a testament to what lies within us, also seeking creative expression.

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. ~ Robert McKee

Nature takes me within.  Effortlessly.  Almost as if the cosmic connection were already there, meant to be.  And more than likely, it is.  We are all life forms sharing one planet.  But in terms of a life theme, what else does my love of nature tell me about myself?  What does it point to or suggest?

  • Instructs my values to a point.
  • Provides safe haven against the harshness of the world, when loss or sorrow consume us.
  • Provides great beauty and peace in contrast to other aspects of contemporary life.
  • Leads me to consider things beyond myself.
  • Provides contentment in a world that is oddly malcontent.
  • Is linked to precious memories, stored since childhood.
  • Brings my poetry and writing to life, nature being a great teacher.
  • Keeps me centered and feeling hopeful about life.
  • Provides a meaningful outlet for positive energy.
  • Reminds me of Thoreau, Whitman … writers I love.

I find myself drawn to artists and photographers who favor landscapes, nature, and organic beauty.  Part of this life theme, of course.  I also treasure the great creativity of nature — its ability to provide a continual array of unimaginable colors and images.  There is something peaceful, settling, about nature.  Has nature been a life theme for you?

What comes to mind for you when you ask yourself to identify your life themes?  Or just one, for starters?

How can you use your answer for reflection, meditation, greater self-awareness?  Anything surprising come to mind?

  • Thank you for joining me for this journey within. 

We are only just beginning!  See you next week, here in this sunny space.

Blog posts by DazyDayWriter @ work in SunnyRoomStudio: all rights reserved.