You’ve heard the saying, “Let’s make memories!” Whenever those words arise, I cringe a bit. I don’t want to make the past, even if it’s something sweet to reflect upon. I want to make now’s. I want to make them and keep making them. And if later I spend a now thinking about a then, that’s ok- sometimes. It can be a way of relating to someone. A shared memory can be a moment of bonding or intimacy. It can also be a yardstick of a life well-travelled. But I don’t want to be swept up by that memory or the strange allure of the past. I’d rather experience the now.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about our shared frustration with a common practice: photo taking while spending time with friends and family or when visiting a new place. While I take occasional photos and appreciate quick captures of a special event or place of significance, I don’t like the stopping it entails. I don’t like the wait’s and hold on, can you stand there’s. I don’t want to plan for a memory, or for my experience to be interrupted. I’m only addressing the photo taking that disrupts being in the now, and posit that the ease and inexpensive nature of photo taking has exacerbated this common practice. While photography can be an act of creativity, sometimes it’s a distracted (or distracting) attempt to hold onto a moment that can’t be held onto. This doesn’t mean photo taking never is an act of presence, but it’s a useful check in when pulling out your phone or camera.
The past is unattainable and often a murky mess of mediocre recollection. So why the struggle to hold on? We feel overwhelmed with our stuff, holding on to items to clench the past, as if the memory that we have projected onto an object is somehow still real or accurate. We do something slightly different with the future. We hold onto items, searching for a what if scenario that our future may hold. Some of this planning is misguided and pulls us away from the present. The push/pull of the past and future can be tiring and steal our energy, more than we realize. Finding presence is an act of self-care.
When we focus on making memories rather than living in the present moment, we can easily distract ourselves from mindful awareness. Mindfulness is an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the now. Sometimes this can offer greater enjoyment and peace. Sometimes this can be our doorway to sadness, and offer an opportunity to come to terms with things we’d prefer to avoid. Either way, it’s a trade off in the direction of self-care and living a free and authentic life.
The next time you are out in nature or enjoying the company of others, remind yourself to just be. Deepen into the experience. Allow your eyelids to be the shutters of a camera. Look around your home and see how many of your possessions are signals of the past, and which ones lean you into the unknown future. What items support the present?
I hope seeing your world through this perspective allows for greater richness, a pathway toward less stuff, and a greater appreciation for each now.