This post is a little longer than usual, (7 minute read) but I believe it is life-changing! Please share it with those who need to hear it. And why not start your own Happiness Diary?
It is NOW we can act. It is NOW we can change things for the better. Everything else is out of our hands.
As I replanted my tomato seedlings, I began to think that I have more to say about living happily "in the now" than I could fit into my last blogpost.
As I explained in my last post, living in the now makes us happier than allowing past failures bog us down or letting worries about the future incapacitate us. It is NOW we can act. It is NOW we can change things for the better. But how do we handle the "past" and the "future" so that "now" is where we are to 100%?
I saw a video on TikTok where a man was explaining that time isn't really a "past, a present, and a future" on some kind of timeline. That is not really how we experience it. He put it this way: there is only one time and that time is now. We have "memories" from our past and "imaginations" about our future but the only time we have is NOW. This view of time is freeing. You are not stuck in your past - it's gone. And it's not a productive thing to worry about the future, (although you can prepare wisely for some things in your future to a certain extent).
I believe, if we work on it, we can get to the point where trauma and bad memories are no longer painful, making us free to enjoy living in the now and pursuing with hope what's ahead of us.
Memories are not in the now
We can't change what has happened in the past but we can train ourselves to think and act differntly in "the now". We can live happy lives (in the now) despite terrible experiences in the past without changing the past. We can't change it but we can change how we see the past in the now. Also, we can learn to cherish our happy memories so that they replace the negative beams that once poorly supported the house we call "me". There's strength in those good memories! I believe, if we work on it, we can get to the point where trauma and bad memories are no longer painful, making us free to enjoy living in the now and what's ahead of us. Let me explain how.
There are good memories and bad ones. The good ones are easy to forget when you have been battered in the past. I've found that I needed to "pan" my memory to find those "golden moments". It's like looking for gold in a streambed. The golden moments are there but I needed to sift through my memories a bit and let the good ones settle in my mind as I sifted away the clutter. I found some good ones and wrote them down. Also, I found that actively searching for those good memories and cherishing them is vital to being happy now and in the future.
The bad memories proved to be much easier to remember than the good ones. After all, they seemed to be so many and so vivid. But as I went on, I could remember more and more of the good memories. Just the fact that I found that the bad memories were at the top of my mind, while the good ones seemed lost in heavy brain fog was an eye-opener for me.
Danger or trauma is so easy to remember because our minds respond with all the guns loaded. Good memories, on the other hand, are harder to remember because they don't trigger such a strong response
Our minds are rigged
Why had I focused so much on the bad stuff and not on the good stuff? I think it has to do with how our minds are rigged - the flee from danger mode that automatically sets in to warn us from danger and keep us safe when something evil besets us - that is the culprit. Danger or trauma is easy to remember because our minds respond with all the guns loaded. Something in the now can easily get "triggered" unecessarily because of pain from past experiences and cause us to miss happiness in the now - if we allow them. Good memories, on the other hand, are harder to remember because our mind doesn't think they are something worthy of the kind of strong response that bad memories bring about.
So what did I do to get free from the tyranny of my bad memories?
Up until this year I had always tried just making up my mind to forgive everyone (as all Christians practice, by an act of will), but I had noticed that the pain of these encounters was still there for certain memories. I didn't accuse these people any longer and I wasn't angry at them anymore, but I still felt a sorrow, or victim-like sadness, when I thought about certain interactions that went bad. It was as if something valuable had been torn out of my hands and I couldn't fight back at the time. I felt remorse that I hadn't acted in a different way to deflect the arrows. Now I was older and if had I been in that situation today, I believe that I would have addressed the situation head on and with a more mature, nuanced and strong response. How was I going to get closure and be free from my past?
This is what I did. I wrote a little book for myself called "Letters to You Know Who". (I mentioned this in my last post.) In it, I wrote an anonymous letter to each of the people who had hurt me in the past. I only did this for the memories that I felt were still causing me emotional pain. I wrote to each person about the background of each situation from my perspective and gave them a my feelings at the time. "When you did this, I felt this", sort of. Then, I told them why I was angry and/or hurt when they did what they did or sad because of what they said. Finally I told them what I should have done to defend myself at the time, (call the police, tell them off, go and study music anyway etc.). Then, I told them that I forgive them and that I'm letting this go because I am not a victim anymore and what they did then has no bearing on my happiness today. This blew every ounce of victimhood out of the water! Nowadays I make it my aim to fix any and every missunderstanding as it occurs and confront any unjust situation directly in the now. But as a child and young adult, I wasn't very good at it.
Memories are just memories unless you drag them into your now. I choose to live in the now, keeping my bad memories on the worked through memories' shelf and the good ones in my heart. It is in the now that all the magic happens and I refuse to let others' distorted view of me or negative actions steal my joy. i just shake it off. I know who I am now. Taking a stand against those painful memories was healing for me. I can now remember what they did but I don't feel the pain anymore!
Maybe you need to write some anonymous letters in order to get free from your past, too? If so, don't delay.
A Happy Memories Diary
Now that that is out of the way, I challenge you to do something that will help you grab your good memories and bring them to the top of your mind. This will boost your future and help you right now to grow in self worth and determination.
Write down some encouraging things people have said about you, or done for you in the past! Write down examples of when people, some that you didn't even know before, were kind to you. Write down the miracles you've received and the gifts you've been given. You will find that it can be much harder to bring to mind those golden moments than the insults, the rejection and the damage others have inflicted on you through the years! But keep on panning your memory and the golden moments will suddenly appear at the bottom of the dish when all the dirt and mud is rinsed away!
I have made it my goal to start to write down positive things people have done for me and said to me (in the past and for now on), so that, in the future, these are the things that will come to mind as I face difficulties, self dout and the future in general. I want to record the joyous moments I experience when I share something with someone and they are grateful, too. For example, yesterday I went over to my neighbours' with a stack of waffles and he was so happy! I want to remember his face! I am dedicating a new diary to moments like that! A happy memories diary!
By living in the now and writing down what is good, I am staving my old victimhood mindset and transforming it into a victorious mindset! Being thankful and seeing life, in the now, through a positive lense is my goal and I believe that The Happiness Diary will help.
While I kept planting seedlings, I thought about this: My old tomato plants from last year are now but a memory, and they can't give me any tomatoes this year. But, one great tasting little tomato that I bought in May, sacrified it's life in the soil and has now given me over forty plants that may produce hundreds of small tomatoes in my yard.
I'm loving every "now moment" and looking forward to a brighter "tomatorrow", (tomato + tomorrow = tomatorrow). Lol!
As I patted carefully around the last replanted seedling and watered it in its new home, I thought, "I like life right now. I love the smell of the soil and the warmth of the sun on my back right now. The idea that these plants may give us more tomatoes than we need so we can share them with friends, family and neighbors is but a joyful imagination. Time will tell.
I have chosen not to entertain the thought that they might not make not make it through the Swedish summer, which is cold. I am enjoying nurturing these seedlings and giving each one more space and TLC right here and now because that's all I have. No is all anyone has.
What really happens in the future with these seedling is a mystery at the moment. I'll just stay here in the now because now is all I have. I commit myself (now), to continue to take care of them. I have power (now), over the watering can and I can give them support as they grow but the weather is out of my hands.
Don't let the past stop you. Don't worry about the future. Live in the now. Let the past go - it's just full of old tomatoes. Plant the seedlings you have in your hand today. Commit yourself to help them grow. Nuture the friendships and opportunites you have right now, in the now. You'll be all the happier for it.
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Jesus in Mathew 6:34
Elisabeth Kitzing is an American songwriter, blogger, videogropher, musicproducer based in Sweden She released the Change My Mind album in 2020 and has dropped other singles on all major music platforms. You can find here music videos on YouTube. Read her blog for free: featherheadmedia.com/blog about life, music, faith and peace of mind.