Reflection Doesn't Just Mean Nostalgia


I’d been raised with this idea that the decisions one makes and sticks to become one's ‘code’. To change them was to be wishy-washy, un-manly and could leave one adrift without a firm base. There was a time when I took great comfort in the choices I thought I’d made (often adapted from people I either respected or admired or wanted the good graces of). Absolutes got etched in stone and were now part of my own roster -- my ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ hit list. I noticed that it took far less time to dally in indecision, knowing what I liked and dismissing everything else, than it did to ‘reconsider’ and worse, risk being swayed or perceived as indecisive.

It was easy to maintain this philosophy when everyone around me believed the same things. But it wasn’t long before I was out in the world and realized that there were millions of other people believing other things. Many of these things flew in the face of the ‘people in my village,’ whose mantra was to ‘learn from others' experience,’ embrace it even if it wasn’t your own. This had proven for them to be a tried and true way to avoid mistakes and make choices that would always be acceptable. It had the ring of wisdom to it that I bought into...for awhile.

Learning by others' experience did prove accurate in the things that could physically put me in danger. The things that physically harm us were pretty black and white and other's caution could, in fact, be adopted. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the things that emotionally fuel us and sometimes scar us live in a very gray zone called PERSONAL decision that only we, ourselves, could make…alone. This idea that as one lived by foretold experience, one would finally reach a time where wisdom came with age, was continually re-enforced, but I found increasingly harder to rationalize.

In truth, I discovered that wisdom did not automatically come with age but the ability to recall past experiences accurately from where one was today. This look-back often took courage especially for those with tendencies to idealize the past. It took guts to unpack the ‘good ole' days’ from the nostalgic steamer trunks and re-pack the new, more accurate, tools bound for unknown possibilities. -- bearing in mind what I did find to be true -- that he who travels lightest travels farthest and try to keep life’s luggage to ‘carry-on’ only.

Wisdom can begin to accumulate at any age if we’re willing to retrieve old choices from the database, look at them accurately from what we know now, then re-choose again. Even if the choice once re-examined is still the same. Otherwise, it is simply nostalgia that can plot our past journey but can’t guide us forward.

In short we have to update our life MapQuest all the time. Observing old roads that have closed and acknowledging new paths to explore prevents us from dead-ending, feeling trapped or misunderstood as life changes around us and we don’t (because we’ve clung to what we thought was vital information but in truth, no longer applies).

Often that process begins with noticing where your comfort zone parameters are. Have they broadened or become narrower? Have they become more tolerant, inquisitive and curious with age or have they secretly become more reclusive with the attitude of ‘been there, done that’? Not only can old dogs, as it were, be taught new tricks, but they must also learn them all the time. The universe has a tendency to keep moving the food dish or locking the doggy door just when one thought they’d found the gravy train.

I found that re-examining all that data in own my life was overwhelming, so the choices I now re-examine first are the things I notice evoke the quickest ‘no’ from me as they surface. Just noticing the knee jerks is a very good start to making "change." Start with the little things like food you don’t think you like, subjects that never interested you before, clothes you’d never try on.

The other night, by mistake, I taped a movie I didn’t much care for (hated actually) the first time I saw it. I grabbed my clicker. I had my thumb on the delete button, then suddenly caught myself since I realized that the last time I’d seen that movie was a long time ago. So I kept it on, thinking I could, at least, watch the first few minutes of it. I re-watched it again, totally absorbed and adored it! Obviously, they hadn’t re-edited the movie since I’d last seen it. It was me who had been re-editing myself.


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