Hey everyone, I wanted to take a moment away from recipes and reviews to get personal and to share part of my story and struggles.  I believe that when we can connect as humans, we become like fireflies and start to fill the darkness with our connections like sparks of light. 

It is only through sharing our struggles and our successes that we can reach out and connect with others. 

I believe in being authentically real, and that means that sometimes we have crappy days, and sometimes we share how we move through it.

memories
Photo by Mark Neal

What are Memory Markers?

There are moments in time that have been carved out.  I can still feel that space, remember what I was wearing, the time of day, and even the smells.  Even though I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, sometimes some triggers send my mind back in time to a place that won’t be forgotten.

I call these carved spaces in my timeline Memory Markers. 

These markers hold space for significant life events, even though most of the time, we don’t know exactly why they are essential.

Coffee at Alki Beach

One of my markers was a day in 2012.  I think it was around the end of July.  My daughter and I were sitting in Starbucks on Alki Beach, in Washington state. We were taking a break from exploring, and both of us needed some downtime.  She was on her computer, I was on my phone looking at the photos from the day.

She was wearing a white sweater, her hair was long.  I was wearing jeans, surprised at how cool it could be in July. My phone rang, and it was Lance.  He always called at the same time every day. I got up and went outside the door to talk and not disturb the other customers. I sat on the wall outside the Starbucks, overlooking the beach and the passing people.  He and I talked for a while about how this was possibly one of my happiest days. 

The weather was perfect. The air smelled salty and slightly like coffee. For the first time in a long time, my Lyme disease was under control, and I was in a good place mentally.  I remember feeling like this was precisely what happiness was supposed to feel like.

A couple of weeks later, when we were planning his funeral, and I could barely remember how to breathe on my own, I kept trying to go back to that memory and hold on to it to try to clutch on to “Happy” again.  It would take years before I could find it, even longer before I could feel it.

Exploring the many Washington Beaches with our dogs

Memories Aren’t Always Reality

Memories are made up of our perception, our state of mind, and what we want to believe.  That’s not saying that memories are all made up. It’s saying that no two people can have the exact same memory because no two people have the same perception of what they are seeing, feeling, thinking, etc.

I love asking my now adult children to tell me a story from when they were growing up.  Each of my 5 children tells a story differently, they remember things in different ways, and I am always surprised at how that story changes as they get older.

What’s also interesting to me is how certain things can be omitted from their memory markers, or perhaps they didn’t know those details to add.  For instance, when my older children were very young, we struggled financially. There were many nights when the uncertainty of where we were going to live and how we would get by was all that I could think of.  But when they tell the story of running with their friends to play ball in the field next to our house, they don’t include the fact that they were wearing hand-me-down shoes from the immigrant family next door.  They talk about picnics with our neighbors and learning how to make tamales while I went to night classes and did homework. 

Related: 15 Ways To Reduce Stress

It’s Okay To Find The Good In Bad Times

I was having a sad day today. The rain outside seemed to make everything feel even more miserable. To be honest, my feelings were hurt by a family member who threw in my face that I had become successful, and this success was making them feel jealous.

It’s surprising how common this is, but it still sucks.

Anyways, I was having a pity party up in my office, and I was supposed to be writing new Thanksgiving recipes. Instead, I was sitting in my chair, just scrolling through memories in my mind.

I realized that now that I’ve worked so hard to find happiness in my life, that it’s easier to look back at difficult times and see that there were good things that happened as a result. And that’s not always easy to do, but it’s a way of seeing things with new eyes.

I was thinking of an argument that I had with a friend, just about 25 years ago.  It was awful, and we never spoke again. At the time, it was one of those heartbreaking moments and even still, when I think of the details and how badly things went, I cringe a little.  But when I visited that memory marker today, I also saw how I was beginning to move away from bad decisions and trying to get my whole life onto a new train that was eventually going to lead me to a better life. That fight was the catalyst for making powerful changes in my life.

If I hadn’t left that friendship, chances are I might not have left California when I did, and so many things would be different from where they are right now.

memories

Mindfulness and Meditation Are Powerful Tools

One of the skills that I believe in the most for healing, is learning how to meditate. I try to practice meditation at least once a day.  Some days I find that I’ve done it a few times just to try to find the right words to say or write.

Meditation allows us to step away from our current thoughts and sort through the clutter to find essential information.

Breaking that down,  it means that sometimes our heads are so full of thoughts that are stressful, or scared, or angry, or even happy.  That we can’t see through all of those thoughts to find the right path.  But mediation teaches our brains to quiet the thinking so we can pick one tiny thought at a time to explore.

Then when we have a plan, we can be more mindful of our actions so that we don’t run scattered and half-cocked into trouble.

Using Memory Markers and Meditation To Guide Us

Back to my bad day and what to do about it. So I got this upsetting text this morning, and it really threw me off because until that moment I was in a good mood and ready for a day of creating. But this text just came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden I was falling down a rabbit hole of memories and second-guessing myself and my life.  Yeah, I know… pity parties suck.

But I was just so caught off guard by this text that was attacking basically my entire life and choices I’d made.  Man, it went all the way back to the ’90s!

So I just turned everything off and tried to pull myself into meditation to really see what had me torn up.  And it took me a while! Here’s the thing, when I was sorting through these events that were thrown at me, there were always multiple views of these memory markers: my view, that person’s view, and the views of others who were also there. None of them are 100% the truth.

Here’s what matters:  The only thing you can do with trips down memory lane is to look at what’s useful for RIGHT NOW.

15 years ago, should I have interfered in a troubling situation and tried to resolve it?  Can I go back in time to do that now? How is this useful for right now?

When I meditated on all of that, the answer is to find peace in the right now and do all that I can to help others find peace for themselves.  You can’t be responsible for how others feel or how they choose to use their memories. Some people choose to mark painful memories and bring them up as weapons. But you have a choice if you are going to allow it to hurt you or not.

Yeah, I had a crappy morning. And I chose to respond with love and strength.  Because if I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s that when you act in love, act in peace, and act in kindness, then when you look back at this memory, you know it will be for a blessing and not a curse.

Love and Lightning Bugs My Friends,

Crysta

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