Treasuring Memories Without Drowning In Them

Treasuring memories without drowning in them - how to keep memories but still be present.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema


“Memories are what warm you up from the inside.
But they're also what tear you apart.”
-Haruki Murakami

Human beings are imperfect creatures, so it makes sense that the way we've conditioned ourselves to deal with our memories is imperfect as well. We might obsess about a tiny slight at our eighth birthday, somehow forgetting that the majority of that bright sunshiny day was absolutely perfect. We might desperately grasp at an ex because we idealize the perfect moments, somehow neglecting to think about all the things which were very wrong about the relationship.


It’s important to be mindful about exactly what memories are.

Memories are a selected, filtered view of things which are long gone. We can’t change the past. We can’t be reached by the past. The past is an immaterial state which no longer exists. Yes, we might still bear the physical, mental, and emotional scars of things we endured. We might be able to re-bask in the glow of a joyful vision, but none of the past is an actual, tangible entity. It is a construct. It is a way in which we view neurons dancing in our brain.

And, so often, we choose which neurons we focus on. It could be that something traumatic occurred in the past that changed the direction of our life. It could be tempting to dwell, wallow even, in that memory. We might review over and over again how much better things would have been if only we had done X instead of Y. We often focus on the things we wish would have changed, without realizing the millions of other things which could also have changed, sending us in an entirely other direction.

Similarly, it could be that we had a situation which we view as being wonderful in the past, which we ‘lost’ due to some tragic mistake. Again, life never has any guarantees about which road it will follow. Life skitters and skates. It dodges and twists. Yes, we might have lost something we had loved. It’s equally as likely that a dodge could have come earlier and we never would have experienced that love at all. Perhaps we should find gratitude for the blessings we experienced.

Everything in our past is gone – whether it was good, bad, or neutral. Those situations in our past can’t be changed, altered, touched, or influenced. We are here in the Now. We only have this current state that can be experienced. We can certainly learn from the past. We can focus ourselves to be more compassionate, more understanding, and more communicative. We can also treasure the lessons from the past. We can relish the moments of joy and serenity we were able to experience, but the past is a distant horizon, and it has already served its purpose as a stepping stone to bring us to the present.

Our present, here and now, is where we can take action. It’s where we can influence our world and community. It’s where we take those lessons of our earlier days and make use of them. To spend all of our current time simply reliving events that have vanished from view is to lose out on our precious hours and days of life. If someone deeply loved us, surely they would want us to be as present and joyful as possible in the Now. If someone treated us poorly, surely we deserve to be content now, rather than to let their past mistakes continue to afflict and harm us.


The moment is the present. Our present is now. The now is where we have agency and the ability to enact change.

Moderation and balance are key in all of life. There is a time for reviewing the past and understanding its lessons. After all, it is only by reviewing those past moments that we get a sense of what works and what doesn’t work for us so we can apply those things in the present. We learn what makes us tick. We build on our strengths and tend to our weaknesses.

As each new day dawns, we need to find ways to make the best use of our current time. There is only this one moment we can be alive in – and it’s right now. The more we grab a hold of the Now and utilize it to the best of our ability, the more we can implement those lessons we learned from the past. We create for ourselves a new past which we can treasure and be proud of.

Every day, every moment, we are actively creating a new past. We are forging new memories. With attentive care, we can make those memories ones which forge a positive, shimmering legacy for ourselves and for our treasured community.

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