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Temporal fluxes, mindful anomalies, and convoluted regressions

Remembering the past is a funny thing. Whenever I regard my history, I look at it through a faulty lens. I tend to romanticize bygone years and experiences by turning what at the time seemed like an unbearable situation into a memory I want to return to.

It’s been a while since I posted an update here, or to any of my other sites. I’ve been sequestered studying, thinking, and worrying about the future while at the same time going over my past. In between flashcards, mock-tests, and endless print-outs of notes and flowcharts about how a disease invades and progresses inside the human body, I tried to figure out how actions from my past currently affect my present.

Remembering the past is a funny thing. Whenever I regard my history, I look at it through a faulty lens. I tend to romanticize bygone years and experiences by turning what at the time seemed like an unbearable situation into a memory I want to return to. I suppose that’s what people mean when they say they long for the “good old days”— those seemingly simpler, easier times when no one had a care in the world and everyone was as happy as one can be.

Remembrance likes to play tricks on me, however. Had someone told me seventeen years ago that one day I’d find myself longing for the days and nights when I owned no furniture, lived alone in Jersey City, and had to file for bankruptcy after amassing an incredible amount of debt, I would have laughed in his face and told him to get lost. Who wants to live like that? Who wants to find himself alone after ending a three year relationship and have nowhere to live, no job prospects, and only $500 in the bank? Anyone would be mad to miss something like that. And yet, this morning, as I sat down to study, I surprised myself for looking back at those days and thinking that it wouldn’t be so bad if I was back in New York, living alone, with only the barest of necessities available to me.

What I want is an idealized life reconstructed in retrospect. In other words, I want to live in a fantasy that I made up in the present and that, through the power of self-deception, I retrofitted to a particular time in my life.

Back then I had no unnecessary distractions keeping me from anything I wanted to do. I also didn’t have half of the worries or responsibilities I have today. Whenever I wanted to call it quits for the day, I would go home and shut the world outside and spend the evening reading, watching television on my living room floor (I had no furniture in the apartment other than my bed and my desk), or wasting time chatting online with friends from around the country. My apartment was my refuge against cold winter evenings, boring evenings at a bar, and anything I wanted to avoid.

Of course, if I was to return to those “good old days,” I would want go back to them knowing everything I know now and empowered to rectify the mistakes I made then, while still gaining experience and learning for my eventual and revised present. In other words, I would be a fifty year old man living in the body of a thirty year old boy (every gay man’s fantasy?), wiser and better beyond my years.

I would travel back in time and avoid dates that didn’t go anywhere, turn down jobs that made me feel miserable, save money by avoiding whimsical purchases, skip boring nights on the town, forget about dating the flight attendant who wrecked my life, pursue the lawyer I should have dated instead, travel abroad when I had the chance, date the guy I met at a bathhouse who I still find myself thinking about on occasion, forgo purchasing the Power Computing clone that died a year to the day after I bought it, avoid the certain one night stands that left me gifts I would have rather done without, begun acupuncture school when only two board exams were required instead of the current four, and kept the gym membership I let expire when I got burned out from working out every other day.

But that’s the problem with looking and thinking about the good old days. Whenever I look back, I overcompensate and conveniently edit out and forget the “bad old times.” I forget the negative feelings, the bad days, the mean people, the horrible jobs, the wrong decisions, the terrible dates, the lonely nights, the wrong turns, and the days when I longed to go back further in time to the “better good old days.” I want to create a temporal flux anomaly vortex (Red alert!) so I can correct all my past mistakes with the foresight and knowledge I’ve accumulated since then in order to create a future with greater grace than the one I am living now.

Time travel in the mind, like a bad Star Trek episode featuring a temporal flux, can be annoying, confusing, and full of loop holes.

If I stop to think about why I want to go back in time, however, I realize it’s not the bad times nor the good times I want to return to. It’s also not the half furnished apartment I miss, nor the empty bank account that I have yet to replenish that I seek, nor the quiet nights when I sat by the window reading a book watching the snow fall or the rain wash the streets in front of our building. (See? I’m doing it right now. I’m making those tiresome, dull, bored out of my mind evenings sound almost enchanting). Neither are the lonely nights nor the boring evenings I spent walking around the city hoping to find or meet a friend that I long for. Memory likes to play tricks on me; romanticizing the past is easy for me to do. What I long for is not a particular set of circumstances. It’s worse than that.

What I want is an idealized life reconstructed in retrospect. In other words, I want to live in a fantasy that I made up in the present and that, through the power of self-deception, I retrofitted to a particular time in my life.

How else can I explain to myself wanting to go back to the mountain of debt? To get rid of that I would have to travel back in time further. That would mean not going to graduate school in New York City and staying in Miami like my father warned and wanted me to do. Missing out on some of the best experiences I had while living in New York, and meeting some of the most amazing people who crossed my path while I ambled blindly along the way. I would not have to contend with two men who wrecked my life and made me the relationship weary person I am today. To make everything in my life actually live up to “good old days” standards, I would have to start life all over again, knowing then what I know now, and hoping that the new decisions I make along the way won’t lead me to a worse situation than I am now.

Starting over, is impossible, as is not making mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes regardless of what I do because I’m built that way. Love me, love my mistakes should be stamped on my forehead or printed on a T-shirt I wear every day. Which begs the questions: Am I here to mess up all the time? Will my life ever be perfect? Can I ever have a “good old day” in the present?

The answers, I’m beginning to realize, lie in how I perceive things. If I regard the present as the “good now days,” or begin to think of it as “it doesn’t get any better than this,” then I won’t find myself wanting to go back in time to rectify a mistake. I’ll feel like I’m not missing anything at the moment. I won’t find myself standing on a cold platform thinking to myself that life was better way back when it sucked, and that by returning to it my problems will be solved. Instead, if I think that life is great now, with what little or with as much as I have and the decisions I’ve made to get me here, I can focus on what’s right in front of my nose and do what I can, as the Cole Porter song says, “from this moment on,” to make sure the “good now days” turn into “Shit, I can’t wait until tomorrow arrives because it’s going to get better” days. And that, actually, can start happening right now.

Or something like that. Time travel in the mind, like a bad Star Trek episode featuring a temporal flux, can be annoying, confusing, and full of loop holes.

Ten years from now I will probably look back and find myself, yet again, longing for days like this when, instead of dealing with and treating difficult patients, I could be home studying and meditating all day, working. That’s the nature of remembering and looking back: things are never quite what they seem or what I’d want them to be. Hopefully one day in the future, by then, I will have learned a thing or two about how I regard my past, and rather than long for days gone by, I will embrace my present and live fully in it with all my faults, virtues, good and bad decisions, ex-boyfriend, all the while thinking, This rocks! Aren’t you glad you finally got here?

About the author Walter

Walter lives and works in and around South Florida. When not practicing or studying acupuncture, you can find him at one of Miami’s beaches, or in a coffee shop lost in the pages of a good book. Walter enjoys diverse interests such as reading Tarot, practicing Qi Gong and Tai Chi, learning Buddhist dharma, practicing shamanic healing, writing for his blogs, reading Oriental philosophy, traveling to new places and old favorites, exploring contemplative photography with his iPhone, sitting quietly in meditation, practicing healthy fitness, and promoting wellbeing.

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3 Comments

  1. Glad you’re around again – I’ve missed your posts. Someone once said to me, don’t look back because otherwise you can’t see where you are going. It’s a kind of mantra of mine. You can’t change the past, but you can create the future. How Star Trek is that!
    JP

    1. It’s good to be back. It’s full steam ahead, Scotty, and never mind the tribbles. They’re only trouble. Thanks!

  2. I stop by regularly, and hoped you would soon post again.
    Ha! I go away for a day or so and lo! you post two!

    The good things of the Past are incorporated into the Present; the bad things can be left in the Past. No need to go into the Past.

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