Reflecting back over the years of my life now has taken on a wholly different character and sense of urgency. Each time I sit down to write these days, I am reminded by all of the objects surrounding me that the accumulation of years has also resulted in an enormous accumulation of memories and souvenirs of the many experiences of my life. There was a time when I barely had even the shortest amount of time for such reminiscing, and I told myself over and over that the objects and documents and articles that I set aside would one day be a rich resource for writing about the times of my life. It seemed urgent to take this approach at that time since there were so precious few opportunities to review the past, and the important aspects of my experience of life, that I feared losing the thread to lead me through the labyrinth of time when I finally was able to withdraw from the relentless burden of obligation to generate income.
Even now, as I type these words, I am still not entirely certain that my intentional review of nearly a lifetime’s accumulation of memories and important objects which surround me will be concluded in time to avoid the inevitable reluctance to execute the process of letting go of them. I must now confront the uncertainty of just how much time remains before the threshold will approach for the great purging of the physical reminders of the events of my life and the historical record of all that I have committed to memory already. There are so many thoughts all jumbled up in my mind already—the flood of a lifetime of thoughts and memories often seems to overwhelm me even as I consider the ways to edit the most important ones down to a manageable amount in order to organize and collect them into some semblance of coherent expression.
My online blog, “John’s Consciousness,” began as an earnest effort to begin to formulate a practical collection of deliberate and considered entries which would form the foundation of a much larger work. While my current life is finally less crammed with the immediacy of unavoidable daily tasks for the most part, the daunting volume and immensity of the accumulated objects and documents weighs heavily on my ability to methodically and thoughtfully review them in a manner that is both advantageous and productive.
What is at least clear in one important way is the desire to make some kind of sense of all the important events and to spend whatever time is required to arrive at a reasoned and considered result, which may offer some useful insight for those who will survive me in the years to come. At first it seemed to me that all the efforts at preservation were primarily for my own benefit, and while I wasn’t always clearly thinking about the specific motivation being employed at every moment, in the back of my mind, I usually supposed that the why and the wherefore would become evident upon review at some later time.
Looking back over the decades leading up to my current circumstance always seem to initially lead to a degree of melancholy, as is typical of any effort being reviewed in retrospect. There are so many instances in a lifetime when we are either forced to choose a path at a crossroad, or perhaps even when we make a conscious, deliberate choice as we approach a crossroad or other pivotal moment, which we might view as a mistake in retrospect. We cannot know with certainty, at any given moment, the full range of consequences which might ensue upon making such choices, and must often rely on some intuitive or instinctive inclination. Over decades, we can look back on instances when we achieved practical or beneficial results, and balance those achievements against whatever hard lessons may have resulted, in order to evaluate our current circumstances. Still, those hard lessons can weigh heavily on us, and any benefits which may have subsequently appeared may not mitigate regrets.
Recent events and current circumstances have pressed me to reflect with much greater intensity on the cost/benefits sides of the equations which I have inflicted upon myself over time, and while it seems to me that there has been a reasonably fair balance between the number of benefits worth the cost and the number of costs which bestowed very little if any benefit, several important choices at pivotal moments still feel unresolved in ways that may or may not be still possible to mitigate.
We cannot reverse time nor can we untangle whatever confusion or uncertainty governed the circumstances surrounding any choice made in the swirling maelstrom of the past, but this acknowledgement hasn’t yet dissuaded me from meandering from time to time through the perennial realm of what might have been, or its close companion—what still might be possible.
Unresolved anxiety over what might have been doesn’t seem especially helpful in the grip of melancholy, but the road leading to the realm of what still might be possible is no cakewalk either. Powerfully negative emotional and psychological circumstances in my past have been a continuing source of bouts of second-guessing, and wrestling with them as I sometimes do, has occasionally resulted in episodes of emotional and psychological distress, characterized by a crippling degree of self-doubt and even deep sadness.
Whenever we project ourselves forward into the realm of what might still be possible, we are often limited by what we have already experienced as a starting point, which can make it more difficult to envision a future where our hopes can be realized, and so we must be able to somehow suspend our expectations based on previous experience in order to move forward.
What we sometimes describe as “thinking outside the box,” a phrase meant to suggest an approach to thought that is completely new or original, or at the very least some variation of the standard approach, may provide a degree of difference within our thought process, with which we can then aspire to begin anew in seeking a resolution to whatever dilemma we face, but which also requires an additional degree of willingness to venture outside of our comfort zone in important ways. Such measures also require a degree of courage in treading a path previously untried.
In all of my deliberations thus far, I have steadfastly applied a deliberate effort to forge a new approach to resolving what has been an intractable problem, and have done so over a period of decades. It has been an enormous strain on my creative senses and has, up to now, not produced very much in the way of useful results, aside from helping me to recognize just how difficult such results are to obtain, and to assist me in becoming accustomed to repeated failure.
While it has been suggested by a number of sources in the creative world that failure is one of the best teachers, as well as an absolutely necessary component of any true success, it has not accomplished much in my case other than to perpetuate a degree of frustration at how perplexing it all can seem. Most rational people would have abandoned the effort years ago, and while I would like to suppose that my approach has been generally rational in the main, my inability to abandon these efforts suggests that I might actually have crossed over the threshold of irrationality some time ago, and have simply been unable to see it and to acknowledge the limitations which consistently appear upon each effort to forge ahead.
In the weeks to come I will be reviewing a number of the components and accumulated memories, stories, documents and objects that I retained as souvenirs which surround me in my writing space, and explore the rationale for retaining these objects, and attempt to sort through the potential consequences of either letting them go, or holding on for dear life.
Hopefully, in the process, my readers and visitors might find some benefit for themselves from following along with my struggle to sort it all out. As I happen upon important topics suggested by this review, I may veer off the beaten path for a bit to elaborate and/or mitigate the process, just to keep it interesting. Looking forward to sharing this part of what continues to be a challenging journey with you all…..John H.
2 thoughts on “Forging Ahead”
Hmm… A thoughtful and definitely melancholic approach. Sadness, regret at the passing of time perhaps. I think possibly your post leaves unsaid as much as it says. I have resolved over the past few years to abandon my past and think only of today, to try to ensure that I move forward. I’m afraid I long ago binned all traces of my past and even in my mind there are a great number of doors which I leave deliberately unopened; not because any great trauma or even wisdom lies beyond these doors, but simply because I prefer to live without the burden of 63 years of daily struggle. Probably also because if I do have anything to pass on it is today’s thoughts in my case. My past is far too full of ignorance, unawareness and error.
Your thoughtful response to my post is a welcome acknowledgement that writing about this subject and sharing my experiences has some value. Each of us must consider how to evaluate our experiences over whatever amount of time we have endured, and while it seems to me that you may have been somewhat unfair to yourself in your estimation of your past, if your thoughts today are worth sharing, it could only be because all that you have endured up to now somehow prepared you to pass on those thoughts. I would not presume to debate you on your own inclinations, naturally, but reviewing your many thought-provoking and well-written blog posts, it is apparent that you have much that is worthwhile to contribute to the conversations of the day, and perhaps I might do well to consider just binning up the lot of my historical effects and call it a day. It would, of course, abbreviate my own plans a bit regarding my intended writing schedule, so maybe I’ll just wait and see what happens for now.
There clearly was much left unsaid in this opening blog post on the subject, and it has been much more challenging than I expected to set myself to the task of examining the avalanche of memorabilia, letters, collectibles, and other objects which now surround me in my writing space, but as I reported in this introductory offering, it has been on my mind to do so for such a long time that it feels quite compelling to follow through at this point. A handful of other dear friends and family members have been very supportive of my writing interests, and they continue to remind me, when I take on a “melancholic approach,” that there have been so many remarkable episodes and positive aspects in my historical records, I really should emphasize those more than any sadness or regret. In my view, both are essential for describing the character of my present circumstance. With luck, the readers and visitors here will agree.
I believe that we ALL have doors we would rather leave “unopened,” and sometimes it is better to focus more on the present if our recollections are less than what we would have hoped for in our lives. I have struggled mightily in my own life and must admit to a number of errors and a degree of ignorance along the way, but your own story of overcoming those struggles, and your appreciation of some quite extraordinary opportunities in your more recent experiences are more than sufficient to justify your interest in sharing them with your readers at zenothestoic.com and I hope you will allow yourself to keep the door to your thoughts today open moving forward.
Kind regards…John H.