Do You Remember When?

This article was written for and published by on July 11, 2019. 

Let’s go down memory lane…

I remember laying down to take a nap during long trips in the floor of my parent’s car, over the transmission hump, because of the low hum, slight vibration and warmth. I also remember sitting on the pull down armrest next to my grandfather in the front bench seat of his Buick (in retrospect, the perfect launch angle). Seat belts were not part of either scenario. I do not remember this kind of harness…

I remember when gas was sixty cents per gallon as I first started driving in 1975. I also remember waiting in line to buy gas in 1979 when then-President Jimmy Carter told the country “Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil than it can produce.”

I remember when I needed to have a bunch of dimes (and then quarters) before leaving home so I could make a phone call. Using a rotary dial and a handset on a steel leash. I also had to actually remember the number to dial and identify my location by sight and not by Siri.

I remember when I had lots of hair (and many styles). Ugh.

I remember being my dad’s TV remote control. It had a talking feature just like 2019’s remote control, as in “Hey, son, please go turn up the volume” (he was very polite).

I remember learning computer programming on punch cards and being very careful not to make a typo or drop the drawer so I had to start over again (which would be even more difficult than putting Humpty Dumpty back together again).

I remember when it cost $10.50 to attend an Elton John concert in 1982, which happened to be 11 months prior to getting married. After 36 years, I do not remember what it was like to be single.

I remember when Atlanta’s roads were under construction and filled with orange cones and barrels. OK, that was just last week…

I remember when people could go to the bathroom without needing to be entertained (by their cellphones). I also remember going through an entire week without taking a single picture of myself by myself (“selfie” was the 2012 Word of the Year by the Oxford English Dictionary). And I remember when people talking to themselves in public was a question of mental health and not version of Bluetooth.

I remember when I thought life was fair. After some life experiences that proved it to be incorrect, I then thought life should be fair (based on social media, some people still think that). Then, after some more life experiences (personally and observing others) I realized life is not fair. Not even close. How is it “fair” that illicit fentanyl dealers make lots of money while friends battle unmerited breast cancer? The question “why me?” does not have an easy answer because there might not be a knowable reason. Accepting the fact that life is not fair changed my perspective from naïve to mature, from passive to active, from victim to overcomer, from whining to resilience. Maintaining that perspective is a daily challenge—and a choice.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember what life was like before I developed physical and emotional scars. Fortunately, for me to-date they are permanent but not disabling. A number of these past experiences (some voluntary, some involuntary) revisit me at various times. Deaths of loved ones and friends. Financial issues that made sleeping at night difficult. Musculoskeletal injuries and broken bones. Relationships—ups, downs and aways. Poor choices that remind me how stupid I can be. Words that I said or wrote that should have stayed inside my head. Disappointment in others (and, of course, in myself). There are more but you get the drift…there is a long congo line of regrets. There have been many successes—numerically probably more than the list of failures. But the hurt from failure, whether of my doing or not, lasts longer and stings stronger.

Do you have chronic physical or emotional pain? Have you made bad choices that yielded life-long negative consequences? Do you remember what it was like before that started? Do you wish…passionately…that you could rewind the clock and make a different decision or be in a different place? Does dwelling on the past solve your current problem? Does wishing it would go away make it go away? Will pretending it does not exist help it not exist? Does blaming others (even if they are to blame) help?

If the preceding paragraph is not applicable to you, do you know someone in that situation? Do you help care for (or worry about) someone in that situation? Do you pay for or deliver the treatment of someone in that situation? They can appear to be “stuck” with slow (or no) progress forward, which can be extremely frustrating.

The aptly named Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a great tool to help you (them) remember but also to help you (them) move on. According to Psychology Today “Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. With this understanding, clients begin to accept their issues and hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behavior, regardless of what is going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.”

If you or someone you know allows their past to dictate their present and future, ACT (and other forms of psychotherapy) can be a great help to get out of neutral and into drive (another thing I remember—manual transmission). If you can count your many blessings – name them one by one—you will probably realize that your future is brighter than you thought. Just because you “remember when” doesn’t mean you need to be stuck there. #BioPsychoSocialSpiritual