I don't understand people who don't carry the past with them. Dave says I "dwell" too much, and perhaps that is so. But, I just found a plastic bag full of negatives and proof sheets that belong to someone I once knew - photos of people loved, activities loved, bits of the past. I retrieved them from the trash. Thrown away - good memories along with bad. Now I must decide - mail them to a person who threw them away or throw them away myself.
I collect buttons and lapel pins from all sorts of places, many bought at thrift shops, many from places and events where I have been, most of them have meaning for me. Some are employment pins given each five years for services rendered to the company - a recognition of work. A few are college or specialty school pins. These are from people I never knew. I keep them because they deserve to be remembered - even by a stranger. Did they retire and decide to leave this little bit of their past behind? Are they dead and relatives or friends got rid of the bits and pieces of their lives? Or did they just decide to toss it in the thrift shop basket - a trinket that no longer mattered in their lives?
So, I collect the bits and pieces of people's lives - in pins and buttons, in old jewelry pieces, in photos of kinfolk long dead, in letters I wrote to various people (now returned and waiting for the truth of my life to surface - will it confirm or contradict my memories and my journals?). I collect bits of unsought confessions of weaknesses and mistakes, joys of success and blessings, pains both physical and mental/emotional as people seem to feel they can talk to me. I listen. I am with them where they are.
At least until they begin to toss aside pieces of their past as if they don't matter any longer. Then, I lose part of my empathy. Losing my past would be like losing an arm or leg. I would know something had been there that I could have used today - the body's nerves feel missing pieces. Surgeons cut them out, cut them off and pathologists analyze them; then they are disposed of - the garbage of a body part that no longer functioned.
Some days I carry my past and others' pasts with me too much. When I awake in pain, I am more aware of those pasts and how precious are the lessons learned. When I awake without pain, I can ease these pasts into lessons for today, reaching out to use them.
Today I hurt. The negatives and photographs I found confirm my connections to my past and others' pasts. I hold them close in prayer and thanksgiving. Now, it's time to put them back in the plastic bag and get on with the day. May each person whose past I carry feel the love I am sending from where I am today.