It happened again on a Tuesday. I was at mass, and as I knelt down to pray after receiving communion, some sort of movie reel started playing in my head. Or maybe the more accurate term is movie clips, because they were different scenes from a certain time in my life, one that I really didn’t want to remember that time. (Or anytime, really.)
As I walked back to the office after the mass, I tried to think of other things to stop the movie reel of memories from playing. But when that proved to be a bit futile, I sighed and muttered, “Nostalgia’s such a bitch.”
I have a sharp long-term memory. I remember small moments – as in really small moments – so randomly, sometimes, that I think it freaks others out because they cannot remember the things I was talking about. But I remember them, and if it was a happy moment, I keep it. I used to write about it (and a friend told me that’s why I remember most of it), but later as I grew up, I didn’t have to write about it. I just remember it. I keep it, and it seeps into me, and I remember it, remember it, over and over again.
So much that sometimes, those memories feel a lot like reality.
And when your memories are happy, it’s fun to relive them, and maybe even hope that those memories happen again.
But things happen, and life changes. No matter how happy those memories are, they turn bitter when you know that they can never happen again.
Nostalgia can be such a bitch.
* * *
Love is a gift, a friend told me once.
Unrequited love is not wasted, a favorite blogger once soon after.
These were two things I knew to be true, and they were some of the hardest things for me to learn. And when nostalgia hits, when your mind shows you things you would really rather not remember, it gets harder to remember that.
We don’t have to be a slave to memory, right? Because that’s such a sad existence if we only live by that.
But love is a gift, and whenever you extend love, it really is not wasted, even if it wasn’t returned. Because you never give a gift expecting one in return — that’s why it’s a gift. And in this life, we are called to give that gift, our love, even if we have to face the risk of us not getting the same gift, the same amount of love that we gave to whoever we wanted it to receive.
And maybe, maybe, nostalgia isn’t being such a bitch. Because as much as I wanted to forget some things sometimes, I know that I can’t. I was made to remember things, and maybe some of the sharper details will fade slowly as time passes by, maybe the others will not. And like love, this long-term memory is a gift.
Perhaps it’s not the kind of gift that I thought – you know, the kind where the memories are always bright and happy and full of rainbows and sunshines and butterflies, even if it at some point it felt like they were. Maybe the barrage of memories that hit me sometimes is not there to torture me about the things I did and didn’t do, the mistakes I made and the mistakes others made. Maybe the memories come to remind me of something simple, like how I should respond when I receive a gift.
* * *
It happened again, this time one night on my way home, a few days after that Tuesday. I was walking, amidst many commuters, trying to dodge cars as I crossed the street, when a memory came — that one night. Thanks to my long-term memory, I remembered the place, the time and all the smaller, should-be-insignificant details.
I steeled myself from it, and then finally softened a little, and opened my hands to receive that small, happy moment sometime in the past that I knew will always be just there, and will never happen again.
I looked at it, held it loosely to feel its weight and realized with a start that it wasn’t as heavy as it used to be.
Then I smiled, kissed it, and whispered, “Thank you for this.”
And I let it go.