Looking Back to Look Forward

By: T.W. Winslow

I think one of the things we all have in common is our sense of restlessness. No matter where we are in our lives, regardless of how good or bad things may be for us at any given time, it seems we are forever doubting or at least questioning ourselves - our happiness, fulfillment, and where we're going. I know this is true, at least for me.

Over the past several months my wife, Diane, and I have made a great many changes in our life together. Although these changes were designed to improve things, and ultimately will, this reorganization, if you will, did get me thinking about and questioning many aspects of my life. I have to admit that this caused me some personal anxiety, even mild depression. I guess I got too caught up in looking at my current situation and contemplating my future, without the benefit of considering the past.

I found that by examining my life as it is right now without taking into consideration the past - all those things which led me to this point, it was very easy to become dissatisfied. I began to question if I was really satisfied with who I was, where I was in my life and career, and the direction my life was headed. Slowly, this led me to become moody, ill-tempered, and sad. Then something happened which helped me to gain a more positive perspective. Something which left me feeling very fortunate for where I am in my life and for all the things which fill my life.

I was cleaning out the attic and found an old box of memorabilia I had collected and saved over the years. I never realized what a pack-rat I was. I blew the dust off the box and dumped the contents out onto the floor. I sat down and one by one carefully examined each item. There were some things I couldn't remember why I had ever saved in the first place; an old movie stub, a bottle cap, a fountain pen. But there were many others which held great significance and which brought back a flood of memories. Things which, when combined, made a path of sorts leading me to where I am now.

I found an old high school report card which reminded me just how lucky I was to ever have graduated, considering my low marks, let alone to have gone on to finish college. There were a few items from some of my first jobs. I had to laugh when I thought of just how many really lousy jobs I had held over the years. I had completely forgotten, or perhaps blocked from my memory, the fact that at one time I sold insurance, door-to-door no less. I shook my head in disbelief thinking of that skinny kid fresh out of high school dressed in a really bad suit knocking on the doors of strangers trying to sell them some insurance policy they didn't really need. I remembered how much I hated that, and other such jobs, but realized how much each of those experiences had taught me.

I found a picture of the first house my wife and I bought right after we were married. I remembered my mom almost cried when she first saw it. I guess she, unlike Diane and me, couldn't see the "jewel" that was waiting to be discovered beneath its pink paint and dirty green shag carpeting. I recalled how hard Diane and I worked on that old house and the pride we felt when it was finished. I also remembered that it was through fixing-up that old house which taught us early in our relationship the importance of having common goals and working together as a team.

There were many cards and letters from Diane which I had saved in the box. Some funny, some silly, and others so touching they brought tears to my eyes. As I sat and read these, each one painted a picture. Some brought images of two young kids struggling to figure out what life and love were all about. Others reminded me of how lucky we were to have made it through those first several years together - through all the problems and hardships we faced together.

In the pile of memories I found old newspaper clippings announcing the births of my children. I remembered how nervous I was at the prospect of becoming a father, but how that all disappeared when I held my child in my arms for the very first time. There were countless drawings and notes my children had given me from Birthdays and Fathers' Days of years gone by. But the most precious of these were those notes of love that were given for no reason at all.

I spent a long time going through the contents of that box, reliving moments from my past. I could now see much clearer the path I had taken to get to where I am now. I also understood how important each step along that path had been. Rather than continuing to question how satisfied I was in where that path had led me, I was thankful for having been allowed to make the journey at all.

It's good to examine ourselves and our lives now and again. But when we do, it's important to retrace the paths we've taken to get to where we are now - remembering the struggles we've encountered, the hurdles we've overcome, and the love we've found along the way.

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