How a Look Back Can Help You Move Forward

“I always knew looking back on the tears would make me laugh. But I never knew looking back on the laughs would make me cry.” ~Unknown

It’s the darndest thing about life. You have the most heart-wrenching experiences that you think you’ll never recover from…only to find yourself a few years down the road looking back at those very same events with a chuckle. Then you have moments where you laugh uproariously with your girlfriends over something completely nonsensical and you imagine that this will be a memory that incites giggles forever more…yet, gazing at an old scrapbook or reading an old email brings that silly moment to mind and you find yourself weeping over the girl you once were. It’s so fascinating to me how life requires you to gain perspective and distance to TRULY understand the beauty and magic of the experience.

There’s a corner next to my office…just your typical downtown street corner…where one hot May afternoon several years ago, I was walking back from lunch and discovered my “Mr. Big” waiting for me there. It was during one of our “on” times and he had dropped by to surprise me. I can remember it like it was yesterday: the impish smile on his face, the sun glistening off his unruly hair, the casual spring breeze lazily curling my skirt around my legs like a swirl of cotton candy. Since we spotted each other from a distance, there were several moments where we silently gravitated toward one another, and for me, on that beautiful spring day, the world stood still as I drew closer to him like a moth to a flame. I can still feel the sunshine…hear the birds chirping and the traffic passing me by…see him standing there, so clearly…like it happened only moments instead of years ago. I paused in front of him on the sidewalk, a big smile on my face, and with a dramatic flair (he loves the dramatic flair), he said not a word, but swept me back into a Hollywood kiss, right there on the crowded sidewalk in downtown Nashville, as pedestrians flitted past. In the midst of the moment, a tour bus loaded with hot, sweaty tourists all decked out in their cowboy hats and cowboy boots whizzed by, the driver pausing to lay on his horn playfully, the tourists leaning out the window to wildly applaud our romantic interlude. Big and I laughed until we were breathless at being “caught” by a bus of rowdy revelers…and though I can’t remember where we went from there or what the rest of that day entailed…I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was one of those perfect moments life sometimes surprises you with that you take a silent snapshot of in your mind because you know you’ll want to remember it for the rest of your life.

And I have. There is never a day that I’m venturing back to my office from running errands or grabbing a sandwich that I don’t pause for a moment and glance at that street corner…seeing his smiling face, hearing the tourists’ cheers, remembering the feeling of being crazily, wildly, insanely in love. Even on the coldest winter day, I can recall the warmth of the sun and of his kiss. It’s a memory that once upon a time, caused me great pain. I would try and deny that street corner, dance past it like it didn’t exist, close the floodgates of my memory to what used to be and what might have been. Today, though, I look at that street corner and smile. Laugh, even. It has become my favorite street corner in the city of Nashville…and I look at it as a precious time capsule of the girl I used to be…long before I became the woman I am today. It’s a line in my story that I’m grateful for. HE is a line in my story that I’m grateful for. He has inspired so much of my writing, and though his presence is gone from my life, his influence remains; reminding me that sometimes the best love DOESN’T make sense…and that magical movie moments CAN occur in real life…and that if my heart was THAT capable of loving the WRONG one, imagine how completely wondrous it will be when I meet the RIGHT one.

I tell you this story to remind you that not all memories need to be thrown away. Some simply need to be stored away. You may not believe it now, but there WILL come a day when you will look back on memories that once made you cry with a smile. And they will remind you of your strength, your resilience, your courage. It’s OKAY to look back every once in awhile, as long as you visit the past and don’t move in. After all, if we never look back, we can never TRULY know how far we’ve come.

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