Then and Now

Recently, my friend was pining for a lost love. She’d messaged him recently. No rhyme. No reason. Just, ‘I heard a song, I thought of you. Are you well?’

Memories bubbled to the surface. Emotions awoke as though from hibernation. Some had faded. Some had changed color. Others had never left.

My friend said there would always be space in his heart for her.

I listened to him talk, and I watched his face.

And I realized he was in love with the past.

He talked of his lost love, and nostalgia. Of opportunities that came, and dreams that went. Of the wind on his face on a summer morning, and the touch of her hand in his own. Plans they’d made with the best intentions. Plans that crumbled into dust.

And yet, even for the pain the past drudged up — the remorse, the haunted memories, the self-loathing — he couldn’t seem to let her go. Couldn’t seem to love another.

Perhaps didn’t want to.

But the past is easy to fall for. She’s sultry, sexy. Selectively romantic.

I sometimes feel myself falling into her embrace, as I work late into the night. I stare out the window, listen to the rumble of the local train lines, and feel her approach — in lost dreams, forking paths, and a feeling like fate.

She wraps her arms around me. Rubs her cheek against my own. Whispers sweet nothings. Lies. Everything, rewritten versions of what once was. Cleaner. Prettier. Warmer.

There’s a certain longing to the past that makes it hard to give up. Hard to let go of. The past is a wonderful storyteller — a wonderful singer — and she weaves tales that change the more you listen. It’s imperceptible. Her details pull the heart strings, playing chords for very particular emotions.

Her songs are potent recreations of your first-draft memories. Intoxicating and enchanting.

But the past is a poor lover. Romantic but untrustworthy. Beautiful but wanting. Charming but untruthful. Because she can never give you what you truly want. Can never take you back. Can never give you a second chance.

These days, I see the past as a friend. The type I share beers with occasionally. She’s there when I go home to see old friends. She knows to drop by when I think of my father. She calls when I need a reminder that I’m on the right track. She gives me perspective.

We grew up together. I love her.

But we’re in different places, and it’s important I don’t chase her.

So I’ve started a romance with the now.

She’s lovely. Attentive and aware. Alive in the moment, and always on time.

But the now is intimidating. She won’t make your decisions. She leaves each moment up to you. At your control. She gives you the power to change every second, but the responsibility is yours.

It’s terrifying. But also, empowering.

She’s different from the past. She’s different from the future, who is fickle and fanciful; a day-dreamer with her head in the clouds and her eyes somewhere over the horizon. The girl forever dreaming of tomorrow.

Only the now gives you the power to shape a new future. Craft a new past from the moment you decide to do so.

And yet, we always forget her because we take her for granted.

Because she’s always there.

But take a moment to notice her. To really notice. Play some music, take her hand, and dance. Sing. You’ll have to lead, and you’ll be responsible for the initial missteps, but you don’t have to be a good dancer. You don’t even have to dance. Not really.

You just have to love each moment and make each count.

That’s it.

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