Changing the Past in the Future

The end of the calendar year seems to be the time for reflecting back on all that’s come before. This has not been a favorite pastime of mine. I am much better at remembering all the unpleasant things than the positive moments of my year. Reflecting means I get to relive all the horrible moments, complete with every awful feeling, that I already struggled to make it through once. This is not something I wish to do.

But, let me try to work around my self-deprecating tendencies to see what I can rejoice in as another year comes to a close.

First, there are these social media time-sucking vortexes called Facebook and Twitter. I have spent this year letting them take far too much of my time.  As life-wasting as they may seem, it also creates this history of my life, and my friends’, in little snippets.  Each struggle is marked for history, but so is the success of getting through it. And the funny parts are good to go back to when I’m not feeling very funny.  Humor (usually at the expense of others or self) is how my family deals with pain.  I guess we’re living out the “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” philosophy in some twisted way. Sometimes I need a little help to find some humor – and there it is, on the internet, for all to see.

As much as I can document pointless drivel or socially unacceptable behavior or argumentative rudeness, that’s not all there is on these social media sites.  I have also been able to find some amazing stories of hope and joy.  I’ve shared fabulous posts from community service projects that may have led to additional donations or assistance for the organization. I’ve shared events and information from small, local theatres and book stores and toy stores and independent businesses that were important or helpful to me – and maybe someone else found the perfect ‘thing’ because of that.  I was able to reach more people and raise more funds for cancer research by making pictures of my bald head public (okay – that was probably more about my cute son than me, but still).

The biggest thing for me about this social media vortex is the ability to rewrite my history.  These sites have allowed me to find and reconnect with friends from my childhood.  I know this isn’t new, as this is what many users say, but stay with me for a bit.  Enjoyable memories of my childhood are brief and scattered.  My most prominent memory of high school was the overwhelming desire for it to end. I spent a lot of time feeling inadequate, out-of-place, judged and basically unhappy. I have never attended a reunion because I had no desire to again see anyone from that time of life.  I remembered every embarrassing moment of my childhood.  I remembered every hurtful comment slung at me by an inconsiderate teenager.  I remember every party I wasn’t invited to, every teacher I disappointed, every award I didn’t win. My memories were an unending movie of being laughed at, yelled at, shunned, made a fool of, lied to, lied about and left out.  Why would I want to reminisce about that?

Through social media, I gingerly stepped out into that abyss of broken memories and connected with someone from that time of my life. It wasn’t so bad.  So, I found someone else, and one more.  Then, suddenly, people found me.  And it blossomed.

There are requests from people you were really hoping to find, those you’ve missed so much since you lost touch.  You accept it with excitement.  There are requests from people you don’t remember but you remember all their friends, so you must have known them.  You accept it and decide you’ll figure it out later (which you do!). There are requests that come from someone that really surprises you – the kind where you think “Really?!?  Do you not remember the things you used to say to me?  Because I sure do!” But, then you realize you’re not 15 anymore, so you make the connection. And this really cool thing happens – you begin to relate to each other on a whole different level.  You’re not competing for the same spot on the team or fighting over dating the same guy.  You’re moms struggling with creating healthy routines.  You’re professionals hoping for support when your job or school is getting tough. You’re adults muddling your way through life, encouraged by each other. You share recipes and congratulations and sorrow and love.  You revel in the pictures of kids graduating from college or getting married. You marvel at the beauty in a grandchild’s smile. You are overjoyed at the birth of a child, at the new relationship, at the perfect job or the perfect haircut. You commiserate when a pet passes away. You weep in concert when a parent or spouse becomes ill or dies. You rally with support when a job is lost or a child struggles or a house is damaged. The casual acquaintance becomes a trusted resource for information. You make new memories. Somewhere along the way, you sort of re-write the old memories.

I am truly grateful for the connections I’ve made through social media. My heart is restored by dear friends that I feel really connected to again. My soul is restored by sad memories fading against new memories created. I’ve taken the time to talk through difficult moments from years ago, seeing them with the vision of maturity. I’ve been able to say “I’m sorry” when I never took the time to do it before. I’ve been able to say “you meant so much to me” or “I’ve missed you.” The past – the moments ruined or lost – have been changed.  Maybe not literally, but in a more important way. Through the relationship.

A few friends left the social media sites this year.  Most have come back.  I guess we all need a little break now and then. I’m not sure of their reasons for leaving, or for coming back.  But, I’m glad they’re back.  I missed them.  And I was able to tell them so.

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