I actually began this post with my “Monday” entry on my ArtSoulWine Facebook page last night. Today is Memorial Day, and many Americans are remembering loved ones who died in service or who were war veterans. But also in my head is a phrase to which I am clinging right now: “Don’t look back. You aren’t going that way.” Dichotomy is a constant companion in my life.
I have had better days—and years—but, in a “doctor, heal thyself” tone, I tell my tired reflection in the mirror that this is only temporary, that good things are coming any minute now. I ask, “How can it get better than this?” I expend my energy not only seeking opportunities and brainstorming possibilities, but trying to remain focused on tasks I can do today in manifesting my New Life. Daydreaming into the past would be easy. I had a growing photography business; people sought me out for freelance projects; I did what I loved in a place I loved. Previous to that I had a job with “purpose” where I felt like what I did had a positive impact even if in some small way. Not only that, but I made enough money to live.
But life today is different, and there have been twists and turns on the path from there to here that have brought me to the edge of this cliff. Only lessons I’ve learned along the way can help me. Dwelling on what used to be or what might have been cannot. As Stephen King said, “Some memories were all right, but others were dangerous.” I place one foot in front of the other, one stumble from a fall.
One detour, of course, was moving to Ohio to take care of my parents. My father was a Korean War veteran, and, as I thought about remembrance and Memorial Day, I started searching for the photo album from his time there. He was in the US Army, drove a Jeep and was an instructor of some kind in the field. While he gave us anecdotes about various incidents and a puppy that showed up at the camp and that he adopted, he did not otherwise interact with other veterans or want to discuss his time there. He left what he could overseas, though it seems there was pain that stayed with him. He saw no reason to call that up.
Back to the album. I felt sick to my stomach as I went through boxes and bins. I unfortunately left some things in Ohio when I came to New York and was worried that somehow this had missed the moving van. Taken more than a decade before the days of television war coverage and eons before social media, the photos chronicle parts of the daily life of a soldier: a Jeep stuck in a flood, a burning hillside, loading machine guns, camps, the aftermath of a bombing, reading a letter from home. The album is something that meant a lot to my father, and I began feeling a loss of history and letting my father down as I turned up nothing in the house.
Today I found it in a small box in the garage (audible gasp of relief.) Why was this so important to me? I am a pacifist to the core. Do no harm. I think it was the “human-ness” and humbleness of the photos, taken from the eyes of a small-town boy from Ohio. There are most certainly other families that have albums like this. How many of the men laughing or staring tentatively into the camera lens didn’t make it home? That is what my father wouldn’t talk about.
In my current frame of mind, trying to stay present and look forward, I wonder what this album and this Memorial Day is telling me. We can express our gratitude and honor our loved ones’ service and courage every day, not just one. But the message that really comes through is about not dwelling on anger and the evils and human sacrifices of war and conflict, but refocusing on thoughts and prayers for tolerance and understanding and sending those out into the Universe, becoming peace within for peace all around.
I (or we) need to do what we can do today to manifest a better tomorrow and better life for all of us.