A few months ago, my husband and I took a fun little quiz that informed the quizzee on what kind of personality he/she has. The answers given to a series of questions determined the participants value system and general outlook on life. My husband’s answers categorized him as an Inventor, which is someone who “worries about the future.” My answers, of course, landed me in a very different department. I was an Artist, or one who “worries about the past.” Although my husband has never really invented anything and I have never really artist-ed anything, the broader implications of the quiz were uncannily accurate.
I am a sentimental slob. I spend roughly eighty-percent of my time looking over my shoulder, relishing in memories and aggrandizing the “good ‘ole days.” Don’t get me wrong; I am generally quite happy in the present and enjoy my day-to-day life immensely. It’s just that I want each piece of it to last forever, and I find it tragic when Present is swallowed into Past and I can’t hold on to both at the same time. My approach to life as an Artist is why I have a mini-breakdown at the beginning of each new school year and every time one of my children has a birthday. Mathematically, this means I have a mini-breakdown once every three months. (Did I say I was generally quite happy?)
When I was in my twenties, I dreamed fondly of my carefree adolescence. My thirties had me longing for the idealistic glow of my twenties. And my forties have, of course, brought with them the realization of just how splendid and splashy were the days of my thirties (never mind that they were a mere six months ago.) Savoring the past can, for me, lead to discounting the present, and even dreading the future.
My husband is different. He gets excited about
our growing retirement account and, someday, Getting The Kids Out Of The House. He gobbles up the latest technology and recently spent a month counting down the days to Apple’s iOS 7 unveiling. (When I ribbed him about this, he told me that “everyone else” was just as excited as he was, and that I was the weird one for not caring. Sure, honey.) He goes to conferences on “The Future of Urban Living,” and comes home aglow with What’s Next in the world. He likes The Future because, as an Inventor, he has every confidence that he can navigate–if not create–it.
I, on the other hand, am little bit afraid of the future because, as an Artist, I feel that I cannot shape, but merely define it. And it’s so much pleasanter to define the past, which is safe and define-able and is, therefore, where we Artists like to dwell. (I am italicizing the word Artist because I do not consider myself one and am simply assuming the title given me by the quiz. The day I try to pass this blog off as “art” is the day I die of embarrassment.)
The difference between the Inventor and the Artist can be summed up in the conversation the Hub and I had a few days ago before getting the kids off to school. I came downstairs and leaned over his shoulder as he scrambled some eggs.
“I’m sad this morning.”
“Because our kids are so big. And they’ll never be little again.”
“Yeah. But look at what great people they’re turning out to be.”
“When they were little, we didn’t have that certainty. Think about it.”
Of course he was right. And when I panic about unfinished scrapbooks or someone I offended in the ninth-grade, my Inventor husband is also right in telling me to “let it go.” I’m not saying he’s right about everything (or even most things), but I will give him credit for this one thing: the future can be a very good place, if we just allow ourselves to decide that it will be. If we just allow ourselves to make it so.
To that end, I’d like to adopt some of the Inventor’s thinking while keeping my dreamy Artist tendencies intact. I’d like to keep savoring the past, but to stop worrying about it–especially about how to stay in it. Because even though the past is so nicely bound and resolved, it’s no longer a liveable reality, which is kind of an important factor when it comes to reaching our potential in life. And that beautiful, sepia-tinted existence that I long to revisit? It’s fake; brushed on years later by the stroke of my heavy Artist’s hand. In our attempt to capture a fading past, we sometimes accidentally create a false one. And clinging to a false past is like trying to diet our way into pre-baby skinny jeans: they’re both frustrated and futile fantasies that leave us hungry for what we can no longer have.
So on this soft and sentimental Sunday, complete with steel-gray clouds in the sky above and piano music in the hall below and every other sign of longer nights and changing seasons that hurls me, each autumn, into the Land of Looking Back, I’m determined to look forward. I’m determined to believe–no, to decide–that the best is yet to come. That I can create the future rather than recoil from it. That these are the good ‘ole days. Because they are. No sepia tint required.