By Cory L. Kemp
God gave us memories that we may have roses in December. Although these are not my own words, but a quote from a source long forgotten, I have returned to them frequently for their truth and beauty. Roses being one of my favorite flowers, It is an easy bridge from the image of the red blossoms that pose for a few weeks each summer in my back yard to my Auntie Viola, who taught me to love them as she did. While Auntie Viola passed on years ago, and my roses are settled into their out-of-season repose, the idea that our memories are gardens reflecting the rich detail of our lives and its accessibility to us, means we can revisit our experiences, thoughts and feelings amy time we want, and enjoy again the tangibility of relationships and events from earlier times. Happy memories rekindle warmth, tenderness and delight. Tougher situations recalled give logic and perspective to feelings that, at the time we lived them, overwhelmed or frightened us. Memories are important parts of our lives. Working back through dimly lit hallways from our childhood, high school or college years teaches us not only where we have been, but also how our choices have shaped our lives. Redirecting our memories to challenge us to grow into who we want to become is also the gift of recognizing how we may choose to view past experiences and life in the present moment.
Retracing memories is perhaps one of the most useful tools to reveal our lives to us in new ways, and to assist us in integrating our experiences as lasting, positive parts of our lives. Journaling this process is particularly useful for several reasons. Just as a written historical record of an event creates a touchstone to which we can return for reassurance, hope or confirmation, so does a journaled account of a memory. What was your first day of school like? What ever became of the presents and the guests from your thirteenth birthday party? Where were you, and what were you doing, when we crossed over into the new millennium? What did you like best about your vacation last year? What is your first memory of your grandparents? All of these are roses blooming in your memory, ready to be savored. If you have no idea where to begin, the idea itself can become your toehold. Almost like an object lesson, favorite items related to the memory can also jostle our minds, relinquishing long-buried facts and feelings that can be jotted down, pondered and reassembled into an orderly, cohesive format. Report cards, art projects, favorite articles of clothing, and photographs, can help nudge your psyche to assist you in retrieving almost any memory you would like to reconnect with, and have at hand whenever the mood suits you.
Being able to return to our memories allows us to remind ourselves of where we were, where we are now, and where we would like to direct ourselves in the future. Rather than playing tricks on us in the midst of stressful or anxious times, our memories can serve us, become our allies, our comforters and our guides. Remembering and writing down how you lived through a challenging experience, such as losing a job or facing an undesirable move to another part of the country, gives you a foothold if a similar situation ever comes up again. Cherishing the moment of grace as your first love enters your life is a great blessing. Remembering it each time you come back to it in your journal makes that experience a blessing for all time. Reminding yourself of the sweetness of a summer's night in the middle of winter means you can still hold onto the rhythm of life in the seasons themselves. Rather than feeling stuck in our memories, unable to release them to move forward in our lives, journaling our memories allows us to place them in perspective, integrate them into our lives, and use them as tools to continue to create and develop our futures.
To that end, memories are also great mysteries that evolve over time as they overlap in our hearts and souls, and fill in the gaps in our consciousness that we have left behind. It is fascinating to me that our whole lives are literally stored in our heads. Granted, there are a few pieces of information flitting around in each of us that is better left untouched and silent. But most of this compact filing system, and how we've organized it for ourselves, is quite a miracle. The more we know of our memories, the more we can unravel the great mystery that is our own in which to delight. It is a tremendous gift to know oneself fully. From that point of reference can be launched many good choices, from career to life partner. Nobody else can do that for us, or should. Journaling your memories puts your life work in your own hands, and allows you to shape your future with consciousness and wholeness.
Finally, what is wonderful about journaling memories is that you can start wherever you like, and continue in any direction you choose. It is your life, your garden and your roses. Equally wonderful is the garden you can create in your heart and soul, a garden you can visit any time, any season, whenever you choose to open your journal and remember.
About The Author
Cory L. Kemp
As an ordained minister I have worked in educational ministries in several congregations, as well as pastoring a congregation. My writing has focused on nonfiction essays and I have recently submitted a theological memoir for publication. My ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development.