Fear of Going Back (on Joy, Preserved)

A number of years ago, when my youngest was just two years old, our family took a trip out to pick blueberries.

It was an epic day. The sun was shining upon us, and our delighted boys tottered through the rows, filling their tiny pails overflowing with blue fruit, and staining their fingers with the pure goodness of it. We stumbled upon a public park on the way back from the farm – the kind in those (hot!) places that sprays water from the ground for kids to frolic. Those frozen delicious blueberries lasted us half the year, and we chronicled the moment in our Christmas cards. It was good.

Blueberry picking was on our “summer” bucket list, so I looked at our calender and made it happen last weekend. We made the long drive out to the farm with so many great memories, and got our buckets ready. Only there was nothing to pick. The main bushes had been picked clean, and what was left on the scraggly ones were either dried out, or sour and under-ripe. The saving grace was a strawberry patch adjacent, and we did fill buckets of strawberries, and ate ourselves full – only to find husband making jam at midnight since those berries were going off fast.

I gave sincere thanks to God that I kept from nodding off as I drove home, and we returned from the 4-hour round trip journey feeling a bit defeated, and a lot tired.

I almost wished I had retained that day in my memory, instead of trying to recreate the joy.

We are going on vacation in a couple of days, and if I’m being honest, I’m feeling a bit anxious.

You see, we’re going back to the place my husband and I got married – a special little out-of-the-way island on the East Coast. Nine years ago, the experience was magical. We spent a week on the island, celebrating and relaxing and entertaining close family and friends – and making our vows to each in other, in a ceremony that I was surprised (given how long we had already known each other) at how different it made me feel.

I’m afraid to go back.

I don’t want to compromise the joy of the place, or my memories of it.  I’m worried that it won’t be as good as last time (of course it won’t!). I’m worried that something will happen, an inter-relational blow-out, that will sit on top of (and black out) the good memories I want to keep locked in my heart.

Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) talks a lot about sabotaging joy – including discounting present joy by worries that something bad will happen. My fears of erasing the past are just another way of sabotaging joy. Wanting to lock away my good memories in a vault is hampering me from fully sinking into the joy of this day. Now.

And yet there’s something to be said for not trying to recreate magic. Because in the end, each day is a different one. And if I’m always looking back as my reference point, I will likely miss the present now.

So I’m going on vacation, even a bit reluctantly. And I pray that God will help me enjoy each unfolding moment. Just. As. It. Is.

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