The muzak in shops, together with radio and television, which are full of entertainment from decades ago. It all brings back old memories with associated feelings. We attempt to live in the present, but our emotions can be hijacked with a spectrum of memories ranging from the downright miserable and traumatic to euphoric happiness and everything in between. That could be said about every day of the year, but there’s something about Christmas and New Year which heightens our reactions. With each passing year, we have another layer of memories to add to the others and it’s so easy to drift into the past and dwell on the good times and not so good. New Year arrives with the promise of – what exactly? Plans, of which John Lennon correctly wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” That’s when the imagination gets going, again with both negative and positive results. I’m an optimist, but my mother was a pessimist. She said that thinking the worst would happen meant she was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. I told her that I had pleasure imagining the best and when it didn’t happen, I had enjoyed the daydreams. Being an optimist, I have mostly avoided the anxiety that comes with negative thinking and imagined negative outcomes.
In the previous column, I mentioned that we will be moving home this year. At present, we don’t have a property to move to, but our house should be sold by Easter. This makes for interesting times, while managing the unknown. Plenty of time for misusing the imagination. Driving with a friend, we turned off the concerning news on the radio and focused on our present reality. There was a patch of blue sky, the countryside had winter beauty, we had just enjoyed a Pilates class and coffee with friends and were returning to warm homes with food in the fridge. We enjoyed small pleasures and felt better. Optimism doesn’t make me ignore reality, but helps manage the uncertainty. This week I saw this quote on a mural near a local school and will choose to live by it each day. Think I was meant to see it. ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’. Albert Einstein
Rita Leaman is a writer and speaker on emotional health. As Alison R Russell, she published Are you Chasing Rainbows?. As Rita Leaman she published a compilation of The Press York columns 2014 -19 in Wise Words. More at: chasingrainbows.org.uk