sentimental

sentimental - moss covered trees during a sunny day rainshower

My last three posts were written from the table in a beautiful vacation home in Naples, Florida, where I spent three spectacular and soul-refreshing weeks around my birthday. Though I was there by myself, I never felt lonely. And anytime I wanted, I could wander outside “the palace” into the wide world and create alternate realities at will.

The night before my flight to Florida, I had gone out and bought one of those giant pill organizers for people who have to take meds four times per day. It had 28 little snap compartments, all of which I clicked open once I got home. I grabbed my thyroid medication and systematically plinked out two pills per compartment for 23 of the 28 compartments. Then I grabbed a handful of my daily multivitamin and added those, one by one … plunk, plunk, plunk. Next was my Super B-Complex, then the supplemental Zinc, D3, and on it went. It took a long time, but I got into the rhythm of it and didn’t mind in the least.

When I was done, I called my best friend: “Wow! I’m looking at all the pills I’ll have to take while I’m away,” I chimed. “I’m going to be gone for a nice long time!” We both snorted with sudden laughter at my unlikely “hourglass” and how fitting a marker it was of yet another birthday around the corner. I mean, when you start merrily marking the length of a vacation in pills, let’s face it – you’re old.

I remarked many times while away that a week seemed like a month, in the best of ways. But at some point during my time away, as I wandered into the kitchen to grab a tangy lime pop, I happened to peek down through the clear multi-color lids of the pill organizer and noticed that more were empty than full. It’s silly, but this was significant to me.

Then there was the day I could definitively count the number of filled compartments at a glance. Suddenly, there was a catch in my throat, and a prickly pressure built at the front of my eyes. It’s almost over.

That was the day I began writing “i am here,” which I posted last Friday. The time had come to put into practice those strategies I go to in order to stay fully present, to enjoy this moment and not let thoughts of future or past moments rob me of it. And I’m pleased to report that it did the trick. (You should give it a try, because it really does work.)

As the pills continued to dwindle, I found myself having those inner “i am here” dialogs more frequently until, inevitably, that last 24 hours arrived. My dialogs began to change slightly, to include things like these:

This is the last time for this year that I’ll wash this dish.

This is the last time I’ll sleep in this bed, on these pillows.

Well, this is the last lime pop.

Nestling into those “last time” pillows feels different somehow, like saying goodbye to the friends you made during summer camp. Gathering the sheets for the last loads of laundry – even putting the box to the lime pops into the recycling bin and closing the lid – it’s sentimental to me. I don’t burst into tears, but I do feel the sting of them.  Occasionally one will spill over.

And I let it.

I’ve really always been this way, as far back as I can remember. And while I am all for continued personal growth, this is not an area of myself I ever want to change.

The time was drawing nearer. The laundry was all done. The beds had all been made to perfection, with great care not only to leave them neat and tidy, but to give that extra fluff to each pillow so that it would be all the more inviting to whomever might be arriving next to start their own magical escape.

With the Florida sunshine streaming in, I sat in the high-backed leather chair and wrote my entry in the Guest Book, smiling and sniffling the whole time (being careful not to drip on the pages). Then I made the rounds, closing each of the blinds, slowly, one by one.

With the house now in shadow, I went out into the front lanai and dipped my feet in the pool for a few moments, kicking them back and forth like a kid. I breathed deeply. I am here, I told myself. If even for just a few more moments, I am here.

Finally, and a bit reluctantly, I pulled my feet from the water and walked back inside barefoot. I closed and locked the lanai door, which seemed to click too loudly somehow.

I threw my backpack over a shoulder and rolled my bag down the tiled hallway to the door, turning back one last time in the darkness and silence to say goodbye. And thank you.

I closed the garage door, then loaded my things into my friend’s waiting vehicle, hopped into the passenger seat (with my sunglasses on for more reasons than one) and pulled out of the driveway, looking back through the window as long as I could, until no part of the house or yard was any longer visible.

But why write about all of this? What’s my point? Just to indulge myself? Or to see if I can get other softies like me to cry a little?

Nope.

Within the context that prompted my previous post, it applied to choosing happiness rather than falling into the trap of letting thoughts of the future or the past encroach on the joy of present moments. But how do sentimentality and even tears fit in with being present? Some might even be arguing, “Aren’t these feelings brought on, in essence, by reluctance to let go of past moments or to enter the inevitability of a ‘new present’?”

I suppose that, for some, that might be true. For me, I can honestly say that it’s not. It’s actually part of my being fully present. To deny the tears in such moments would be trying to move prematurely into a future that has not yet arrived – even if that future will arrive in mere minutes.

sentimental tweetable: To deny tears in the moment is to move prematurely into a future that has not yet arrived.

I recently became reacquainted with this Dr. Seuss quote on Twitter:

Sentimental Seuss Quote: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Now, I love me some Dr. Seuss. But I think you have to look beyond the surface meaning of the words to see the wisdom held here. And it seems to me (if you’ll allow me to be so presumptuous) that the good doctor was talking about living in the past, in a perpetual state of wistfulness or melancholy or regret – not about denying ourselves the full experience of present emotion. Why do I think this? Because he also wrote this:

Sentimental Seuss Quote: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

Being who I am means fully feeling what I feel in the present moment. And truly, what I feel in those moments of sentimentality isn’t sadness. As I witnessed many times during my wonderful time away, it’s like rain showers and storms that sometimes come even as the sun is shining brightly between the clouds all the while.

Sentimental tweet: Being who I am means fully feeling what I feel in the present moment.


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About Erik

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

38 responses to “sentimental

  • Take a Mini Vacation: The five hour break

    Linked to you in a recent blog post of mine: ” …the clouds turned dark as if they were a clear signal that my time was up. I paddled back to shore …”

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kev

    I absolutely love Dr Seuss! That aside… Think about the wonderful memories you’ll always have to savour. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Aquileana

    …”But how do sentimentality and even tears fit in with being present? Some might even be arguing, “Aren’t these feelings brought on, in essence, by reluctance to let go of past moments or to enter the inevitability of a ‘new present’?”…

    Dear Erik …. this excerpt made me think of Marcel Proust concept of Time Trouvé… In his book Remembrance of Things Past… with the well known madeleine cake episode, which introduces the theme of involuntary memory, in which the narrator remembers having a similar snack as a child with his aunt and it all leads to more memories of Combray (the Town of his Childhood)…
    I guess the past we bring back to the present in the shape of feelings and memories is a sort of new present … Should we call it past continuous or present continuous, (I am wondering!…)
    Love and best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Wow, Amalia, you’re quite the thinker! Proust was a deep guy. As for your question at the end, I suppose if I had to choose between the two, I would lean toward “past continuous”; but I’m not sure either concept works for me. As Proust illustrated with the cake memory, this memory was not “continuous” at all. He experienced it as a boy in the present. Then he’d forgotten about it until a new “present” triggered that memory. So while that memory was certainly “present” in the sense of having been there the whole time, it was not “present” in the sense of being accessible in his moment-by-moment awareness.

      Theories and terms aside, I guess my guiding principle is this: where thoughts of the past neither ruin present moments nor keep us from fully experiencing future moments, they are healthy and good. Where they cause us to miss the present or avoid entering a new future, they are unhealthy.

      Liked by 1 person

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    You might also enjoy the Peanuts series by Charles Schultz. Books feature the astute insights to human nature, friendship, and life – somewhat overpowered by the popular animated shows that came later (but ya’ gotta love those tunes…Snoopy, though, should never have spoken – lots of controversy about that and those later films of the series)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      The Peanuts series (print and film) are among my sentimental favorites. And I’m happy to report that I’ve never watched any of the “later films” nor heard Snoopy talk (what?). Why ruin a good thing! (I’ll also add that the music of Vince Guaraldi from those classics remains among my favorite sentimental collections.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • philosophermouseofthehedge

        With luck the “newest” films are well buried. Not the same quality without Schultz overseeing them. Maybe the world is ready for a Peanuts revival. Lots of common sense there – (and shut up you idiot blogging parent complaining about the bullying looking for stats a couple of years ago – the whole point was to show the range of personalities, ways of dealing with them, and give parents an opening to watch with their kids and talk about it all)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Erik

          Oh, wow. Glad I missed those rants, as well. For Pete’s sake, in no way did the Peanuts promote bullying. You’re always going to have sibling rivalries and bossy girls. They all stayed friends and helped each other out, regardless of personalities. I suppose The Three Stooges was bullying, as well. Good grief!

          Liked by 1 person

      • Sean P Carlin

        The Peanuts series is so brilliant because it appeals to us on a very basic level in childhood, and only with age and experience do we begin to appreciate the profound philosophical weight of some of those strips/stories. For instance: Far from just a simple tale about trick-or-treating, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a very sophisticated meditation on faith and religion that still reveals new layers to me each Halloween.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Erik

          Likewise with A Charlie Brown Christmas with its reflections on commercialism (which was nowhere near how out of hand it’s gotten here 50 years later). It is pretty terrific how you can watch the same film over and over throughout your lifetime and get something different based on age, experience and circumstance at the time of watching.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sean P Carlin

            The sixties were the Golden Age of televised Christmas specials, what with A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and yes: the anti-consumerism messages of Charlie Brown and Grinch are more relevant today than ever, alas.

            Liked by 1 person

  • aFrankAngle

    Most of life is about perspective with so many opportunities to embrace. No, we don’t have to be giddy at every little moment. – but there is much to grab onto if we take the time to stop, look, and listen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      Exactly, Frank. The simplicity with which you express this makes me think about how truths are expressed in ways that begin to feel cliche (e.g., “Stop and smell the roses”). It’s at that point, where something feels very simple or overused – that people forget it is still truth. They want something that feels new (which I’ve found usually means “complicated”). But the simple truths – like “stop, look and listen” – are every bit as true and solid advice and practice as they ever were. Thanks.

      Like

      • aFrankAngle

        I think of it in terms of nature. At any given time when we are outside, there is a great deal that is within our site … but do we notice it? Nope – because we don’t stop to look and/or listen.

        Another example that gets to the same point in a different manner. Your feet are covered with socks, and then you put on a pair of shoes. While standing, and wearing socks & shoes, can you feel the floor with the sole of your feet?

        Liked by 3 people

  • Chad Littlefield (@ChadLittlefield)

    Man did I feel like I was THERE! You have the gift of words, Erik. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      Thanks for that, Chad. You’ve done a TON of traveling for the last few months and visited places that most people will never get to see in a lifetime. Did you have any of that sense of “present sentimentality” upon leaving any of those places (or at the conclusion of road-trip life on the whole)?

      Like

  • Ben S

    Great post, Erik. I have to confess that I ended up approaching sentimentality kind of from the opposite direction. That is, I tend to feel things pretty strongly, but was taught not to show them (not in so many words, but in disapproval for it, that kind of thing.) So it’s only been recently that I’ve started letting go of that and allowed myself both to freely feel- and sometimes to express- those emotions.

    So I find myself sympathizing with your idea of living in the moment and enjoying it, especially without caring as much about what others think.

    The only thing I might push back on a bit is that living in the moment kind of requires cognizance of how the past and future impact it. Sean shared his movie tradition, but part of what adds to their impact is that they’re building up from the past and point towards another experience in the future. By contrast, even in your post, you shared how the thoughts changed as you got closer to leaving.

    In Japan, the samurai’s life was compared to a cherry blossom, the idea being that it was that much more beautiful for being so short. I think that part of being aware in the present is to have that kind of… integrated awareness, is the best way of putting it. Aware of the context and allowing it to flavor the experience, but integrating it into the experience itself and not allowing it to overshadow the experience.

    If that makes sense at all, anyway! Just had the thought while reading your post, and thought I should add mine in. Sounds like you had a fantastic vacation, and as always, thanks for your evocative post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      Hey, Ben. New thoughts? Push back? Something must be working here. 🙂 Two of my favorite things.

      I’m with you. Experiencing present emotion (or having gained some ground in staying present at all) are relatively new to me, as well. I, like you, had high expectations to always be “fine,” and was given the clear message that any expression that causes others to notice or feel uncomfortable in any way was inherently “selfish.” So, it’s been a process, for sure.

      Your “push back” isn’t so much that, really. I’m in agreement with you. It’s just hard to convey in a blog like this without going on even longer than I already do, or becoming more philosophical/deep than I intend to do here. But, yes, we are temporal beings, and every “present” is given context by pasts and futures.

      For instance, I have wonderful Christmas memories. I don’t try to repeat them, but I expect that Christmas is a wonderful time, and so it is. Yet just this last year, I bought stockings and filled them for some homeless kids in the area. In inviting each of them over to open their stocking gifts by the Christmas tree, with a nice cup of cocoa, while they certainly appreciated it, most expressed that this setting (and Christmas itself) was not meaningful to them, because their past Christmases had been awful, abusive, spent in different foster homes, etc.

      In addition, in order to plan anything, we must consider what we know about the past, as well as think about the future. I love to reminisce with friends about wonderful or funny moments past. And I love to dream and aim for a grand future. Even in writing, I must recollect the past, while staying present, and realizing that it will live on into the future. It’s a balancing act. The key for me is to never let the past or future negatively color my present with regret, bitterness, anxiety or worry.

      Thanks for your very thoughtful and detailed comment, Ben, as well as your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Sean P Carlin

    Erik,

    You know that I love movies. And I have a handful of favorites — the “perennials,” as I call them, since they get watched every year — that are more than just fun ways to pass the time; they are de facto photo albums: They remind me of who I was when I first saw them, who I was with, what I was feeling. They bring all of that back for me in a very emotionally tactile way.

    But, here’s the thing about them: They only get watched once a year. That’s it. (Usually around the same time of year, too.) It makes them special — almost like Christmas. I look forward to watching them a few weeks in advance, I savor every moment in front of them as the Blu-ray spins, and I sometimes even lament, as I put the discs away, that it will be an entire year again before I experience their worlds, their sounds, their rhythms, their characters.

    It’s ridiculous, I realize. But, it’s a personal tradition, and I have found that, like all annual rituals, the very fact that it only comes around once in a while is the thing that makes it so special: It becomes a moment that must be cherished, else I’ve missed my chance for a while. And I never really gave any of that much conscious thought till I read your piece, but, that, for me, is a way in which I practice being fully present — at least with myself! The lesson, I suppose, is that moments are ephemeral, and even the ones that “repeat” never really come around again in quite the same way, so you’re only short-changing yourself if you don’t make every conscious effort to be present within that moment, whatever emotion — happy, sad, or otherwise — it evokes.

    Great, thoughtful piece, as always, sir.

    Sean

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      Anyone who’s being real is a bit “ridiculous,” if you ask me. And, yes, I’m right there with you on the “perennials.” Great example.

      “[…M]oments are ephemeral, and even the ones that “repeat” never really come around again in quite the same way, so you’re only short-changing yourself if you don’t make every conscious effort to be present within that moment, whatever emotion…” I feel like your comment should be its own post, somehow, somewhere, it’s expressed so perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jed Jurchenko

    I love this post Erik & the Dr. Seuss quotes made me smile. Jenny & I wandered into an art studio displaying some of his work this week. He was quite an interesting guy. Apparently he stored some of his best work & asked that it be released only after his death.

    He even had a secret, hidden stash, that was discovered much later on. Jenny & I gained new insights into his weird humor & creative way of viewing the world – which was often very much more adult oriented than what is shown in his children’s books.

    Anyway, I thought this was especially relevant to a post on finding joy, as he was a man who wanted to keep passing on joy to others even after his death. It’s pretty impressive that he found a way to do it too!

    A great post Erik & good reminder to stay present, enjoy the happy moments to their fullest, & to pass on the joy to others!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      I didn’t know that about Dr. Seuss; I’ll have to look into that art! And, yes, leave it to him to have planned it out this way.

      You’re right: writers like him and Shel Silverstein (e.g., The Giving Tree) often used “childlike wrappers” as a way to get messages through to adults who might not otherwise receive truths, but would unwittingly absorb them by “reading to their kids.” Brilliant.

      Thanks for the continued support and good words, Jed.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Anonymous

    Glad you had a great vacation.A note on you blog:I never was one to judge people on how they feel and I say however you feel it’s all part of the human experience.Never be ashamed to let your feelings be known.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      Oh, I show them without shame. (It’s the other people who might be with me who have to work on not feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable with it, like my friend who picked me up that day.)

      Thanks for dropping by and speaking up. 🙂

      Like

  • gina amos

    Erik, I agree with you when you write about other moments in time never being the same. Being on the high end of the sentimentality scale, I choose not to revisit a place where I have enjoyed myself in case it falls short.

    I studied The Great Gatsby when I was at high school and I often think of Fitzgerald’s words :

    “…it is harder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.”

    Glad you enjoyed your holiday. Mmmm, now back to reality!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      You and Fitzgerald definitely hit on something viable there. I guess I myself don’t have any expectations of “next time” being a repeat of “last time.” I guess for me that’s part of what it means to be present – and also why I permit myself to feel what I feel, because I know “I shall not pass this way again,” even if the location and even the people are the same. For instance, though I’ve spent each of the last 20+ Christmases with the same group of inner-circle friends, and I know there will be no repeats, I also would never deny myself Christmas with these wonderful people. Each Christmas, though in the same location and with the same people, has it’s own character and moments to savor.

      And, as far as being back to reality, while I loved my time away, I love my life, as well. So it’s not so bad as all that.

      Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Welcome back from vacation. 🙂 It sounds like you had a restful, peaceful break. I too consider myself a positive person, but as you suggest, that doesn’t mean being oblivious to melancholy, sadness, and pain. I think, rather the opposite, that if feelings are experienced, accepted and integrated they are less likely to hold us in the past as we travel through the present. The capacity to feel is one of the things I love about being alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  • reocochran

    I get teary eyed easily. I am sentimental and remember details of situations and events like they really, truly “etched” into my mind.
    Every time I left friends behind at camp or schools as we moved, I would feel like some door closed. I don’t know why, since I was a good pen pal . . . My Mom says the Shakespeare quote when we are saying goodbye, until we meet again:
    “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
    I like to nibble on bittersweet chocolate as I miss her a lot. Seeing her over Labor Day.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Erik

      I think the reaction we have to endings, even if they are not final, is rooted in appreciation of the moment as it is, which must come with a realization that no other moment will be the same –even if we are a good pen pal or can revisit a place again in the future. Every “this time” can only be this time. Next time can never repeat this time. We change. Life changes. And so moments change. And I think it’s perfectly good and healthy to allow ourselves to have those tears as we close doors on whatever “this time” we’ve just enjoyed so much, while still having anticipation of the many future “this times” yet to come.

      Liked by 1 person

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