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Life Experiences as Chapters
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, January 2012

Some of us think of our life as if it was a book of chapters. When we finish one chapter we go to the next. They are related and build on one another, but once a chapter is closed it is closed. Never to be revisited. Never to be re-examined for its linkage to the rest of our life.

We hear talk about closure. Moving on. Leaving the past where it is. Depending on the situation, this can be good advice. Sometimes, however, our past moves into our present. We are reminded of a past event or person or feeling because we hear a song and immediately remember where we were and with whom when that song played and we recall what it meant something to us at the time. We smell something and recall a place, a person, or an incident all triggered by that particular scent. We see someone who walks like someone we have not seen for many years and immediately recall something about that person and "who we were" at that time in our life when we knew them. We have those moments, and then we go on.

Perhaps we share the memory, that slice of our life; perhaps we don't.

Sometimes we meet someone from our past and reflect on their impact on us. The impact may have been a long time ago, or it could be now, months or years afterwards-- when we are "different" from how we were.

Each person IS a part of our life. Each event IS something we experienced. The difficult and the easy; the joyous and the sad. These people and events and experiences are threads that weave through our entire lifetime. How we choose to integrate them is up to us. Do we cut them and have them fray? Or do we weave them into the whole cloth of our life and know they are there but don't see them much because there are so many other threads covering them up?

Recently someone told me she heard that someone who had been very close to her had become gravely ill. She reached out to him via e-mail to express what she thought would be comforting words and shared that she remembered their time together with good feeling and wished him well. She heard nothing in return. She reached out to a relative of his, expressing her concern for the family and wishing them well during what surely was a difficult time. She heard nothing again. She could have felt rejection. She chose to feel that she sent messages of comfort to someone whose thread had still been very much a part of her life fabric and came into focus when she heard of his illness. Perhaps he and his family were too overwhelmed to respond, or maybe they were not interested, or perhaps they wondered if there was an underlying agenda to the reaching out, or maybe they had "closed" that chapter.

There are different ways to think about our past. Some people believe that those we have known in the past come in and out of our lives for a reason. How do you think of the people and events in your life? As chapters to be closed, never to be revisited, re-read, or re-examined, or as "ever present" yet not "ever obvious" threads in a fabric of your life story?

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