Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Memory Lane

Ah, memories!  They can be great!  They can also be sad or painful.  But, no matter what the memory is, something can be learned.

Photography is one way that helps me capture moments and memories - especially happy ones.  I have taken some very sad photographs as well that document painful times - but those, I have to say, are very rare.

I used to teach a Ready to Work program for long-term unemployed, under-employed, and homeless individuals.  By far, this was one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had.  One of the exercises we did during the first week, I think, was one of the most powerful - and we built from it for the rest of the time we spent together.

I had each of them make a timeline of their life.  They didn't have to use words.  They could use symbols or pictures.  They didn't have to share.  This was for them.  Some people were resistant.  You can imagine, if you were homeless, not all of your memories are of the pleasant variety.

Now, as an instructor, I couldn't be exempt.  I participated as well and was the first to share.  I shared about not only the good things, like graduating from college or getting my first camera, but also my first failed photo shoot and how embarrassed I was, and deaths in my family.

Then I followed up with a series of questions as they looked at their timeline.  This was not a sharing time, but a reflecting time.  It went along something like this:

"Look at your timeline.  Like me, you probably have some good times and some bad times.  But, here you are.  You got through them.  What led to the good times?  What was it about those times that were good?  Do you have any of those things in your life now?  What strengths did you exhibit during those good times?  Now, look at the bad times.  You survived.  What got you through?  What strengths did you draw on?  What supports did you use?  And look at the pattern of what you found to be 'good' memories...is there a common thread?  What about the 'bad' memories?  Think about what you left out.  Is there a reason you left them out?  Look at what you included.  Is there a reason those memories stand out to you more than others?"

I'm sure there were other questions I asked as well, but you can see how this went.  I was helping them to mine for gold.  Ruminating on the past and pining for the good old times or regretting what has happened can get you pretty stuck in the past and not moving forward.  You end up digging in the dirt and just getting dirty.  But, there's treasure to be found there!  Look for that treasure!  You will find it, and you will certainly be richer for it.

photograph of hallway lit by window light with blue graphic carpet

Here is a related post I found on Facebook: The Power of Utilization by Maureen | on September 9, 2012.  I read this post a few times to get it to really sink in.  You should read it too.  What did I learn from this post?  I learned that you can take moments in your past (good or bad) and make them mean something else.  You can take a frustrating moment in time and make it become a learning experience or something you can use as a stepping stone.

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