I don’t directly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but each year, that day represents a time when I reflect on my childhood dog, Patrick, because that’s the day we got him. He lived a good life and we loved him dearly, so these are mainly all good memories, but because I had tainted the memory as I published from earlier today, there are slight bittersweet feelings that I should just remember aren’t bad; maybe slightly chintzy.
I was looking for a few weeks for a St. Patrick’s Day item.
I wanted something streamlined enough to fit in with all of my photos of Patrick, and in some regards, something that he might like. He didn’t care about many physical objects other than treats, his squeaky toys, and anything else like that. He wouldn’t have been impressed with ornate objects so something simple represents him just fine.
I like the idea of having something like that holiday object.
It’s not like we should only celebrate things at certain times. If we truly believe in something, like I believe in the memory I have of my childhood dog, then I should celebrate his memory daily by looking at his photos and either reflecting with joy or exploring those bittersweet thoughts where I feel like I disrespected his memory. Knowing him, he wouldn’t have minded, so long as he got a treat and a pat on the head out of it, and if it happened a while ago, he would have forgotten or forgiven me already.
It’s my interpretations that are weighing me down, not his.
He passed away more than a dozen years ago now. I was in college. I feel bad because over that time, I had drifted further away from home where he lived and had given him less attention, so in my mind, I feel like I failed him then, even though when I saw him, I gave him attention, and he enjoyed my company. If I had neglected him when I could have been around, it was out of frankly childhood ignorance rather than anything actually aggressive.
These are the thoughts that are important to sort through in life.
People can use these thoughts as manipulation if you’re not clear on how you feel. These are deep memories, so it’s not like people can easily summon them, and now that I’ve stated it here, I know that it would take a particular sort of person a particular amount of energy to begin to even apply any manipulation tactics externally to harm me with feeling sorry in these circumstances.
So we need to look deeper, within ourselves.
You may have your own childhood dog that may have these sorts of bitter thoughts applied to sweet memories for an overall bittersweet sensation. Don’t let your interpretations from the present cloud the past. Are you actually feeling shame for potential neglect? If you are, was it your fault? Or were you just busy with other things? The things we did ten years ago may not be possible for us anymore, and even if I never gave him any attention, why should I let that weigh me down now? It doesn’t apply to this current situation I’m in, and it won’t apply in any future situations, so all I can do is proceed as I would already.
I’m happier where I am now than I ever was in the past.
There are moments in the past that are brighter, and certainly my time with Patrick is included there, but my overall life satisfaction is good enough to be pleased. Things could be better. However, when I look back on those memories, similar to how I would let the present cloud my judgement and think only in the worst-case scenarios, I shouldn’t let my present think only in best-case scenarios, either.
If Patrick wanted my attention, he’d find a way to get it.
If not, he was content to hang out in his area. I was just an exciting thing for him to interact with, rather than a necessity, so thinking these things through both for essays like this and in your life in general can be helpful, because otherwise we let thoughts like this weigh us down. Over the past few years, I’d let nagging sensations like this weigh down this otherwise celebratory holiday where I should be thinking about how great it was having the little puppy around, whereas now I can let those naggings go.
They’ve found a new home: within this essay.
You may have picked up some of those nagging thoughts as well, but let them help to resolve any lingering thoughts you’ve had over other similar or different feelings you have in your life. If you ever regret how you acted in the past, especially when they are events that were harmful toward others, just remember back to whether you did as much as you knew how to do in that moment. If you did, then your regret is a tool to help you in future events, and you most likely won’t need to remember that terrible feeling while you’re at the grocery store or in the bath.
I look at memories like those as feelings not fully expressed.
We haven’t thought about them all the way through, so we don’t know how we feel about them. If, instead, we think about these bittersweet, mixed feelings we have, we can drain out the bad to leave only the good. The example I presented above was mainly surface level, partially because to work through these things at length take time, but getting some of the basics down here by expressing them through writing, talking to a therapist/psychologist/professional, or even just thinking these ideas through is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, both with Patrick’s memories, and with other general thoughts. We shouldn’t live our lives regretting the past.
If we made bad choices, we should instead work toward correcting them, no matter how painful.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: I started with a two-parter for St. Patrick’s Day, and since I wrote about a majority of my thoughts in the previous essay, this was more casual, then ended up addressing some of those lingering naggings that didn’t help me feel as good as I could.|
|Related: Other Sober Living essays.|
|Picture: A terrible drawing based off the button I bought for Patrick’s photo collection. Sorry, but not sorry.|
|Written On: 2020 March 16 [From 1242am to “worst-case scenarios, I shouldn’t” at 1:03am. From 1:08am to “If, instead, we think about” to 1:14am. Then from 1:19am to 1:21am. Gdocs.]|
|Last Edited: 2020 March 16 [Adapted from Gdoc, so, second draft; final draft for the Internet.]|