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Can I live in the past?
Iris L.
Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2020 8:59 PM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 18046

My 90+ year old relative lives in a beautiful independent living complex, moving from New York to California.  She was well when she moved but now she is slowing down.  She constantly wishes she were back in NY.  I tell her NY is going through a lot of trouble now, especially with the virus, and that she's fortunate not to be there now.  No family is in NY, anyway.  She doesn't care.  But when I ask what she likes about NY, she cannot verbalize.  My neighbor said she probably remembers her early life in NY, when times were good.  That makes sense.  But her good days in NY will never return, neither will mine.

What does this mean for myself?  I know I can't go home again. But is it okay to live in the past?  How deeply can I reminisce?  This is why it is hard for me to declutter.  I feel caught between the warmth of my fading memories and the cold, slippery reality of modern life.  As much as the remnants of my memories are stifling me, I'm afraid to let go, because once they are gone they are gone! 


On the other hand, I was never one to cling to the past.  I always looked to the future.  What a conundrum!  


Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Monday, October 26, 2020 8:00 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 4322

 I don’t think it matters on what we once use to do because we have now become very different. It is possible that she does recall the good times as I know when I dream I think of some of that. I agree NY is not the place to be now or even in the future with the way it is headed. I also think we start o live in our own world a little bit more each day and there is nothing we can do but embrace it as anything else we do will just make us more frustrated. We ow it to our selves to just go with the flow and not demand expectations of our selves or we will only be disappointed. I have been throwing out so much stuff in the last 6 months. It was so hard but I like the idea that it has simplified my life. I know I may regret it after I move if I need something I threw out bit it will just be too late. 

Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 12:32 AM
Joined: 7/17/2020
Posts: 261

It's alright to keep one foot in the past. It gives us something to fall back on when times get bad. However, it's important to keep one foot in the present or you might get lost.
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020 12:39 PM
Joined: 11/22/2019
Posts: 399

It is a conundrum!

Can we choose how much to keep a connection to the past?  Can you chose to visit the past long enough to get an impression of something you enjoyed and then return to the present?

Might you be able to choose a dedicated time to review pictures or other items that have memories attached?

I understand what you mean when discussing the challenges of decluttering and deciding the importance of memory.

Some things I will never actively give up as long as I remember them: a couple of owl feathers from over 30 years ago from a walk taken with my now-spouse, long before we were more than friends.

I try not to spend much time reminiscing.  I am not ready for the past to become more real than my present.

But where I came from has created who I am now.

Yes, a conundrum!

Since my mother died in March, I have had reason to muddle around in the past more than I like.  Her furniture, her art, her photographs.  They are all connected to my life too.

Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2020 11:58 AM
Joined: 9/12/2013
Posts: 3608

When my children decided I had to move from my home in the woods back to California it happened in a matter of hours. I was in the back seat of a car with a suitcase and some things packed around me. My mother's rugs, favorite sheets.

Later they shipped some stuff to me, quite a few things arrived broken. I had been told I would have my lamps and favorite furniture shipped to me but then for some reason they could not use a moving company - and my "stuff" was sold off at sales, donated to charities, and sent to the dump. Being moved AND losing everything including a husband, home, my dog walking friends,  the birds I fed, meant NOTHING to anyone. 
I suffered more than I can describe from having my life torn up and thrown away. They threw out my parents photo albums, my books, favorite blankets, dishes I had moved for 40 years, special baking pans, novels not published, a mirror from a bar I owned, etc

My things had ZERO value to anyone but me, and I am always grateful for having a few familiar things near me. I still have my aunts' vases, some art, not much else. Having these things around me helped me endure being resettled and left to my own abilities to make myself a home. People wanted me medicated for missing my things, zero compassion or understanding. 

So having familiar stuff is essential to a proper environment for me. If having something around helps you, keep it. Maybe that is not what you are describing as living in the past.  Focus on does this help me or not? We don't need to have a reason someone else understands for doing what we need to do or keeping stuff.

Unfamiliar things have to be learned how to use. I would never do what was done to me to someone else. 

They also wanted put me in assisted living - these places abandoned their $4000/month residents when wildfires swept through. The janitors and cafeteria people stayed behind and used their own vehicles to remove the residents to safer locations. 
Now the virus is killing off thousands in nursing homes. One place I looked at locked residents out of their rooms in day time to make them socialize. I would have been raging and had cops called on me.

do whatever helps, that is what we have as treatment.
love and courage

Iris L.
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2020 2:42 PM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 18046

You lived through a horror story, Alz+!  Having all your treasures ripped from you abruptly, when you had been told you would see them shortly, was a huge emotional trauma.  I wouldn't be surprised if you have some PTSD after that.

What happened to you should be a cautionary tale to others.  Other people will do exactly what THEY want to do, regardless of the PWD's wishes.  Perhaps they think the PWD won't remember.  Probably most don't.  But you do remember your cherished momentos.  

My original post was not so much about items, but about my memories.  But I do have a lot of items I can look at one last time, and then release.  It's a slow process.

As for living in a facility, I had been looking forward to moving to a nice place that would take care of me.  But I can see now that the caring can be hit or miss.  It seems like the ones in charge are making things up as they go along.  I am still able to evaluate the data presented and to follow what I need to do to be safe.

Alz+, you are strong!  Keep moving on!  


Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2020 7:18 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 4322

I am so sorry for what they have put you thru. You are so strong and will keep on going and bounce back no matter what. Don’t ever let them win to take you miserable. I would try to put it behind you and ting positively as you know that helps.