Exhale The Past, Inhale The Future

I loathe feet.

Can’t stand them. Mine are wretchedly beaten up from high heels, half marathons, and walking around barefoot far more than I probably should. It’s not just my own feet. I’ve never walked down the street and thought, “Look at those beautiful feet she has.”

Let’s be serious, that just doesn’t happen.

Keeping all that in mind, you’d probably be shocked to know I have a stunning, framed photo of feet in my bathroom. It stares at me each and every morning when I brush my teeth and quite honestly I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to wake up. It was taken eons ago – I know because my almost 13-year-old baby cousin Livvie was quite literally still a baby at the time. Seven feet, ranging from newborn to senior citizen, grace that photo with various shades of red toenails and mixed metal toe rings. Every morning I wake up and that photo makes me smile. Not because of the feet of course, but because of the memories that are attached to said feet.

You see, here’s the thing, there’s no such thing as a long time ago, there are only memories that matter and those that don’t.

I sat down the other day and tried to think of my first real memory. Sitting quietly, I was not sure what was a real memory and what were pictures I’ve seen in photo albums. Fast forwarding through the years in my head, I could picture my first communion, my 8th grade dinner dance, the first what I assumed was love but turned out to be lust of my life, a rowdy cross town rival basketball game in high school, a party in college where my roommates and I showed up with a bucket of rainbow goldfish, the day I realized my gram was dying, the frigid day my brother’s college football team won championship rings suitable for rap stars, the day my ex-husband and I decided to get divorced, the time my life hostage took me to my first Broadway show and then proceeded to fall asleep, the Cubs breaking the curse and winning the World Series, when I was introduced to my nieces, and just last week when my life hostage thoughtfully hooked me up with a caramel candy during a soccer game while brushing a piece of hair out of my eye.

Many of the memories I was visualizing mattered, but just as many didn’t. I think as humans we hold onto all our memories as tightly as we can for fear we’re missing something. Life is too short, we all know this, so by holding on to every memory we have, we somehow garner this hope that we can extend our span on this earth. I used to believe that with every ounce of my being. But recently, I’ve taken on a new philosophy about memories.

Exhale the past, inhale the future.

My life hostage and I both have pasts. Every once in awhile something from one of our pasts will come up. It could be a brief story, a brush with someone from a past life, or a lesson we’ve carried with us into our own relationship. We discuss it and then we exhale it. It’s not going to do either of us any good to dwell on it. What do we dwell on? What the next 30, 40, or 50 years our lives together will look like. We inhale our joint future together.

Our house is loaded with photos, and not just of feet. Some photos are permanent fixtures in frames because those are the memories that we hold close. Other photos I swap out on a regular basis, keeping them for a short shelf life, not because they don’t matter but because they served their purpose. We exhale those memories to make room for the inhalation of new memories we’re going to make.

My feet photo? When I think back, it really wasn’t a long time ago, it’s just a memory that is a hallmark of who I am.

Rachel Olszewski

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and probiotics, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. Although the height of her high heels may be getting shorter, Rachel’s expectations are not getting lower and she is on a mission to change the world one person at a time.

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