I recently learned that one of my friends has suffered a stroke. As a result, he has lost much of his memory. He remembers only a few people and has a lot of trouble remembering places and events.
As I spoke with him over the weekend, I noticed that he was unable to keep track of the topics we were discussing. He repeated some of the same facts and anecdotes several times, not realizing that he had already mentioned them.
One of the most striking things about our conversation, however, was that his frame of reference seemed to be stuck somewhere in the 1990s. He discussed friends that we shared in the past, not realizing that the friendships and events he remembered had occurred more than 20 years ago. As his cognitive reference to the distant past (and his difficulty in retaining newer memories) became more apparent, I started to see him as someone living in a time warp.
A time warp is formally defined as a “hypothetical discontinuity or distortion occurring in the flow of time that would move events from one time period to another, or suspend the passage of time.” However, it commonly refers to any distortion of space-time, or even time standing still. This seems to apply to my friend.
Looking at it from the standpoint of time travel, it’s certainly a longstanding fantasy for sci-fi fans. But does a time warp only lend itself to the makings of great science fiction? One could argue that living in a time warp is a common earthly occurrence.
I think we suffer a similar impairment when refuse to let go of the past. We become stuck in a personal time warp, the same as my friend. Holding on to pain and resentments keeps an unbalanced focus on a past occurrence, which prevents us from accepting newer more relevant facts.
As we go about the business of living, we are presented with opportunities for new lessons daily. But as long as we remain stuck in a past reality, we are unable to add the new facts to our life story. It’s like reading a book and getting stuck somewhere in the middle. Instead of effortlessly reading from beginning to end, we interrupt the developing plot, preferring to read the same gut-wrenching chapter over and over again.
If you are holding on to pain and resentment, it may be helpful to consider that letting go will allow you to move along the plot of your personal story. Instead of being stuck in the time warp of an unpleasant chapter, letting go will allow you to finally turn the page.
Time travel may seem exciting to the imagination, but if you think about most movies in which the main character is stuck in a time warp, there is usually a great effort for them to return to the present. In other words, being stuck there is an undesirable state.
Unlike books and movies, we don’t need to repair a time craft in order to return to the present. Personal time warps are a matter of realizing that time has moved on, while we haven’t – and then doing the work required to let go of the thoughts and memories that are keeping us stuck in the past.
My friend realizes his impairment, and he is thankful whenever he remembers something new. As he works to recover the memories that will bring him into the present, we should be enlightened to the fact that our ability to reside in the present is truly a gift. Unlike my friend, we don’t have to be stuck if we don’t wish to be.
At the end of our lives, I don’t think any of us will wish that we would have spent more time being angry, sad, or bitter. Grudges and resentment will not have any meaning in the grand scheme of things, so why hold on to them?
Time warps are fictional plot devices that defy the laws of physics. I think we should leave them as such because life is too precious to squander the present.
Are you holding on to something from the past? Is it keeping you from being able to turn the page?
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