In October 2019, I explained how I deal with past mistakes and regrets in “My Llamas.” Some months ago, my llamas taught me a new lesson.
Simply put, the 2019 post developed through inspiration provided by one of two Hebrew words for why. They appear both in the Torah and modern use. Lama (pronounced LA-ma) comes from a phrase, L’ma yeud (ye-OOD)—To what purpose? After reading a Torah commentary on lama, lightning struck.
To what purpose was my constantly chewing over all my past errors and missed opportunities? (Recent ones have a healthy place in the active mind.) I suspect that all people suffer this problem to some degree, and my own list of misdeeds and foolish doings is at least as long as everyone else’s. Our errors may haunt us, but dwelling on them produces paralysis.
My llamas provided a tool for compartmentalizing negative thoughts, which tend to run wild on me in the early morning when I’m awake but not quite ready to get out of bed. I would visualize my llamas. Cartoon animals in the style of the cow appearing in advertising by Clover Sonoma Dairy, they graze on bright green hillsides under brilliant blue skies. Chewing and spitting without interruption, they look up at me and advise me to stay calm. They’ll carry my burdens for me.
It worked pretty well.
Recently, my llamas began to fade. Fog shrouded the hills with a gray curtain evoking dimming eyesight. My llamas’ advice: Don’t try to blow away the fog or lift the curtain. You can’t relive the past. If you’re going to have a better future, we llamas shouldn’t do all the heavy lifting. Stand on your own two feet.
My llamas in the fog taught me a simple phrase: I’m here now. Maybe it sprang from that old ’60s attempt at spiritual wisdom, Be here now. Which makes sense. Reminding myself I’m here now puts the burden squarely on my shoulders then lifts it, as I acknowledge I’ve come a long way and dealt (pretty much) with my personal demons—greater and lesser—which stemmed from an intense and often crippling introversion.
Anything said or done in the past can’t be unsaid or undone. But I’m not the same person I was in high school, college and subsequent years, so I try to make amends by being kind and decent—paying forward all the good I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
And if I can never totally erase bad memories, I’m prepared to deal with them more effectively and responsibly. It took decades before I began to cut myself some slack, appreciate that I was only human, approach my life with a grounded sense of pride and humility.
How do I evaluate myself at this point? I don’t. I’m not competing with anyone. When I’m dead, few people will remember me. My soul will be satisfied if those who do say, “He was a pretty good guy.”
These days, I’m content to see my llamas fade into the fog. I know that behind that gray curtain, and at just the right distance, they keep an eye on me, give me support. As to tomorrow, I face each day with more balance. Thanks to my llamas in the fog, I’m here now.
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