Funny How The Past Eventually Surfaces
Today I am nostalgic. More than that. I am pining for things past, events and people that I cannot bring to the present. I find I am missing so much of my former life that, at least for now, it hurts like hell.
Hurts like hell is right.
I know that it’s impossible to bring the past to life and if we could it would be a horrible thing. After all, biologically speaking, old forms must die to make way for the new. But for those of us evolved enough to have regret, remorse, well, that’s tough. Very tough. I miss so many people, so many places that I loved, so many times I cannot recreate.
And that’s the point. There is nothing that resembles re-creation. Only the new forms that come into being, only the new and improved survive, and only the most unshakable things from the past make it through to the now.
Is Change Growth?
The most direct answer to that question is No, change is not growth. Change is, growth comes from reaction to that change. Growth is what happens after we pay for the change.
I know that I have grown because of the pain I experienced as a result of the changes in my life, changes I did not want or expect. No one expects change, which is why it usually comes as such a surprise, such a shock. The more experienced among us say yes, of course, it is only change and we must accept it.
I never, ever said that I was among them.
To me, it is shock. It is that shock that causes me to wish for things to be as they were. No one appreciates shock even though perhaps they should. But I don’t for the most part. I’ve had enough of it. I want quiet. Peace. Dependability, solidity, surety.
And none of those are possible because I am a human being that exists in the arrow of time, the arrow that moves only forward. Once launched an arrow is not deflected unless something crashes into it. Something has to cause the arrow to change direction.
But that direction is never backward, not when it comes to time. And there it is: change may move your future but it’s always in the future. Change comes.
In The Wayback Machine
This is the Plymouth Congregational Church in Plymouth, Connecticut. I lived just up the street from this beautiful church. I remember everything about it, romanticized to be sure, but I remember all the important things. Going to Boy Scout meetings (well, two, anyway) in the basement. I remember the rigid pews, straight-backed, white. The hymn page numbers on the walls. The plain and powerful pulpit. Its original wooden-gear clock, the last remaining of its kind that was made by the famous clock maker Eli Terry. I loved that church in a way that I believe only someone from New England could understand: its beautiful severity.
I went there not too long ago now that I live nearby. While I did’t go inside, it wasn’t necessary to do so. I knew it with intimacy. I didn’t want that memory to change. I wanted it fixed forever just as it was.
But there was a new gas station across the street. The town green was so much smaller than I recalled. The Episcopal church across the street seemed tiny to me. And just up the road was my school, Plymouth Center School. It was tiny. I was a comparative giant in the now. And I remembered when I sat in my brand new desk in fourth grade and thought I was so small compared to that seemingly gigantic desk. Back then I was the biggest boy in the school.
Not anymore. How perspective alters with change! Now all that remains is a faded memory of a child that could no longer exist because without change, he’d still be a child, forever locked into a past that’s long gone.
That’s What The World Is Today
Change is confusion. It can terrify. It can overwhelm. But it can also be enlightening, superlative, dynamic and ecstatic.
I wanted to keep my lover, my home. my friends. But all those things, all those people are living in the same changing universe as I. And losing things is inconsequential. But losing people is supreme pain. It is the change that we really come to fear. The older I am, the worse it is. I fear pain and change only because I know that their attendant is loss. I have allowed change, pain and loss to do some pretty nasty things to me in the past. Now?
Now, it’s a different story. The change will surely come to pass whether or not I approve, like or even appreciate it. Whether or not I even notice it. I have changed, everyone has changed, the world has changed. Loss is a small part of the whole that is life experience.
And I should be thankful for it. I should like it, be happy for it, embrace it. I have mixed success in this arena. I am thankful, and am not. I am happy, and am not. I embrace change, and do not.
We Are The Roots And Trunk Of The Tree
The trunk supports the branches that make the leaves that feed the tree. All things are balanced and in their place. But change comes. It defoliates the green leaves. It knocks down the dark branches. In time, it fells the entire tree.
Should I be sad? Is my place in the universe to remain unchanged? No. But what I can do is appreciate being a part of the tree as a whole, to come to understand and love how I can be part of the support, appreciate the roots below me.
It is understanding that makes change bearable. It is having some faith that makes it possible to hold up the branches without cease until we fall. It is the love that runs through us that feeds the tree, that holds it upright in the tangled forest.
Yes, corny, perhaps. but allow me. It is still good sentiment.
Wisdom Comes From Every Place
What holds us back from the positive elements of change? Fear, of course. Fear is the poison that prevents us from those things that we need. Change, growth, love, peace, knowledge. All those wonderful things are deflected from their true trajectory by the unreasonable and unruly terror that we come to expect.
I wanted to keep the world the way it was. I wanted that more than anything and because I wanted it, I learned resistance. I fought my reality. I lived in pain rather than face the fact that change is inevitable and a thing I miss accept. I had learned the path of greatest resistance, a path that would bring me ruin.
Fighting the reality of change is a choice, and a very bad one indeed. One cannot fight against a thing they cannot control. Radical Acceptance helps me to understand what reality can be; it can be what I want it to be. And even though my reality has completely changed it doesn’t mean I should fear it. If one accepts and embraces change then there can be no ghastly surprise, no life-destroying horrors. Acceptance is the way out of hell. Still, the road to acceptance is very rough, very hard, but it is a road that I must travel without question. This thought may in fact be the first wisdom of which I am certain.
But all this does not mean that I do not miss those people I love; on the contrary, I miss their laughter, their wildness, their company. I miss them, the totality of them, the being.
I miss my walks in the Golden Gate, the gentle fog, sunset at the tip of the peninsula that is San Francisco. I miss my home. I miss being in love. I miss many, many things I cannot bring back, cannot replicate, cannot recreate. I miss my life as it was.
I do not approve of all the changes that have happened. Obviously, I would have rather they had never taken place. Yet some of these changes were inevitable, important. I did not recognize those changes as beneficial at the time, but had they not happened, I might well be dead lo these many years.
Perhaps with the small bit of wisdom that is acceptance I might be able to move forward without the overwhelming sadness and grief that those changes brought about. I may well be able to make the remainder of my life meaningful and filled with good things. I can hope for positive change that makes it so. I can work toward making those changes happen rather than hope they happen to me by chance.
I can be better just by coming to acceptance of the way things are. Reality, without fear, without grief, without self-imposed boundaries. New life and learning to live that life with verve, with confidence, with joy Perhaps a time will come when I can love again and if that comes about, then I will finally have made a great change of my own: I will have grown past the past.