The silliest study I have ever heard about involved parking. After studying parking behavior “scientists” concluded what all of us already knew. Yes, it takes longer to back out of a parking space than pull in it. And yes, it takes even longer to pull out of a parking space when someone is waiting for your spot.
Can I get a “duh”?
The conclusion from the study was that people are territorial of their parking space and didn’t want to give it up.
My thought was, when you are backing up, don’t you take a little extra time in case you hit something? Especially when there is a car waiting to take your spot?
It’s not about territory, it’s about caution.
And isn’t that exactly what backing up and taking a look back is about?
And what proceeded caution?
Usually a story involving a time when you didn’t use caution and you ended up getting hurt or worse, hurting someone else.
I think our past is supposed to be something we learn from. We try new things, we make mistakes, we grow, we change.
And some of us are good at doing just that. Some of us can look back at the past with fondness and optimism.
I don’t have any regrets, they say. If I had to do it over again I would have done it the same way because it led me to be this person at this moment. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Wow. What beautiful inspirational sayings.
Except I have a problem.
I don’t believe a word of it.
Well, that is a little harsh.
I don’t believe a word of it for me.
I live with regret. I am too much of a recovering perfectionist not to.
I still wince when I recall how I treated a friend less than they deserved, talked back to my parents, was embarrassed in public.
I don’t always look back with fondness at a bad relationship or a missed opportunity.
I still look at the past more as foe than friend.
And I don’t think I am the only one.
Case in point. A few weeks ago a man on a bicycle entered the office where I work. The place I work used to be a school. This man said he had checked out a book and never returned it. So, he found the book online and bought it to replace the one he lost.
He said that he checked out the book somewhere in the 1980s.
Can you imagine? Carrying the guilt of a lost library book for almost 30 years?
(The book was about Pascal and mathematics for those that are curious.)
Why? Why won’t our conscience or old memories let us go sometimes?
Now, I am not talking about tragedy. We all recognize tragedy changes us and the scars never fully go away. The pain is real.
No, I am talking about less than tragic things. But things we still carry with us and become a part of us.
For some it is a library book. For others the memory of a first love. Or that thing you wish you hadn’t said but you did anyway and even though that person forgave you, you have a suspicion that they haven’t forgotten.
What do we get stalked by the lion of bad decisions? Or live with shadows of regret?
And why are some people so okay with it and some people…not so much.
Part of it is more about resolution than anything else. The past is fully in the past when it has lost its power. When the thing that happened or what you said or did (or failed to do) doesn't haunt you anymore.
You are free.
The easiest way this happens is when the mistake is made good again. When the consequences have past and a better outcome is achieved. Or time has given you a better perspective.
We fought and now we are best friends. I was hurt but they apologized for what they did. I was embarrassed but now I can look back and laugh. I realized now that if I had gotten what I wanted then it would have been terrible. Looking back, I realize I was being protected.
The second best thing is when you don’t get an apology but you find out you don’t need one. You have genuinely moved on. The cat has been de-clawed. You may see the wrong you did or someone else did but somehow it doesn’t matter anymore. You have forgotten more than forgiven.
It is the moment when you realize you haven't thought about him/her in a long time. That you see a former foe and don't feel anger. You feel nothing actually.
In this instance, it is not a burst of joy that fills your heart. But a simple, quiet internal high five you give yourself for surviving.
The third best option is the hardest one. And I think it is the reason we back up slowly and check the rearview mirror.
It is when we still wince. We still ask why. We still get sad. We still need to heal. And whenever we try to forgive or forget it is like trying to dry laundry on a clothes line in the middle of a midwest summer.
Somehow it always starts to rain again.
This to me, is where some of us stay for awhile. It could be wanting to know details, or whys. It could be that we are slow to heal. It could be we have been hanging on. It could be that we try to move on but something new happens and the band aid is ripped off and we are bleeding again... and again.
It could just be not enough time has past.
Whatever the reason, we are still wet.
Well forget that, you know what, I made mistakes and I am imperfect and I have been hurt and I don't understand why and I have some things that are still unresolved but darn it, I am going to dance in this rainstorm because I can.
That is what I would like to say.
And I will get there. One awkward head bob and white girl sway at a time I suppose.
Until I start really cutting loose though, I am going to make you wait for your parking space.
אב הרחמן, רחם נא