Back in college–when we all lived in either PSU Ab-Oz or State Pen–I wrote what I thought was going to be an epic… MY epic poem, entitled “Retrospective.” What was originally intended to be a much longer piece ended up being roughly three pages long, single spaced and typed. Elements of that poem–written sometime in the Winter of 1996-1997–made it into what DID become my epic, and arguably the greatest thing I ever wrote, “For All That Has Passed.” If you’ve read my second novel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (which is, incidentally, available for purchase via a number of electronic and traditional outlets, a list of which can be found HERE), you read it. I’ll not explain how or why it made it in there (if you read it you know, and if you’re planning on reading it no spoilers). And I’m glad I included it, because it personalized the writing process for me. Writing, at it’s nature is a personal experience, and things that you’re proud of SHOULD be put on display. But I digress. Sh*t, when do I ever not?
Fast forward to two years ago now. August of 2018, over 20 years after I wrote “Retrospective” and a few months pre-my publication of CHILDREN. My life? Well? It hadn’t turned out the way I’d drawn it up. My marriage was ending. I was in the process of buying a house. I was suffering through the waning months of my time spent at CareersUSA and… Well? You know all of this if you’ve be reading my ramblings for the last few years. No need to recap, herein what was and remains an equally painful and liberating time in my existence. Life change fosters retrospective, and you are helpless not to look back, consider where you went wrong and wonder where you are going and, more importantly, where you will be in a few years. I did a lot of that back then. Not publicly, or in the written word but privately, with my family and friends. It hurt too much to write it down at that time. So I waited. I thought. I remembered. I considered a retrospective of my life as it had been, and where I was going. I cried. I laughed. I grew angry and eventually, I resolved to somewhat reluctantly move forward.
The last two years have been a mixed bag of very good, very bad, very sad and at times humorous life experiences. My brief foray into dating which resulted in both the worst date of my life and the best in the space of one weekend. And that was pre-entering into a relationship with my current partner in crime, Heather. Two job changes. Innumerable financial struggles. Multiple blog entries and now? A global pandemic which has forced me into a Work-From-Home position for the last five months. In retrospect? The LAST two years of my life have been as, if not more eventful than the previous 20. And lately, perhaps because of said pandemic I’ve found myself looking back in retrospect once again. Not just at the last two years but at my life as a whole. Almost 45 years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Godd*mn. Has it been that long?
I am cursed with a photographic memory. I always have been. I can remember moments from 15 years ago as if they’d happened yesterday. Not all, but many. What they felt like. How they felt. The clear, cold blue sky of a Winter’s day in State Pen, sitting upon a heating grate outside “The Shrine of Education,” journal in hand and pen in another, writing despite the chill in the air. The hazy, dark sky over a beach in Mexico as I watched thunderheads form in the distance. The way 10000 stars looked overhead upon a mountaintop, miles away from civilization and the smell of Summer wild flowers in early bloom, something akin to lavender. The tropical scent of a hurricane as it rotated overhead, and the eerie calm that fell over the world in the midst of its eye. The way my soon-to-be ex-wife looked on our wedding day. The feel of my newborn daughter sleeping upon my shoulder. The touch of Heather’s hand upon mine on our first date. Everything. Both a curse, and a blessing. A curse because it hurts to remember certain things, and a blessing because I want to remember others. Retrospective. A life less extraordinary.
I know that life is about letting go so as to be able to grasp onto something new. But I hate endings. I’ve said this before and I say it now because, IMO it bears repeating. And I’ve struggled with that a lot lately. I’ve never been able to relinquish my hold on the past easily. It takes time, moreso I think for me BECAUSE I have a photographic memory. But to live in the past and deliberate upon things done or not done leads to only loneliness, and though there is a part of me that sometimes WANTS to be the Old Man and the Sea, I know that I would never be happy as such. I need my family and friends around me. So I stay. I stick. And I hope and pray that one day in the not so distant future, I will be able to stop looking back in retrospect and look forward at where I go from here. Despite my inclination to not look forward and focus on the NOW, I think that at long last I am… Maybe not 100% ready, but closer than I have ever been to that point in my life.
Once upon a time (’cause all good, and some bad stories begin as such William MacNuff old buddy/old pal), I had a conversation with someone about how the pain we’ve experienced in life, in many ways more than the joy dictates who we are, and who we will one day become. It was a spirited argument. Some hurt, she reasoned, cannot be a part of who we are and who we will become because damnit, it hurts too f*cking much. In retrospect, I will concede this point to her because as I have learned over the last few years especially, some pain is too deep… Too crippling to carry with you. With ME. Some wounds are too deep to ever properly heal, kind of like Frodo’s stab wound from a Morgul weapon in “The Lord of the Rings.” That concession? That’s the point I am at now, as I lie here in bed, typing these words on my phone, on my WordPress app while nursing a bit of a hangover and waiting for Heather to get here. I should be out food shopping. But it can wait. THIS is more important.
I need to move forward. I cannot let it dictate where I go from here. And that, good friends, family and sometimes readers is the lesson I have learned from my pandemic-induced retrospective, and the one I impart upon you today. Keep moving forward. Always. Don’t allow pain and regret to keep you from embracing your NOW and, by association, your future. Wish your past well but say “goodbye.” Don’t carry it with you. Live. Love again. Don’t become the Old Man or Woman and the Sea. Our time here on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is too short to squander it. Let your NOW, not your THEN dictate your future. And be happy. Talk less. Smile more. Booyakasha, “Hamilton.” Respect.
The hero in my ongoing ENDWORLD Series, William MacNuff is fond of writing “I’ve been here before,” or some variation there of in his chronicle. I too have been here before. I remember this feeling as if it were yesterday. I am tired. Worn out. Inclined to sleep for a day or two. Will I? Heck no. I’ve got too much to do. When I was last here I was empty inside. That is not the case now, and for that I am grateful. Despite my pounding head I will, upon finishing this little piece of mental flatulence, get up, go downstairs, greet Heather at the door and GO. Wherever you are and whatever you are feeling right now please do the same. Join me and make your life, however extraordinary it has or has not been too date something to remember. And I’ll see you soon.
Winky emoticon. Smiley face.