Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Message For My Younger Self

It was lovely walking with Teddy today. We passed one lone man and his quiet dog on our usual trail. I'm sure Teddy would have preferred having a busload of boys and dogs to play with, but I liked the quiet. I need the quiet, time to reflect.

I walked slowly. I felt weak from the virus I had earlier. I looked at the sky and at fallen trees and at moss that grew in clumps on tree trunks. When the trail went up the hill, I went that way too, hoping to keep my solitude intact, knowing that pushing my heart rate would be good for me, that being sweaty would help rout the last of the virus in my system. Did you know that? Did you know that if you get mild exercise when you have a cold that it simulates a fever and helps you get better faster? That's what I read anyway. The hard part is knowing how much you can actually do when you're sick and without overdoing it. I seemed to feel it at work while I walked. I sweated more than usual, a sour old lady smell.

I'd like to tell my former self not to be too hard on the old women she meets who have thinning hair and smell like gym socks soaked in vinegar. I'd like to, but my former self probably wouldn't recognize herself in me. It's sad, isn't it?

The movies always portray time travel, someone talking to their younger, more beautiful selves as a magical affair. The older selves are never too old or ugly. The younger selves believe and act just in time to save the day. They never show how it would really be, the younger, more beautiful self jogging away in disgust at this crazy old person who just appeared in front of her and started giving unsolicited advice. Think about it. How much did you listen to people your parent's age when you were young and perfect? No, it would never work. Even if I could convince her to listen to me, I think she'd be so distracted by my flabby arms to hear what I would have to say.

What would I say anyway? I hear myself telling Nick not to bother with people who make him feel bad about himself, that they aren't worth his time. But would I get through to that girl who was me, the one who was so determined to live her own life, but didn't have a clue that friends were actually supposed to love her? No. I couldn't tell her any of that because she needed to learn it on her own. She needed to fuck up to become the not so beautiful, not so independent, not so strong or famous or unique person that she is today. And somehow that doesn't seem at all pathetic to me, though my former self might have thought it was devastating.

Everyone else is asleep. Mike and I watched the end of 'Pay It Forward.' A person can think round and round that concept until they get dizzy. It's a good concept. It's been around since before Benjamin Franklin's time, though he seems to have been the first to have written it down and not lost it.

The problem with paying it forward is that pain gets paid forward too. Which will win? I want to be an optimist and say that love wins, that goodness wins.

Yet, I realized that if I were to try to talk to the people who've hurt me the most, I'd be talking to a blank wall. If I were to try to describe the hurt and how I've suffered, it would go nowhere. Their faces would be blank, uncomprehending.

On a walk earlier this week, a friend told me that Maya Angelou said this:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The dog is asleep on the floor to my left with his head on Nick's backpack. I just don't see how that's comfortable, but who am I to judge? He chooses his favorite spots based on smell, but instead of the choosing the couch, Teddy lies close to me when I sit here in the dim light of the computer, looking at a window that only offers reflection, an odd dim double reflection of the room that I'm in with a blurry place in the middle that is supposed to be my face. The best part of this reflection is that there are twice as many twinkle lights on the mantelpiece. My stacks of books look artfully placed. And I know, though I can't actually see them in the reflection, what's in the paintings, portraits, and prints on the walls.

Reflections are blurry aren't they. Maybe I've been a little hard on my former self. Maybe she wouldn't jog away in disgust. Maybe instead, we'd look at each other through a veil of distorted glass, seeing a blurry spot where our faces should be. Maybe something that is unchanged in us would shine through. Maybe she would listen if I told her to hold on, that love would find her somehow. Now that would be a decent message.

Thank you for listening, jb


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