Monday, September 22, 2014

Parking Lots, Swimming Pools, and a Sports Metaphor: You Look Like You Could Be the Mother of a Girl (How You Like Me Now?)

The past gets buried. It gets burnt down. It gets built on. The past moves from short-term to long-term parking after years of not visiting certain places in your mental lot.

Not that long ago, when I moved away from somewhere, from some one, I wrote letters. Some were emotional, some descriptive, some filled with drawings and notes and torn off bits of wherever I was at the time. There was an occasional phone call to catch up (always watching minutes.) Being long distance meant something. Bell, and then AT&T, ads told us to “Reach out and touch someone.”  

Distance makes your heart grow weak. Distance makes memory slide so far back into the gray matter that remembering can only come in circuits—you are waiting for the bus to the long-term lot, thinking of you aisle number, remembering your keys, which highways to take back to the house where you once lived. You remember one small thing, then another. Then the next morning, a bus comes crashing and you remember a whole night or weekend. Then chunks come flying at you all fast and inconvenient.

The natural order.

Then came social media and Facebook; and with it the inevitability of making old connections new again. Forcing your hand. Forcing your memory.

I’ve never been one to look for lost friends or loves on social media. At least, I haven’t been that sort in the last decade or so (I can’t remember if I reached out on Friendster but I have a sneaking suspicion that I did.) But most people can’t resist.

It’s human to go through a mid-life thing and start looking back. Looking to the ones that got away. Looking to the ones that made a big impact. Looking to see if anyone else is dipping a toe in the pool of sports cars, high-school reunions, and other clich├ęs. How cold is the water?  Do you remember me? Did you ever love me? Where we real or did I imagine the whole thing?

The natural order.

Are you happy? Please tell me that you ended up happy. Or that you're divorced and want to date. I need to know. What would my life have been like if I married Dan and not Dave? What would my life have been like if I had children 14 years ago instead of 4? Who would I be now, if I never left Canton, or D.C., or Osage Beach, or New York?

The answer is, it just doesn’t matter, not really. There will always be someone else that can be a "what if".  It’s not what could have been that makes us who we are, it’s what was that makes us. I will always have a soft spot for all the people that I loved that loved me back.  Part of me cares that they are alive and happy and have “made something “ of themselves.  But after so long, I can’t even begin to explain what "having made something" means to me. What I think of success and happiness, how I got to this place in the last 25 years--you couldn’t follow it if you tried; and seriously, so little of that road is meaningful to anyone else but me.

For years I thought that one of the men that I loved before would swoop in and we would have time, as adults, that we never had as youths—time to fall in love, time to explore the world together, time to not be directed and dictated to by our parents, schools, etc. Time to see if it was real love or reactionary, adolescent love.  I waited for those loves to get off the bench and find me. "Put me in, Coach!" I ran into one of them in NYC and thought that that was it, the one, caught and re-captured. Eenie meenie minie moe, and you are not it.

But then, short-term moved into long-term and I met my husband. He was not living in the past (mine or his own). He was the present. He was a present. And I chose him. Maybe I was tired of waiting. Maybe I was in love. Maybe it was both.

I can easily sit here and wonder what if I had made some other choice, but I wondered that for a long time last year and the year before—and it did some good—it was important for me to go through and sift out the bullshit and re-commit to living my life, this life—but too much time spent in the past is not enough time spent in the present. I am alive right now. In this moment. I know I have this. This is the time I choose.

Thanks for the memories.

The only way to break the gap, that the long-ago past leaves in us, is to get to take time to delve into the depths and talk about real shit. How is your soul? What are you looking for? What moved you to look for me? Is something missing? Tell me. What's your life like now? How should it be? Make that happen.  Who have you become? 

I have long since given up on telling my life's story to people newly met. I used to when I was a lass, but now, it's long and painful and it's over. I don't have any interest in telling my story, not in that way. My present is who I am now, what I've become because of all those untold stories. You may have loved me then, but how do you like me now?

The natural order. (Take it from someone who has been there and who is very uncomfortable with small talk. Let’s get to the heart quickly before I have to make dinner.)  

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