It’s funny how a place can hold so much of you, so many memories, so much emotion. As my friend said, “A lot of things happened here.” She said this as we rounded the corner past the Wren Chapel onto the William and Mary campus, a path I had probably taken hundreds of times before. Oh how this place holds so much of my heart.
I’m past regret. I don’t think I allow myself to beat myself up about what I did or didn’t do in my life. I try not to go there. Oh, if I’d only... There are too many of those. And a different girl was making choices then than the woman who walked those paths now. I can’t be mad at her. Somehow her choices led to my life now, and that life is oh so sweet. I don’t regret, but I do grieve. I grieve the relationships I lost when I dropped out of life and then out of school. I grieve the years lost that could have been spent with these amazing women who make me feel lighter and brighter just by standing near them.
But I’m here now. A weekend away with three incredible friends who have all meant so much to me at different times in different ways and who are all dear to each other. That these people are my friends, that I somehow found them, it is a great gift, a gift that is almost too much for my heart to hold. And my gratitude spills out, down the steps to the sunken garden. It flows over all those painful memories, all those bad decisions. It doesn’t wash them away, but it does somehow sort of smooth out their edges and make them possible for me to hold in my heart without the pain, without the guilt, without the regret.
It’s hard for it not to come up. Their memories are scored with my presence or absence. Their recollections of, “Oh remember that year when we started to...” are darkened slightly by my reminding that I wasn’t there, or I was lost in a darkness that had swallowed me, like a black hole. It’s good to know that they worried, that they called. My memories are so self-centered from that time, so lonely. I felt I had started down a path and no one could come with me, there was no turning back.
But I have come back.
And now it is so joyous. Sitting in the sunshine at Lake Matoaka talking about kids and relationship and careers and getting older, feeling so present, so sure of who I am and where I am and sitting on that seat within myself that is now so sound. I didn’t even realize how sound it is until I walked these paths again, until I hear other people’s stories, until I talked about what happened without guilt or sadness or pain. Yes, that happened. And if it hadn’t then this other thing wouldn’t have happened. And then I wouldn’t have met Marco, the turning point of my life.
I hold all of that. It’s all part of me. I really am multitudes.
And I get to carry all that with me. And I get to say, “me too.” to so many stories of pain and loss and regret and hurt. I get to see people and give them permission to be okay with all their stuff. You hurt someone you love? Me too. You wasted years? Me too. You ruined relationships? Me too. You harmed yourself? You wasted your youth? You made a horrible, horrible decision? Me too. Me too. Me too. And here I am.
We make a lot of decisions in our idiotic youth that set the trajectory of our entire lives. And some of them are tragic. But they are sunk costs. You can’t keep making choices based on what you’ve done or where you’ve sunk your time or energy or love. You can’t get that back. And going forward you can’t keep putting time and energy and into that story-line. You can’t let it hook you and bring you down.
In many religions there is a concept of repentance. Each religion describes this slightly differently and has specific rules that are required before one is truly forgiven and reunified with god. But the underlying characteristic of repentance is a returning. One has left goodness by doing harm, and one leaves the harm and returns to the goodness. It is not about being sorry but is about saying, “I did that. I was that. I am no longer that.” You get to be new.
I sunk a lot of cost into useless things. But that is gone. I hurt people, and I hurt myself. But I get to repair those relationships and start completely fresh. No throwing good energy after bad. No wasting more of myself with remorse and regret. Today is today, and it is new. Why I get today, how I got here and where I am going, I don’t know. But it is, and I am. And my gratitude knows no bounds.