“If Only I’d….”
There’s an old British adage out there, apparently, that says something like “tomorrow will never be as good as yesterday was.” If that is NOT a British adage, then it should be. That way of looking at life has defined the Lamenter for time immortal, and costs the person dearly, because they never live in the today or FOR tomorrow. Unfortunately, it is a family trait I inherited. I’ve been accused of forming emotional attachments to old socks (not entirely untrue) and if you put my mother and I in front of old photo albums, we’ll both atrophy and die of old age staring off into the past. It’s a curse, I tell you, and one that has robbed me of hours and days with my boys, with the people in my life, with the act of actually LIVING. Cherishing old memories is fine in the context of enjoying the good times, and learning where and how not to fuck it all up the next time around, but gets toxic when it heads into the “if only I’d done X or Y instead of Z, then I’d be in a better place…” I’ve let relationships around me erode as I dwelled in a past I could never change. I said in the last essay that I was ready for the changes that lay before me even as they were terrifying my thoughts. One of the first changes needed is to toss that noise out in the trash as a means of living. I’ve owned my mistakes, and nothing I do now changes that I am, indeed, here NOW. If only I’d learned that lesson earlier……
I took a few rounds of improv classes a while back. They were awesome in that I got to get back into the performance realm and challenge my creative chops. In being perfectly honest, the attention-whore in me loved it, especially as we can make others laugh while avoiding the noises in our own heads while on stage. Anyone who tells you otherwise may be lying. One of the first lessons of improv is that you never kill the scene by saying “No” to the offering of your performance partner on stage. You simply say “yes, and….” and then add to the scene, each building the other up and creating your new reality with each addition. It FORCES you to look at your current situation, evaluate it and forge your future. YOU forge your future. You don’t say “no, but” to your partner, just as you don’t say it to the reality of your current life. And certainly “if only I’d….” cannot enter the lexicon or the scene gets killed in the dead air. “Yes, and” is such a basic and powerful tenet of improv that one of my instructors decided to have it inked on his body…..talk about commitment to an ethos. But it IS one hell of a way to look at things, frankly.
Here we are; yes, and?
This is my reality; yes, and?
I really like….; yes, and?
No room for lament in that conversation. The only thing to fill in is the and. And, what are you gonna do about it? Where are we taking our own journeys? Let’s do this NOW, because we can’t go back to whenever, and we never will. And that’s as it should be; not only were those years muddy and troubled, but look at just how far we’ve come. I need to teach my boys the value in looking ahead and living positively in the moment, because yesterday’s long gone. They need to appreciate the now, and they need to nurture hope, and so do I. Because, to quote Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Now more than ever, I need to ask “yes, and?” And so do you. We’ll save the photo albums for another time.