One fine day, my husband took me out in a rowboat. It was a beautiful summer morning, and he rowed me all around the lake, into every stand of reeds my heart desired. I was on the hunt for the feral Mandarin Ducks that several birding websites claimed were there. We were relocating out of the area, and this was really our last chance to spot the birds. What I wish I’d known was that only one individual duck occasionally appeared on this lake, that we never would see him, and that we would have been better off spending more time saying goodbye to our friends.
That’s the thing about rowboats. You face backward while moving forward. That’s also the thing about life.
I’ve spent years of my life looking backward, processing events and relationships and trying to figure out how things could have gone differently. This has taught me a lot. In other ways, though, it’s like thinking of the snappy comeback the day after the conversation that needed it. That comeback isn’t going to make sense or be funny in any other context. If I was talking to a close friend, I could just drop everything and send it by text, and the laugh riot would continue. It’s when our feelings get hurt that we can’t let go, that we keep mentally trying to get the last word. Those are the past events that we dwell on, too.
I’m turning 40 tomorrow, and I’m using the time to do an extended life review and strategic planning session. It’s my time to shut the door on the past, like the time I burned the instant mashed potatoes, my divorce, some misguided wardrobe choices, and that night I lost $38 at the nickel slots. I can save a few Throwback Thursday moments (not as many as I’d like) and forgive Past Self for being so young and stubborn all the time. I wouldn’t be where I am without the choices I made, both good and ill, and I accept that. I’m pulling my rowboat up to shore and climbing out.
How do we travel forward facing into the future? Are we in a car driving up the freeway? Are we on a locomotive? A cruise liner? A sailboat? An airplane? A hot air balloon? A space shuttle? Either we choose it for ourselves, or we only figure it out in retrospect. Right now, I like the thought of a tandem bicycle, pedaling along on the scenic route, with a picnic hamper strapped on the back.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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