The value of looking back at life’s triumphs and heartbreaks comes from identifying with the yearning child and angst-driven teenager but doing so from the perspective of an adult with few illusions. From a distance, detached from the event, we can see the nuances at the periphery of what took place. The lessons are there.
We are able to recognize how the wounded feelings of childhood influenced the modus operandi as we navigated our way through life. And we are able to effect change going forward, choosing to behave differently rather than being stuck on automatic pilot.
I’ve learned the value of making amends. The resolution is quite different when you step up and take responsibility for your actions, rather than simply apologizing. You own your behavior rather than implicitly asking for forgiveness. There is no tacit reference to ‘circumstances’ and no circumspect placing of blame on forces outside your control. Being accountable takes courage and moral muscle but when the dark stuff comes to light, you always feel better about yourself.
I’ve learned the difference between encouraging and enabling. I’ve finally realized that I cannot manage other people’s lives and change their behavior with the “bail money” they ask for over and over again to escape the consequences of irresponsible decisions and reckless behavior. People will live their lives as they choose to, not as you want them to; the light they reflect is not a reflection of who I am. I can create boundaries to protect myself. I can love someone even as I disapprove of their behavior.
I’ve learned to make the most of second chances. I did the best I could as a father, admittedly preoccupied with my unresolved issues. Now I am the best grandfather with the most wonderful granddaughter in the world.
I’ve learned that it can take a lifetime to reach the point where you feel comfortable in your own skin. It’s been a slow process but I’m on the path, helped along by a concept I could not grasp when I was younger, the existence of a force beyond the physical world, an inner light that helps me navigate past the twists and turns.
I’ve learned that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. I’ve learned that we can cheat death by magnifying the joy of being alive.
Is there one, compelling lesson that emerges from looking back at my life? The past is over and done. The future is conjecture. Only the present moment is ours, and it is fleeting. Make the most of it.