It broke. You can’t put it back together again. You can’t go back to the way it was before. You can only go forward.
Long, long ago, this was a piece of advice that my very first High Priestess gave to me. I cannot remember the specific “why” that prompted the statement, but I do remember pieces of the long talk we had. This has been a solace to every single fuckup I’ve done. Like many folks, I’ve got some major moments in my past, some not that far ago. But every single time, after I’ve grieved over the loss of what happened, after I’ve finished slamming myself for being an idiot – every single time I’ve come back to her words. It’s a reminder to get up, slap the dust off my clothing, and continue forward.
I’ve uttered those infamous words quite a few times before.
I wish everything would just go back to the way it was.
Except that it can’t. Once something is broken, it can be repaired or even replaced. The repaired item is still broken, its just been patched up to be ALMOST what it was. The replaced item may seem the same, but its still a replacement. Once something is broken, there is nothing that can take it back to what it once was. This is easily noted in looking at a vase. I knocked it off the table, and it broke. I glued it back together and repainted it. It looks just the same, but its integrity is not as strong as it was before. Its not completely whole either. There was a small chip that I couldn’t find in the pieces that I glued back together. Replacing the vase with another means that a different vase is there now. It looks the same, but its not. I cannot go back to the vase that it was yesterday.
Yesterday, I was watching Babylon 5 (my favorite SciFi tv show) and ran across a moment that really dove-tailed into my thoughts for this post.
Dr. Stephen Franklin: I realize that I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a good soldier like my father. I wasn’t the job. I wasn’t a good prospect for marriage or kids. Always what I wasn’t, never what I was. And when you do that, you miss the moments. And the moments are all we’ve got. When I thought I was going to die, even after everything that’s happened, I realized I didn’t want to let go. I was willing to do it all over again, and this time I could appreciate the moments. I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now. And I can define myself by what I am instead of what I’m not.Babylon 5, Season 3, Episode 21, “Shadow Dancing”
Captain John Sheridan: And what are you?
Dr. Stephen Franklin: Alive. Everything else is negotiable.
In this moment, Dr. Franklin is noting that he had been defining his life in terms of what he wasn’t rather than what he is. But he makes a point that he “can’t go back” even as he had been “willing to do it all over again” just so he could “appreciate the moments.” For me, this is an important distinction. I’ve spent a good deal of my life putting in the penance for the moments that I’ve had a hand in fucking up. Blaming myself, defining who I am by the things that I did wrong. All of that makes for an unpleasant me. I’m always grumpy with myself. I’m always downgrading who and what I am. About a year ago, I had to change all of that.
Now, I look at who I am and see myself in a somewhat different light. I look at myself in terms of what I can do. I’m a technical troubleshooter. I might not have the answer. I might not know exactly how to solve the problem. However, I will do my damndest to resolve the issue to the best of my ability. Before, I would be afraid to let go of the issue and ask for help. But I understand the concepts, meanings, and needs of teamwork (thank you United States Air Force). I am not weak for asking for assistance. I have an opportunity to learn. When we succeed, I have someone(s) to celebrate the moment with.
Looking into the past, I have always viewed all the people that have come and gone in my life as the inevitable detritus of my hot mess of a life. But that’s not true either. Each one of those people were part of my life, part of the various moments of joy and beauty that I have had. In some cases, we didn’t part on good terms, but that doesn’t diminish those moments. As Dr. Franklin noted in that scene from Babylon 5, “the moments are all we have.”
We can’t go back to the past. We can’t make thing the way they were. That even goes for laws. We make laws. We change laws. We rescind laws. We bring laws back. But when we bring laws back, rarely are things the same way again. I’ve said it a lot – we are all unique. That even goes for the moments that we have, the moments that we encounter. Over time, we change, we evolve, we experience. All of that changes us incrementally. When we encounter one another again, things are different because we are now, not yesterday. We live now, not yesterday. We live now for the experiences of tomorrow.