Today is the 51st birthday of my daughter, the eldest child of three. I tossed and turned all last night, thinking it was because I was not in my own bed while doing an overnight with my youngest daughter’s daughters while she was out-of-town. But today, upon contemplating why I hadn’t slept so well, I realized it was one of three nights during the year that my mind and body go back to being in labor and experiencing the miracle of birth.
I was one of the lucky ones who had easy deliveries, except, in 1971, a few days before my son was born there was the 6.5 earthquake in Los Angeles and I was not happy being in a hospital that had all the windows blown out, ceilings with pipes and other debris dangling down and continued aftershocks. He popped out quickly as we both wanted to get out of that building!
But as I took a walk this morning, I thought of the lifetime of experiences from the morning of my daughter’s birth to today. Fifty-one years of events, occurrences, happenings. From becoming a young mother in her early twenties to a baby boomer senior in 2018! Wow! The good news vs the bad news! But so goes life, right? And for the rest of the day I tried to find ways and thoughts to reconcile all the tough times and the beautiful times and how they form a puzzle that is my life.
As we grow older, most of us view our lives and the world with different lenses, probably through more than one pair of glasses scattered around the house! What decisions we made in our 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. would most likely not result in the same conclusions today, for a variety of reasons. And, yet, I take issue with my own words because back then I was very conscious of never wanting to have regrets so I spent much time contemplating those choices telling myself, “The decision I make today is the right one for today.” I never wanted to look back and be angry with a 30 year old decision, no value in that and a big waste of my time today. And yet, there were times I wish I had gone right when I turned left.
I had a high school teacher whose words I have never forgotten: “Make a decision like it’s a piece of clothe on your naked skin: If it itches like wool, then it is a bad decision. If it feels like silk against your skin, then it’s a good decision.” I have always lived by that as it deals directly with your gut and intuition, which are very powerful influences. Like Jiminy Cricket, who says,”Let your conscience be your guide,” we often have to let our gut and intuition direct us. But did we know that so many years ago?
And, how, at this time in our lives, do we reconcile our younger adult self while thinking about Dr. Seuss exclaiming, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” What if you didn’t want to go to those places? But life has a way of taking us on serendipitous roads where thoughts of, “When my ship came in, I was at the airport!” Oh, the ironies of life!
What do we do with those times, moments and experiences that pinch our gut with remorse? Can we rewrite our story? Can we wish away that which we’d like to? Obviously, not. So how do we resolve being in the wrong place at the wrong time, deciding yes when it should have been no and questioning our own sensibilities?
In these later years, when there is more time behind us than in front of us, can we take the regrettable experiences of life and turn them into snippets of wisdom and perspectives? Can we reverse those angsts into teaching moments for stories of insight for the younger generation? Can our blunders AND greatest moments be a guide and inspiration to younger people who may benefit from hearing our realities that have become our story?
I am a believer in our personal stories and their value and how they can add a new/fresh/inspiring viewpoint to those whose minds are open to life’s experiences. Tell your stories, the good ones and the bad ones. Share your thoughts in the moment and from “back then” so the listener hears the changes in your mindset and values that evolved, grew and matured. And those diverse elements are OK. Let those know you have developed with new and broader thoughts and ideas and that making mistakes are steps in the ladder we all climb to get to new heights. Expressing our regrets, mistakes and blessings show we are human.
Suggestions for sharing: Talk to your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends. Gather a group who want to chronicle their experiences to speak at your Temple, in confirmation classes, senior groups, cousin’s club, book clubs. Call your local schools for Job Fairs where you can share your business life with young people, giving them advice for what you would have done differently and what still works. Write a journal to leave as a legacy, sit at your computer and jot it all down, print it and put it in a folder so it can be read.
THIS is how we reconcile our past: Putting it in a context that could motivate, encourage and enthuse others. Show the humanness that has made you the person you are today. Express the blessings and the hard times, be an example that we do overcome regrets; as Jews, we know that!
We can’t change history but we can change our mindset of how we reflect upon it. It can be therapeutic and unburdening to put the past in a perspective that frees us to live in a peaceful place while encouraging us to realize, “The Best is Yet to Be!”