I wish I knew then…

There’s some advertisement that’s been running quite a lot on the airwaves lately, featuring a Rod Stewart song, cleverly titled “Ooh La La”.

I wish I knew then what I know now…when I was younger…when I was stronger. Yeah, that might have changed quite a few things. But I wonder if that’s really true. Would I have given up those days of drunken cluelessness for years of resignation to inevitability? Would I want to trad the arrogance and ineptitude of youth if I knew this was the outcome, no matter what I did then?

Perhaps that’s fatalistic, maybe pessimistic. I don’t identify as a predeterminist, but maybe in my younger years that was my worldview – what does it matter, it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be. That’s a lot of how I thought, which proved to be quite convenient when avoiding responsibility and accountability for crazy stuff I was doing. Funny how we have that all neatly worked out sometimes.

If I could have changed anything, how would I choose? Would I choose to have my grandmother remain alive longer, seeing me through adolescence and young adulthood? Would the innocent love have remained as I evolved into more troubling, but necessary, patterns of thought and behavior? I have long maintained that I needed every one of those twists and turns on the path to be who I am today, but would that have turned out differently had she remained alive? Would I have made different choices to please her, or would I have been rejected by her for standing my ground? I don’t like to contemplate those options, because I would be a very different person than I am now, for better or worse I don’t know.

Life doesn’t come with a customized user guide, nor does it give you hyperlinks to time-saving shortcuts. It’s hit and miss, trial and error, if you get a bad result from something just don’t do that again. Or, do it again, until you get tired of having bad results. Simple, but not easy.

Sometimes we have helpers along the way, sometimes our karma dictates that we should do it ourselves. I hate that part, but it has done well by me. I don’t get things the nice, easy way…as Tina Turner says in the monologue leading into her version of “Proud Mary”. I have to do things nice, and rough – backward and the hard way. Maybe that serves to have me remember those lessons, since they caused pain. I don’t notice the tap on the shoulder from the Universe, warning me to change my route, slow down or speed up, or worse pull over to check the map. I require the painful strike against the skull with the proverbial 2×4 block of wood, wielded with the force of a divinity. When that gets old, then I change something. Works every time.

So, yeah, if I knew then what I know now, chances are good I would not have done anything differently. No matter how many times I say now that if I had only known…if I could have known the consequences…if I had only had more wisdom, more strength, more courage, more whatever. But in all honesty, I probably would not have changed many things because I didn’t have the tools to deal with those outcomes.

I will say that I do wish I had stood up for myself a bit sooner, but…I didn’t think I had anything for which to stand up. Other people have always had my help in treating me badly, because I treated myself far worse than anyone else could. I am not sure where all that comes from, but it’s mine and I wear it well. “But I ain’t forgettin’ that you were once mine, but I blew it without even tryin’, now I’m eatin’ my heart out tryin’ to get back to you.” (Thanks again, Rod Steward – “You Wear It Well”)

Truth be told, I don’t know that I wear it well. But I wear it like I wear it, and that’s the facts Jack. I did blow it, maybe without trying, but quite possibly with significant effort. Self-sabotage is a silent and deadly destructor of dreams, ambitions, and well-being. But I know I am in the company of a long and distinguished list of my fellows who claim that identity as well. Self-saboteur, at your service.

Whenever that stops working for me, I will be relieved, but I’m not sure it ever will. That’s not a cop-out, it’s a reality…every part of me is now dependent in some respects to that internal conflict dynamic. It fuels my insights, it fuels how I look at the world, it fuels the volcanic effusion of whatever it is that IS me. That burning tension inside me is what propels me, and causes me to self-propel rather than be pushed along by the ambient flow of others.

Give and take. Light and dark. Movement and stillness. Paradoxes are the way of the Universe, I suppose. Sometimes I want to give, sometimes I want to take. Sometimes I want the light, and other times I need to be a sloth in the darkness. Sometimes I want to move, and other times I need to be still. For me, I suppose part of the tension involves discernment – when is one extreme too much, when is another not enough? One day at a time, grasshopper. One day at a time.

Of course, I hate that answer, because I am a consistently impatient human. But that, too, is part of the deal, and I can either accept that as reality or beat my head against a rigid and unyielding wall that will never yield. My choice. The latter tends to result in a painful ache in the cranium, as they say – I go insane in the membrane. If nothing else, I accept that is unproductive, and painful.

I suppose that what I wish now is not so much that I knew then what I know now, but that what I know now sparked me to more effective solutions, made more of a difference deep down, and more importantly – harms no one (including myself). It’s one thing to take action that doesn’t work, or is harmful and produces negative results. It’s quite another thing to keep doing that, over and over and over.

Patience. Tolerance. Nice words, often the first to be omitted from the recipe for good living. Don’t have any in the cabinet, couldn’t find any at the grocery store…insert excuse. I am thinking, however, that without those my recipe will be lacking. It will be lacking, and possibly remain incomplete, missing something in taste and consistency. I can stir it forever, and it will still be a bit lacking.

So. It’s fine, well, and good to be contemplating such things on a Friday morning when my dog is the only other living being in my orbit. Like the old joke says…I have not insulted anyone, have not spoken harshly to anyone, have not had bad thoughts or done anything wrong today…which is great…but in a few minutes I am going to have to get out of bed and go out into the world, and all bets are off.

Some days I have thought to encase myself in viable armor before leaving my enclave to face the onslaught. Perhaps everyone does something similar, so when we encounter each other we are more like soldiers on the battlefield than fellow humans walking diverse paths that intersect and cross and run parallel. Maybe I will work on going out without my armor, without my helmet and spear, and see how that goes. I may keep the shield for a bit, but truth be told, it seems awfully heavy these days.

Onward, forward, and up – as long as we are not going backward or down. Although, come to think of it, backward is not always bad, especially if you get a do-over of something that was problematic the first time you went through. There are also notable sites to be appreciated below the surface of things, so down should be discounted entirely.

I am just going to go, and more will be revealed. At least that’s what I hear.

I need to be ok with the alone time. It’s necessary.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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