I had a moment of panic last night that I haven’t experienced in a long time.
But let me back up. Every day I have been walking Stella around the bayou and to City Park and it’s all been very well and good, and I’m super grateful for Stella and for having a dog get me back to my morning walks. Yet, every morning I am greeted by my past – both the view of the bayou, the view of the LaLa, and sometimes old friends and neighbors I see along my path. I feel as if I had traveled the world over and have come back as the prodigal child.
Only my past and my present don’t line up in such a neat parable or even a great cautionary tale.
I was having lunch with a friend who has all of the wealth in the world and yet does not have a relationship and we were speaking about this lack of and I was telling him that I had met someone who at first sight it was like zing sang and yet then that had cooled. He spoke of someone he had met, whose company he enjoyed, and how it had cooled. And we both just shook our heads and changed the subject.
During the day, I began to feel weird, itchy nose, scratchy throat, and a little peaked. Then I read an article about how all these people in the Hamptons are up in arms about the helicopter traffic – it seems a lot of people have private helicopters. And it’s a problem. I read this with interest because it reminded me of something Confucious said, “Poor man better off than rich man, because poor man believes money will make him happy.”
In the evening, I went to meet a friend for a drink to catch up after a few months of not seeing each other. She had asked me to come to her house but I was feeling claustrophobic, so we decided to meet at an old haunt. I arrived and my friend wasn’t there yet, and while waiting for her in that place that also contains my history, a history that no longer informs my present, I started feeling like I was going to have an anxiety attack and by the time my friend was almost to the door, I walked out and was near tears.
However, since I hadn’t seen her in a while, I didn’t want to greet her with some passing cloud that had suddenly appeared so I switched gears. Only after one cocktail, we both digressed into aging and ill gotten relationships and the ideal “date weight” that neither of us felt like we are in – her too thin, me too not.
Later, in bed, at 2:30 in the morning, I woke hacking and sniffling and realized that I was coming down with an awful cold, which more than likely compromised my immune system and sent me down a path of dark and lonely. Sometimes a dream is a dream. Sometimes a feeling is a feeling. Sometimes chemistry is chemistry. And these feelings pass, morph, roll off, roll away, and as a friend just wrote to me in an email remind me once again to let go of the tug of history:
I’m thinking we should embrace when our spirits make us uncomfortable traversing old places/people/patterns that no longer represent our path ahead… I can definitely say I’ve felt “alone” in spaces and with people I don’t fit with anymore… and I guess we’re supposed to, since we are not and can no longer be “with them” in the same way anymore because we have changed. Doesn’t mean bad….just finished… and can’t go back.
moving forward…. we would never do it if we were still comfortable in the past….
never meet a new love if we were still with the old one.
But there is also a what if, that brings on a deluge of nostalgia and causes a little rain to come into all of our hearts. In one of the most heartbreaking moments in James Ivory’s film, The Remains of the Day, the characters played by Antony Hopkins and Emma Thompson meet at the end, and she says to him:
“But that doesn’t mean to say, of course, there aren’t occasions now and then – extremely desolate occasions — when you think to yourself: ‘What a terrible mistake I’ve made with my life.’ And you get to thinking about a different life, a better life you might have had. For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens. And I suppose that’s when I get angry about some trivial little thing and leave. But each time I do, I realize before long — my rightful place is with my husband. After all, there’s no turning back the clock now. One can’t be forever dwelling on what might have been.”
And yet one more time, Hopkins’ character does not seize the moment to tell this woman that he had and has continued to have profound deep feelings for her.
How do we let go of our past? We just do it because otherwise it wears us down. It is not my past that occasionally darkens my days, it is the burden of unspoken words and feelings in moments that go by too quickly. And yet on some dark days, there are double rainbows like the one that appeared this past Monday as my dear friend and I were driving along the bayou.