“I guess this means you aren’t coming to . . .”
This is a different post for me, but no matter how I’ve tried to avoid it, I can’t seem to settle until I write the subject out of me. The curse and the promise of writing; once an idea starts working its way around in my brain, I’m distracted, unfocused and fraught until I write it down. I’ve tried avoiding it because it’s a) melancholy and b) probably way too personal. But no luck – it’s write or not sleep again at this point. And it’s certainly a Note from Just Past Normal and I’ve had to redefine a few ideas about my life because of it, so at least I’ve remained thematic. I’m just redefining the theme slightly. So here goes . . .
This past weekend I was moving furniture around to repaint my bedroom when I came across a shoebox full of old letters. They are from BC – as in before children, not the province of Canada I live in – from back when I was a die-hard ski bum spending my time working between heli ski outfits here in BC (this time it’s the province) and in New Zealand. And it’s hard to believe now, because it wasn’t even that long ago (really), but they are from before email was in common usage and way before Facebook, Skype, texting or any of the other fantastic ways we can now communicate pretty much live with friends and family close to home and in other countries. Back in those dark ages, if you traveled a lot and if you were diligent about keeping up your end of the bargain – which I was – you could accumulate a lot of correspondence. And I’ve kept that box of letters no matter what was happening in my life or how many times I”ve moved. It was obviously important to me, I just had to wait for the time to be right to figure out why.
A lot of the letters were from friends that I met traveling and it was so much fun to re-read them and see what was important to us then. There were people I had completely forgotten about, people I remember very fondly but have lost touch with and people who are still my friends. They were from all over the world – New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, England, California, Costa Rica and yes, Canada. Well maybe not all over the world, but enough places to make me remember how interesting my life was at that time.
And in the box there was a bundle of love letters. They are of the old-fashioned “I haven’t seen you for 63 days (he was counting . . ) and I miss you like the breath in my own body” type of love letters. Wow. Those were very special. I can’t get them out of my head. Here is the problem: I thought reading them would be a fun trip down memory lane, a lighthearted remembrance of a particular time and place. Instead, I was ineffably sad when I finished reading. It took me a couple of tries to get through them all because it’s a good-sized bundle and I had to keep putting them down, they affected me so profoundly.
Why sad? I think it’s because after reading them again, several times, I realized that the memory I have constructed for myself of that affaire is quite different from what the reality was. It’s revisionist history. In my memory, he had left me. I know now, without a shadow of a doubt, that was not the reality. We wrote love letters to each other because we lived in different countries and only managed to see each other a few times a year. We were both at major crossroads in our lives and he (a transplanted Californian) wanted me to go live with him in what was (and remains) a secluded tropical paradise where he was living and working. He wrote about everything he was thinking and feeling and about what our lives might be like there. He wrote about some pretty amazing times we spent together – when friends are talking even now about best birthdays, I still say that the one I spent with him was one of the best nights ever and in his letters he sure seemed to think that as well. And when he really liked what I had written to him, he cut it out and stuck it onto his letter and then wrote around that – sort of old school cut and paste. How I wish I had copies of my letters to him. Like really wish.
And what I realize now is that my life could have been very different. I had reconstructed my memory to turn it into a casual fling, when really it was, very much, an affair of the heart. He was waiting. The opening line of this post is the last line of his last letter “I guess this means you aren’t coming to . . .” What would have happened if I’d had the courage then to follow my own favourite lyric: “When you’re through thinking, say yes”. What if I’d said YES. I am, as the title suggests, at this moment a study in regret. I’m sure that this too will pass, because I try to live my life with no regrets, believing that everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t be in the place I am today without all the events, good and bad, that led up to it. And I love my life today. But this is one thing that I am filled with regret over. I can’t shake that.
And it has made me wonder about other times and memories. If I have, in such a wholesale manner, revised my memory of something that was so important, what other memories are reconstructions, pastiches of my own invention and remembrance? Do we all revise our histories to suit ourselves, to recast ourselves in a more flattering light, or even, simply, to tell a better story? I’ve been wondering about the elusive quality of truth – in our actions, in our memories, in our relationships. I don’t think there is an “absolute” version of any remembrance, only how the people involved choose to remember the events and recolour them with the passage of time and their changing circumstances.
So I’ve written a letter and I’ve sent it to the old address; sort of casting a bit of karma out there into the universe and waiting to see what comes back. Most likely it will be nothing. But you never know. And at least I won’t have the additional regret of wondering (again) what if?
So here’s my all time favourite song – I had the musical notation tattooed on. It’s all about how sometimes, in life, it’s just bad timing.