For most people, the winter holidays are a time for introspection, memory, and nostalgia; for me, this congregation meets in the summertime. Summer's endless days- and the laziness with which the nights come- are prime breeding ground for me and my thoughts, my memories, my hopes and wishes. Sometimes a memory will come back at me like a blast of hot air from the oven; sometimes it just tickles my neck like a lover's breath.
Warm weather and it's winsome ways always have me thinking back in time; my fondest memories always feature the sun shining brightly, warming my skin, reflecting off my wide smile. July 4th has always been my favorite holiday (Hello? Sunshine and fireworks? No brainer.). I have Utopian childhood memories of endless days and still-light nights spent playing Ghost in the Graveyard or Kick the Can; running around the shores of Rawson's Lake and hearing Uncle Len sing and play the ukulele while everyone else fished and drank beer; picking raspberries and blackberries behind the school across from my grandparents' house.
When I moved to Michigan, I realized that summer started around July 1st and ended somewhere in the week immediately post-U.P. State Fair. New memories included running the Firecracker 5 Mile in Gladstone, followed by a marathon day of swimming, sunning, kayaking, eating, bonfires, fireworks and more.
Summer was also the start of fall marathon training runs with Doug. For many many years, we would take off from his house and run south on M-35, past Breezy Point Bar, past the Ford River bridge, a brief stop at Satch's house for pre-stashed Gatorade and snacks, then maybe a few more miles down the road before turning around and retracing our steps. Satch's house was 13 miles, Mayville Road about 16, No See-Um Creek was 21. Grandpa Herb was always waiting with coffee cake- lots of frosting, per my request- upon our return.
But I digress...it is during these times when my mind wanders from the present-day sun-dappled sidewalk either backwards or forwards in time, the direction dictated by the momentum of the "What if...?" at the front of my brain.
What if...I never moved to Chicago?...I didn't have babies when I did?...I never moved to Michigan?...I never started running?...I wasn't right there when Doug collapsed?...I never had my mental toughness and emotional strength tested like that?...I stayed in my poor excuse of a marriage?...Where would I be now?
We all have moments, memories that we say we "regret," our voices' tones quietly serious and rueful. Regret happens, but is it useful? Hmm...I don't think so. I've always been one to preach that you cannot change the past, you need to learn something from it and move on: evolve. To regret would be to negate the lessons learned- If: Then: - and who would you be then? Not the same person you are now, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling a loss for something that will never happen because the circumstance can't be recreated to make it so: you cannot make regrets materialize and transform into new memories to replace the old ones.
It can't happen. Stop wasting your time on this. Think about it this way: Why waste your time wishing your memories were something else when you could be busy creating new ones?
And so that's what I've willed myself to do: move on, evolve. And now the "What ifs" at the front of my brain are of this variety:
What if...I train for a triathlon?...I get my Master's degree?...I choose to be happy? Every day?...I tell my friends I love them before its too late?...I stop chasing and grasping and flailing and just BE?...I find New Mr. Rachel? How will that new adventure play out?
And I'm busy making new memories, every day. I tell people I love them more freely, and without reservations. I try new things with only minor trepidation. I'm okay with not getting it right the first time around. I'm planning vacations- currently in the hope/wish stage, but- and exploring options. I'm still a resident of Hopeful, Unincorporated when it comes to New Mr. Rachel. I'm thankful for all of my What ifs; I've just learned to not let the ones tinged with regret take control.
Lastly, do me a favor: 1) Listen to this song. I will preface it by saying that it is the most beautiful, yet saddest, and yet strangely uplifting song I've ever heard. 2) Think about the What ifs in your own life, both kinds. 3) Make changes so that the potential outcomes match your hopes and wishes.
Fill your days with love and joy, not regret. Don't miss out on right now.