I hope you’ve got a minute…this one might take a while.
(and I apologize for the potential vagueness to follow, but there’s a reason for it…I want you to think about this less as something that I’m speaking of in first person, and more in terms of how it might apply to your life…with the understanding that your mileage may, of course, vary.)
I want you to clear your mind for a moment and consider a question.
What would you do if someone offered you a “get out of jail free” card for one of your biggest regrets?
And I don’t mean in the sense that someone would “flashy-thing” you, a la Will Smith, or you’d be able to be “Eternal Sunshined” (both cleverly offered up by Wendy when we were talking about this last night), but you could actually go back and correct history without erasing it, could rebuild the ruins from scratch with everything intact from the moment the bombs fell…
That seems like a no-brainer, right?
As most of you know, I buried my brother this past spring. Jim was a lot more complex than I think he ever thought himself to be, in a lot of ways…but at the root, he was a stubborn dude. He had strained relationships with three of his four children that he took with him to the grave, and would have likely still been estranged from his brother Bob if Bob hadn’t seen him at the American Legion one night and went over to him to start a conversation.
I saw firsthand how much comfort he gathered from his connection to Bob in his final days, and I couldn’t help but wonder why he couldn’t take that lesson into other corners of his life.
I’d like to say that I’m different, more evolved somehow…but that stubborn streak runs through my DNA as well. Just ask all the folks who can’t read this because they’re blocked, ostracized, otherwise disowned and cut out of my life in some form or fashion. There are a few, to be certain.
And let’s be fair – there are some things that can’t be forgiven, nor should they be, and when people show you who they are, sometimes you have no choice but to believe them. BUT – I digress.
Not long after Jim died, I got a message on Facebook from someone that I hadn’t spoken to in FIFTEEN YEARS. In that message, they said that they sat with the question of whether to contact me for almost a week, because I’d slammed the door under duress and made it clear at the time that I wasn’t really interested in reconciliation on any level. It took a lot of courage to reach out to me in spite of how we’d parted ways, and I’ve demonstrated time and time again just how lacking I am in that department.
Because while there had been maybe a dozen times over the course of that fifteen years that I’d seriously considered sending an email or checking to see if their phone number was still the same, I remained steadfast in my resolve not to break. If I ever thought about it, my first reaction was to remind myself that nothing good would come of peeking over the fence, and that there was nothing to gain from having a look…so why bother?
So time passed. For both of us.
Major life events…Danny, moving to Nashville, stuff…happened during that decade and a half of radio silence.
But when that message showed up in my inbox, I was genuinely surprised at how I felt when I opened it and read it. None of the resentment or baggage that I’d dragged kicking and screaming with me all those years ago, nor any of the raw nerve endings that I would have imagined would be present if I’d given myself permission to visualize something like this even a couple of years prior to when it actually DID happen – none of that was present. I wrote a short note back, which was followed by a reply, which was eventually followed up with a phone call, which eventually led to an exchange of two specific emails…
…these emails, man. Lemme tell you something, here.
Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to be in the right place, in the right frame of mind, at the right juncture of your life…and with the right words…to actually be able to speak and hear things that should have been patently obvious before, but – for whatever reason, on that random afternoon, the clouds part and everything – EVERYTHING – makes sense.
Not everybody gets to do this.
Not everybody gets a chance to put a troubled past into perfectly clear perspective, acknowledge it, make peace with it, and then move on without carrying some incidental shrapnel that still hits a nerve from time to time, but that’s what this feels like right now.
A lot has happened on the other end of this connection over this past fifteen years, as well. It’s not my place to inventory any of it here for perspective, but – there’s a lot to talk about.
And that’s where we find ourselves – with fifteen years’ worth of catching up to do, with fifteen years’ worth of “oh my God, I didn’t tell you about…“, fifteen years’ worth of photos and music and…
…and this place where we can talk about our past without feeling the weight of regret and enjoy where we are now without the burden of expectation – where we can just exist and enjoy this connection that had been dormant for all those years.
I don’t think this could have happened two years ago…or five years ago…or even ten years ago.
For either of us.
We had to go out into the world individually and collect our experiences and our scars independently of one another in order to get the perspective we needed to get to this point. In that respect, there isn’t even a sense of regret about the missed time…just gratitude that one of us (ONE of us…meaning the one of us without the Stubborn Hampton Gene…in other words, certainly not THIS one) came to a place in their life where they felt some random compulsion to check on the other and see if they were OK.
So let me ask you, person reading these words:
What would YOU do if you got a “get out of jail free” card for one of your biggest…perhaps maybe even your BIGGEST – regret?
And you could hit the reset button, acknowledge your history, and start from a place where it felt as if nothing had changed and not a day has passed, and yet – even BETTER than it was before you went off the rails?
Would you do it?
Would you try?
Open up your email or the contacts list on your phone and see what the future holds for you and those dead circuits in your past.
You may have the same epiphany that I’ve had – that you didn’t realize how much you missed it until you realized how much you missed it.
Go out into the world and fix something.