Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past. -Jack Kornfield
But surely… surely if I dwell on it enough, replay it in my head enough, examine every little detail enough, I’ll figure out that it actually didn’t go that way! C’mon, Jack! What’s wrong with you? *pause* All right. That’s how one creates a delusion, however minor. That’s how “You hurt my feelings” turns into “You’re the BIGGEST BITCH in the ENTIRE WORLD!” and “We’ll call you” turns into “We think you’re so fucking awesome and will give you a bell at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning as the second ticks.”
But surely… surely if I just do things right this time, how things are now will look exactly like how things were then, and it’s like the past never existed! Magic Eraser! I can fix this! It can go back to normal!
… No? That’s not how it works?
Giving up hope of a better past is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. It’s a terribly strange combination of desire, aversion, and delusion = The Three Unwholesome Roots Because Apparently Everything In Buddhism Needs To Be Numbered In Lists. We desire what wasn’t, we hate what was, and we delude ourselves into thinking that something can be different since we suffer so very much because it wasn’t.
Perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of life is that the past is gone. It jumped the midnight plane to Effyouville, snuck out the bedroom window, flipped us the bird with Eric Cartman’s “Screw you guys; I’m going home.” And it left the word “If” on the kitchen table as a goodbye note.
- If I hadn’t have done this.
- If she hadn’t said that.
- If I had left the house two minutes earlier.
- If they hadn’t been so touchy.
- If I had remembered to carry the two.
- If I had pushed a little harder.
- If he had just kept his mouth shut.
If if if if if if if. If only. (Where is that rotten-ass Rewind Button?) But no. So, once we accept, however begrudgingly, that the past happened the way it happened, we latch on to a different if:
- If I can just talk to her.
- If he would just stop doing that.
- If the letter arrives before Tuesday.
- If I simply apologize.
- If I serve my head up on a silver platter
- If I find Hogwarts, convince McGonagall to cast a giant memory charm.
If if if if if if if. If I could just. If we can’t change the past, then we try to recreate it, to make things go back to the way they were before. (As if things *really were* that great before– another delusion. The Delusion of the Golden Days. They weren’t golden. They were just as shit-stained as every other day, but at least we were familiar with them. But what do we do with this new mess? Where are the baby wipes?? WHERE IS THE DIAPER GENIE?!)
Perhaps one of the biggest blessings of life is that the past is gone. Though it indubitably shaped present circumstances, it’s freaking done. I won’t go into all of that singsongy Today Is A New Day bullshit, because… well. It’s bullshit. Today isn’t a *new* day. Today is the natural succession of yesterday. Today is a *different* day. And once again, we are offered the opportunity to make different become better, though sometimes seizing that opportunity seems like a giant smoke-in-a-teacup situation.
Does different suck, or is different better? Or is different just… different? Your attitude. Your choice. If you find the trick to choosing something other than the first option with perfect repetition, do let me know. My instincts still look at change like it’s carrying a 2-by-4 and a shovel.
For the Love of Metta,