Rest Stop

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On my flight back to NJ, the older woman next to me got chatty. She was angry about the flight attendant's lack of change, which prevented her from buying a bag of trail mix. And dammit, she was hungry. I listened to her rants in between answering her questions about where I was from, how I liked motherhood and the midwest. (Aren't teenagers just worthless these days? He should really have been getting change for customers before starting his shift! Is it hot in here? And so on.) 

The first few moments I started to craft a shocking, but above reproach response a la Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey but then I suddenly felt too tired to care, reached for my earbuds and stared out the window. In fact, I felt overwhelmed, run down and unable to do anything except choke back a few tears.

I'm the kind of person who keeps such a tight grip on my emotions, that they can sometimes do that - surprise me like an unwelcome guest. I thought it would happen when I crossed the Finish line at the Memorial Race on Sunday. I thought it might happen when I met with my ex-husband for lunch. Maybe when my sister and I placed our medals on the memorial chairs of those we knew who died in the April 19th bomb. But no. Here I was on the plane, blotting my eyes, my head swimming with unpleasant thoughts and nowhere to hide.

Going home sometimes means going back in time and this visit was certainly that. Not long ago I saw the movie, The Cutter. Robin Williams plays a man who is tasked with editing the memory implants of the dead. The story takes place in a world where "implanted microchips can record all moments of an individual's life. The chips are removed upon death so the images can be edited into something of a highlight reel for loved ones who want to remember the deceased." Without giving away the drama, the film shows that unbeknownst to many of us, our memory of an event can be different from what actually happened. It's shaped by our self esteem, our intelligence at the time the memory is made and even our mood the moment the event happened. 

I know, first hand, that this is true. Without intending to do so, I got a second look at my twenty-something self last weekend. Here is what I wrote on the plane:
"Back then, all I ever did was see ways in which other people held me back. I never considered taking them with me, changing their lives with mine. I was more terrified of staying there than I was of facing the unknown alone. Why was I like that? Why did I think I had to go alone? Why did I never give anyone a chance? "

Of course, I've had some sleep and a few cups of coffee since the plane ride. I know that any one of the people I left behind would say that it all worked out for the best. Many of them have actually told me that they learned a great deal about themselves though our angst and count it as a good thing. I hope they are all telling the truth.  Because sometimes, like that day on the plane, I think back and I feel like utter shit. I feel like an outsider, viewing my actions and I marvel at the perceptions of others who were there. It's like I am glimpsing into a social experiment in which I discover all of us were wrong about what happened back then. It's bit shocking and liberating.

My ex-husbands were, and probably still are, pretty great guys. The efforts that I have made to make peace with them, with the past, has brought regrets and rewards. A while back one of them told me he no longer wants me in his life at all after a decade of carefully navigating a long distance friendship. He told me he has no fond memories of our life in England. He told me he sees me for who I am now and there is no place for me in his current life. This information was new, to say the least and startling different from what he had said in the past. Motivated mostly by a desire to be true to his current partner, which, honestly, who can deny that his partner is important and that he must do everything he can to nurture that love? But it hurt like hell. Every once in a while, I'm reminded of it and it still saddens me. Not because I can't call him up ( We hadn't been that close in years anyway), but because he ended the communication in such a cold, unfamiliar way that all the memories are slightly tainted, especially the ones where he told me he forgives me, that he shared blame, that we were OK.

Sometimes I feel like one of those characters on TV who sees the world in black and white and cannot grasp the behavior of those around me. Like Doc Martin. I just stand around and think WTF? But everyone else seems un-moved by the chasm between our actions and our words. In fact, I think people have grown used to insanity.

A few things I've been thinking about lately:
Nobody has the same memory of a situation, regardless if they were both there at the same moment.
Moving on doesn't have to mean burning bridges as you go.
It's never too late to extend the hand of gratitude, forgiveness or apology. But you have to say the words. You have to say what you mean.

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