Recently, my elder daughter reminded me she is about to turn 36. I thought back to my 36th year. I was recently divorced, virtually sole custodian of three young children, and about to pack us all up in a green hatchback to start another life 1500 miles away. Not my best year. I used to wish I could go back and live my life over again from about the age of 22 onward, and do it differently. But life kept propelling me on, even though my heels were firmly dug in, resisting every inch of the way. I couldn’t let things go. I continued to drag my past hurts behind me, like those tin cans tied to the back of a newly married couple’s getaway car. After years of this, I had accumulated so much dead weight that I could barely walk. The bagels with dill-flavored cream cheese to numb the pain might have contributed somewhat to my sluggishness—adding another tin can of regret to drag around.
As I reached my middle years, I gained some perspective. I realized that my past—the mistakes, regrets, et al—was the result of choices I had made. (As opposed to someone else’s fault.). Some of my choices had actually been good, but others less so; (terrible, actually,) and made in rebellion, stupidity, or unfortunate ignorance. The poor choices resulted in failures, disasters even, that left gaping wounds. They hurt like the dickens for a time; but I survived. I have scars, but I’m also wiser. Mark Twain said it this way: “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” I’ve carried my share of cats by the tail, and I have the scars to prove it.
Age has finally given me perspective, allowed me to forgive actual (and perceived) hurts. I’m more accepting of God’s forgiveness of my own failings, and so, I forgive myself. Little by little, I’m cutting loose all those tin cans bouncing behind me in my rear view mirror. I like to think that this perspective is compensation for growing old, wrinkled, and forgetful. I’ll take it, gladly, over my youthful anguish a lost love and broken dreams left in its wake.
Especially if it comes with a warm slice of apple pie topped with vanilla bean ice cream…