Thursday, January 14, 2016
If I Could Go Back
The photo is of myself in 1971, one year out of college and freewheeling around Baltimore.
Today’s Daily Prompt:
If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of your life would you return to?
I’d return to those first six years of my twenties: the first two in college, the next three or four out on my own. Why? Because I loved those last two years of college, and because I wasted those following four. I spent them like a handful of change. So much I could have done during those years that I wish I could return to and do.
I thought I had all the time in the world. I wasted my time in a job I hated, and not writing, and not travelling as much as I could have, and not going back to school soon enough, and not placing myself where I could have met many other people , one of whom I might have loved and married. But of course this is all wasted energy. If I had spent those years in any other way than the way I did, I wouldn’t have the life I have now, which is a life I love.
I think it was the poet Shelley who said
“We look before and after, and pine for what is not…”
I have always loved a Tom Paxton song called “One Time Only”, especially the first stanza:
I spent my hungry young years running wild;
There was so much for me to do.
And I spent cities like a handful of change,
But I never quit looking for you.
And then there’s this Christine Lavin song:
“The Kind Of Love You Never Recover From”
I know a couple; she sits in a rocking chair
Working puzzles; he watches TV upstairs.
She’s got a secret she has never let out;
A man she thinks he never knew about.
She hasn’t seen him in thirty years.
The mention of his name doesn’t bring on tears.
If you ask her, “Are there any regrets?”
It was the kind of love you never recover from.
Even though she found another one
To take his place, She never will escape the truth.
At times like this when the moon is right,
When the air is foggy like it is tonight,
She’ll think about what might have been
If she had just held on to him.
( the next stanzas go on in the same vein, about other people)
I know a man who has done it all; He has sailed the oceans; climbed the mountains of Nepal. He lives high upon the avenue With a beautiful wife, lovely children, too. But there’s a woman he still dreams about; Certain things he has learned to live without. If you ask him, “Are there any regrets?” He’ll tell you, “No,” but he never forgets. It was the kind of love you never recover from. Even though he found another one To take her place, He never will escape the truth. At times like this when the moon is right, When the air is foggy like it is tonight,He’ll think about what might have been If he had not let her slip away from him.
I read about a woman who said she never regretted anything she’d ever done. Such arrogant words always seem to be spoken by those who then die young. So here am I looking at you. Oh, tell me, what are we gonna do? Am I destined to be your regret? Are you that one I’ll never forget? Years from now, will we curse the day You let me let you walk away? Isn’t this too dear a price to pay For the freedom of going separate ways? This is the kind of love you never recover from. Don’t tell me that I’m gonna find another one To take your place, I never will escape the truth.
For the freedom of going separate ways? This is the kind of love you never recover from. Don’t tell me that I’m gonna find another one To take your place, I never will escape the truth. At times like this when the moon is right, When the air is foggy like it is tonight, I’ll think how sweet life could be If you would stay with me, oh stay with me. This is the kind of love you never recover from. Don’t tell me that I’m gonna find another one To take your place, And try to face the truth. Let me hold you close tonight. The fog has lifted, the moon is so bright. Think how sweet life could be If you would stay with me, oh, stay with me. This is the kind of love you never recover from.
All of this is the stuff of song and the poetry of regret and yearning.
This next crazy poem, by Carl Dennis in his collection Practical Gods
imagines God regretting that the speaker’s life didn’t turn out better. In the end, the speaker concedes that God doesn’t work that way, and that he shouldn’t, either:
The God Who Loves You
It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you’d be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week–
Three fine houses sold to deserving families–
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you’d have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you’re living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don’t want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day’s disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You’d have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you’re used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You’re spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven’t written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you’ve witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.
by Carl Dennis