“No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are that possibility you were.
More and more you have become those lives and deaths that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved then, now and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear forever and yet remain unaging in the mind.
Everyday you have less reason not to give yourself away.” – Wendell Berry
There is a great relief to accepting where you are in life. Letting go of all the might haves or should haves and seeing what is left is where one’s real life begins. The idea that hindsight is 20-20 doesn’t really respect the fact that when that moment was fully present, you did the best you could. You made the best decision that was available at the time; you loved as much as you were able to. Giving up this looking back is how to step into the days that you have.
This wisdom of “No Going Back” is useful in learning to embrace our current relationships as well as our relationship history. Bearing witness to the grave of our past loves, the lessons learned, the promises kept and broken, the path that lead you to where you stand today is an act of generosity that gives you the freedom to be open to this moment.
My parents have been divorced twice as many years as they were married, yet the stories of the pain and suffering they inflicted on each other remain as fresh in their minds as the days they were happening. My relationships with them served a shaky bridge between them. By contrast, a new friend recently divorced after her husband left her for his secretary- not long after she gave birth to their third child bears no ill will. She told me “We are friends.” She doesn’t share the story of blame with her kids. She didn’t give up her belief in her ability to love, she cried for her loss, but she didn’t throw herself in the grave.
Anyone who has worked on a long term relationship can tell you that the grave that they stand over is no less empty of the losses that love incurs. Holding onto what should have or might have been in your relationship is as destructive as it is after a divorce. You cannot go forward from the past, only from the present. Finding the courage to let go is the primary act of loving.
Learning to become the tree standing over the grave is key to not going back or staying stuck in a story that has no more life in it. Letting go of the past gives you a very clear view on how fleeting this present moment is. Like flowers in the summer garden, we begin to understand how brief is the time we have left to love. What a gift to realize that “Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.”