Perhaps it began when Sam left home.
When the focus of you and your partner’s attention for the past 18 years, one day, because it is time, waves goodbye to you both in a car park in Oxfordshire, turns and walks forward into his own life, suddenly your own world changes. New futures open up. Possibilities arise. You have an opportunity to reclaim your existence.
Jo and I were dreading Sam going. Dreading the quiet. Dreading the energy vacuum. Dreading the hole that would be left behind.
But it turned out not to be like that at all. Turns out there is a reset button that gets pushed by a child’s departure and you return to a place you last inhabited 18 years ago. You have a chance to time travel back to a place of several possible futures. Decide whether you chose the right path all those years ago. Decide whether you want to try another path. Whether you are prepared to take on the weight of responsibilities connected to this new future.
I think that this is true for most couples when the nest is emptied. There is a rediscovering of each other. A chance to give each other the attention previously centred on the children. To rekindle your love of each other. This has certainly been the case for Jo and I. We seem to have more energy now. More Time to devote to each other. She is more lovely to me now than she has ever been. She seems to have grown younger. More beautiful. She positively glistens.
But, for us, the rediscovery of our younger selves has been more concrete. In the past few months, both of us have unexpectedly made contact with significant figures from our pasts. Meeting these people has taken us back to Past Times. Forced us to examine carefully who we were back then and who we are now and the relationship between those two realities. For me, in particular, this has been, at times, a challenging process. I made certain decisions as a young man that had far reaching consequences and I have had to hear the story of my past told to me from a different perspective. This has not always comfortable but, ultimately, it has been rewarding. And necessary.
We are often urged to Live In The Present Moment. Be Mindful. It’s The Power of Now. Which is true. Because we have no option. We can only ever be in the Present Moment. We cannot exist in the Past or the Future. So, it is unwise to dwell there mentally. Spending Time thinking too much about either will only make you unhappy and unsatisfied. Nostalgia or Future Dreaming are unproductive states of mind because they are based in shadows, reflections, smoke and mirrors.
So, yes, strive to live in the Present, but be aware that the Present is not a point on a straight line between Past and Future. Time doesn’t work like that. Rather, the Present is simply the Space you find yourself in. And, within that Space, all possible Times exist. Your Present bears the weight of All Possible Pasts and holds the lightness of All Possible Futures. It is the ability to hold the Weight and Lightness in Balance which has the potential to bring you Peace. If you fixate on The Past, allow yourself to become trapped there, holding an image of how things were and letting it become how things are, you will become frozen in Time, unable to move on. If you bury The Past beneath layers of silence, make of it a Thing Unspoken, it will drag you down, limit your possibilities, steal your Futures. Be careful not to make The Past too heavy. If you let it become so, you will forget that, just as, your past decision was one of many possible Pasts, there are many possible Futures, all there, waiting in your Present.
I have had the chance to make Peace with my Past in order to move forward into the Future. I cannot know what the Future will be. There are many possible Futures all alive in my Present. Their natures are irrelevant. It would be counterproductive to dwell on them. A waste of Time to prefer one over another. All that matters is that I live my life fully in the Present and accepting of the Past. Denial of the Past is a denial of the fullness and complexity of the Present where all Possible Pasts and all Possible Futures exist simultaneously.
And, so, Jo and I have stopped skating on the brittle surface of Time, broken through its caripice and dived a little deeper. Sometimes it has felt like we might drown but we have stuck close to each other, helped each other tread water, and it feels like we have learned to swim a little better in the fullness of Time.
Sam came home for the Christmas holidays last night. Tonight our house is alive with the noise of him and the new friends he has brought with him.
It is wonderful.