Memory is a funny thing. I don’t think I’ve appreciated, until now, how closely memory is tied up to the physical world. If you have a memory, you always have a memory, right? I know memories can be triggered by a smell, by a song, etc, but just being physically in the same city that you haven’t been in for awhile can not only bring back a host of old memories, but old emotions, too. Stuff you haven’t thought about it in years. Stuff you had every right to believe you had sorted through and had moved on from. Stuff you had honestly actually forgotten until it all comes flooding back, reminding you that your mind has recesses to its recesses. Hidden nooks and crannies you didn’t even know about. How can you be such a stranger to your own brain?
I’ve been thinking a lot about people who have affected my life and, in a new(ish) trend, giving more and more thought to the effect I may have had on other people’s lives. I’ve never given it much thought in my life up til now – not through callousness but because I have never presumed that I affected anyone. How could I impact on someone’s life? I’m just me and barely worth mentioning. It sounds like false modesty but, really, when you’re young I think you don’t appreciate consequences just yet – consequences your actions have on others, consequences your actions have on yourself.
Maybe that’s the thing I’m thinking of most of all: consequences. Small decisions, rash ones, decisions you make to prove to yourself that you didn’t deserve it anyway (but, in a very deep part of you, you think will turn out well despite yourself, because Hollywood endings could happen).
Although I honestly believe the world is a place that is basically good, as I get older, I’m more aware of the less-than-stellar things in it. It doesn’t change my ultimate belief but, quite naturally I guess, things become less black-and-white and more shades of grey. With that comes the realisation that the world isn’t always a just place and, hand-in-hand, things don’t always work out. You fight with a friend – younger you assumes that, despite you being a jerk (and them being one too), in a couple of weeks it will all blow over and you’ll go back to being friends again. Only later do you appreciate that a serious impact has been made and there are consequences. I’ve lost a lot of friends that way.
One of my grandfathers spent his life complaining, being an absent father, alienating himself from his wife and children. He now has dementia, has been put in a home and is now sad and alone. I find it absolutely heartbreaking (and, now that I’m back in the country am visiting him soon!). From my perspective, I can see that over his life he’s made lots of tiny little decisions, each made on their own merits, mired in his own fears and fallibilites as a human and each one a decision any one of us could have made in similar circumstances. I have no doubt that he did not anticipate the consequences of the cumulative effect of those decisions. And yet, regardless, wanted or not, intentioned or not, the consequences are the same and he has to live with them. Unjust? I don’t know.
So where does that leave me right this minute? With a full and pressing realisation that I have impacted on peoples lives and the consequences of that. Sure, I have positively impacted on people, which is wonderful but, right now, it’s the negative impacts that are concerning me.
My own fears and baggage have led to decisions I’ve made that have hurt others. I guess we’re all guilty of this but it doesn’t make it right. I’ve burnt some bridges in my day and, right now, I’m trying to repair two of them. Good friends who I’ve lost, through my actions. Impacts on their lives that I didn’t know or appreciate until I’ve come back where I left off and it all comes flooding back, only this time with the perspective and (limited) wisdom that 4 years of growing and separation can give you. Makes you see what you didn’t see then: and I’m not proud of where I left off. They haven’t responded yet, which brings me back to consequences: just because you want to rebuild a bridge, doesn’t mean that you can. I’ll be ok if they decide they don’t want to get back in touch and it’s a learning experience for me all the same. I hope they do, though.
Edit (a few hours later): I am a lucky lady – I have heard back from one friend and it was very positive. Can’t tell you how nice it feels to have that chance to improve something you regret!