© Lydia Nolan
August 23, 2010
One of the hardest things to do is to take a journey into your own memories up to the moment, then sit and write about it. Frankly, it's a luxury in our country to do this.
In keeping with the topic, note: this is not just ANY journey. It's the journey of a lifetime and its significance occurs because we are suddenly aware that we have passed the half-point mark. Yes, when one is older than half a century (sounds older that way, doesn't it?) one begins to look back at all the events and experiences in one's journey through life.
Most of us live our first 20 years oblivious to even BEING on a journey! Some of us are oblivious even in our 60s or 70s! What makes us aware of the life journey each of us take solely? I'm not quite sure how it happens; it just seems to unfold as we become, say, more mature? That doesn't necessarily mean in years as it does in experiences and how we dealt with them.
For example, when I was 17 my father died in a car crash. I had graduated at 16, and since the law didn't make much room in the economic world for unique situations like a 16 year out of school, there wasn't much opportunity for me, so I got married waaaaay too young. I was about to have my first child within two weeks when my dad died.
I remember thinking I would never get to talk to my dad again: about growing up, being a parent, or having trouble in marriage, or even simpler things like money matters.
The fact that I would never see him again, and most of all, I would never find out who HE really was, changed me. A myriad of questions never to be answered. I had never really talked to him...I was too busy being oblivious within the world and people around me. But I suddenly realized--and only too desperately--how I would never be able to talk to him again. This did a number on my maturity level, believe me! I was in the moment; I was in the zone; I felt a huge reality of its devastation. I do remember feeling devastated and sensing the void of his being gone forever. Other 17 year olds I knew that had not gone through such devastation seemed to me childish at that point. The second thing that happened immediately was the early labor due to the emotional trauma I had just suffered. I nearly died with my delivery, and might have left a tiny baby girl because I had hemorraged. Another sobering event that changed my "maturity" level.
I had nothing in common with other 17 year olds at that point. I was barely becoming aware of that big, looming mountain that stood before me, called "MY LIFE." The thing is, I hadn't even noticed it until now. I suddenly realized I was very unhappy about my marital and motherhood situation. I not only felt incapable, but I KNEW my young husband was even less capable. After a second child, we ended up divorced, and I began my 10 years of working for the government, at 18 yrs of age, working diligently for survival of myself and my two children; I never thought about retirement. I was too busy living in every moment, trying to figure our how to pay rent, buy food, and keep my children clothed and so forth...
Things happen that change us, and we become a lot more mature, sometimes too soon, but nonetheless necessary for the circumstances that we continue to meet. If you consider some of the children in third world countries--like the picture above--and line them up against some of our "fortunate" children here in America--like the other picture above--you will notice a significant difference. Perhaps the more fortunate child may be saavy about technical/financial/worldly matters, but the LESS fortunate child will have a certain "maturity" or "aged" demeanor about them that gets them through survival, which is all that they are capable of at the present. They most likely experience some huge events like losing their parents or siblings, to AIDS, WAR, or catastrophic events, or perhaps they are starving, or they are crippled due to poor health care....things like this are so serious, who can think about playing ball or tennis, or swimming in a sparkling clean pool?
In America, we are so fortunate to have the luxury of living first, then reflecting later as we become less able to work, or slow down on the good life, or have no more social excitement; whereas some people in less fortunate circumstances have no reflective opportunities because they are rather trying to survive, and nothing else matters, including their memories of yesterday....why, half the time, they don't WANT to remember yesterday...they are just trying to find some way or keeping alive...
So here was MY big step toward that great big mountain that lay before me. Only now, I am IN the road that winds inside the mountains, and beginning to get a glimpse of the valley after the mountain, and its sobering to say the least; its sobering because I have TIME to reflect, as never before.
I started out early on in my life, realizing that my journey was a difficult one, not only because of my father's death; that event of which magnified what I had already been partially aware.
I realized that I was the lead character in my own life's portrayal, and no one but me would be able to interpret the events I experienced, and I also would have to take the consequences of my choices, and explain to myself when I finally got over the mountain, why I did such and such, or how I became such a person after having been faced with these and those events, and so forth.
So we start making choices, not necessarily good choices, but our own choices, although we still are not always consciously aware that we ARE making choices.
It isn't like the choices loom in my mind like neon signs with arrows at both directions telling us what consequences this way, or that... but they immerse into our consciousness like a piece of paper in water that reveals the invisible ink that only the liquid could bring out--the liquid being that actual experience of the choice made.
So again: with each choice come consequences. I tried to walk that road that I could define as the road that I was taught to travel, but simultaneously, noticing that there were a lot of other roads going the same way, or curved or just stopped, and also I began to notice other people walking either beside me from afar, or traveling a slightly different angle than I.
What's a backtrack
Sometimes we do something in our lives we are so sorry for, we try and replicate the situation so that we can make a new decision, or try and figure out how it went wrong.
We really can't go back, you know... We try to go back sometimes, but the road is erased behind us; it lives only in our memories. This is the scary part: you can't go back again, you have to go forward--you can go sideways, or stop and think about it for a while, but eventually you WILL have to go on, or your road WILL begin to get fuzzy and eventually you won't be able to see it anymore. Even if you keep living....your journey will stop.
When the road stops it could mean a couple of things. You may have died and the journey's over. Or, it could mean you have lost your way and stopped moving forward; this is what happens when you end up drinking excessively, or try to turn back by acting the way you used to be and are no longer that child, or teen-ager, or young adult, but you want so bad to return that you stop moving forward.
I realize also, that the road can stop if we let someone else run our life, or walk our journey for us; that's a way of dying also, because we have given up being responsible for our own choices so we don't have to accept responsibility for the consequences, perhaps because we feel so bad about past ones that we are afraid to choose anymore. Our road stops because we are riding on someone else's choices, and they are taking us down another road. This is devastating to the person in denial of their own making, because they forget and lose sight of where their road stopped, or where it even is!
If you look back, look back ONLY to see if you can learn from it, then go forward, make better choices, or accept with dignity what you have made so far, and do better the next steps of your journey. And always remember someone else may be in a worse situation, but keep your heart and head properly together, go on and walk your journey, and finish with faith, hope and love....Even those who suffer much worse, do this well