I suppose that there is time for action and a time for reflection. Sometimes, it is to easy to confuse one with another. But, there is hardly mistaking a long and lonely evening (such as when I'm writing this) for an opportunity to reflect on things one might brush aside in the interest of everyday experience.
I'm sure that time travel is, at least as far as we can tell, not possible. It would be quite a mess if it were, but imagine what fun it would be.
Here's what I would redo if I knew the outcome, my "Time Traveler's To-Do List", as it were.
(This is assuming that one could only travel back within the scope of one's own life and experience. Otherwise, imagine me drinking with the Vikings, studying philosophy and math with the Greeks and Arabs, studying military strategy with Hannibal, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon, and taking music lessons from Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Puccini. Also, I would also spend some time trying to seduce Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, Rita Heyworth, and Marilyn Monroe. I mean, given the opportunity, you might as well...)
I would spend more time with my brothers as they grew up.
One of them, who used to be my best friend for many years, I no longer speak with. The relationship has hardened and we are no longer a part of each other's lives. However, I still love him as much as I always have and it breaks my heart every time I hear his name and in every strained silence at family gatherings. He is now happily married and is a father, which brings him so much joy that I believe he has found his life's purpose. I wish him nothing but the best, but also miss the bond that we once had.
My other brother, a passionate and fiery intellectual, is hell bent on escaping the state as soon as possible. I wonder if I will ever really talk to him or see him after he leaves. He's never exactly been good at communicating when not face to face. It's not on purpose, his mind is occupied elsewhere. I can understand. However, in my mind, there is no more valiant, loyal, and passionate soul then him in all the world. I am proud to be his brother and will always cheer him on or be there to hear him out if he needs to talk.
I miss what we all once had and will inevitably miss them more in the future. I wish I had spent more time with them up until now. We would have played more baseball, sword fought with more sticks, played with more G.I. Joe's, and spent more time together. In laughter or in silence, it would be worth it to live it all again.
I would spend more time with my parents.
Some of you reading this blog would know my parents. If you do, you know the warmth, the love, the music, the food, the humor, and the compassion that they fill the world with. To me, they are so much more than that.
What do you say about those who have loved you and been there your entire life? As a young child learning to speak? To read and write? To play sports? To play music? To sing? How does one classify that? The word "parent" definitely does not seem to cut it. I'll say this instead: Literally every major event in my life has involved them in some way and I can't imagine a life without them.
In 2013, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a double mastectomy and rounds of chemo therapy. I saw the change in her body, in her energy, and have seen tiredness set in, like the leaves turning in fall. While she bravely made it through the forest and is in the latter stages of her treatment, the effects remain. I take every opportunity to tell her that I love her and to express my gratitude for who is she to the world and who is she is to mine and my family's lives. I want her to know as many times as possible and as much as possible what she has meant to us.
My father is the best man I know. His honesty, his compassion, his love for those around him is my model for how a man should love and I still choose it consciously. I remember so many things with him, from fishing as a young boy, to camping, singing, emergency room trips in the middle of the night, playing catch, being read to, and learning to play guitar. He has always...and I mean always been there when someone he loves needs something.
One of the most profoundly moving things I ever experienced was him taking care of my mother during her cancer treatment. I have never seen someone give so much love through the little acts of service and support as he did. It provided such a strong example of what a real man does for those he loves that it's intimidating. I hope to, if ever faced with such a challenge, to be able to face it with as much compassion. love, and patience as he did and still does.
I would be easier on those I loved
Relationships are tricky. Especially as you are learning not only to love, but to receive it in return. (I'm still just starting to learn these things even now.) I have had tender hearts entrusted to me in the past and I have failed them all at one time or another.
If I could go back and do it all again, while knowing what I know now, I would keep the good parts and gently slip past the bad. Heartbreak happens to us all, but sometimes, it's much more harsh than it needs be. I'd say "sorry" more. I'd say "you are beautiful" more. I'd compliment more, especially in the presence of others. I would endeavor to allow each of my past loves feel adored and valuable as much as possible. Because they all were. (Still are.)
I would listen better and be present, instead of always on the way to somewhere else, whether physically or mentally. I would take the time to notice the small things that make it all so beautiful and forget the things that muddy the memories. Things would end, as they have to, but I would try to never let things sink into negativity or anger.
I would end the bad relationships faster
Staying in bad relationships has cost me. It cost me my trust, my joy, my health, my money, my spirit, my friends, my heart, and my will to live at various times in my life. If I could go back, I would end them quickly, before it picked up momentum and became harder and harder to stop. There were always warning signs, I always just chose not to heed them.
I would end them gracefully and find the joy in the short experience.
I would say "Fuck It, Let's Do It" more often
What would I give to be able to go back at take all the opportunities that I didn't take in the past? Not for any grand scheme for world domination, but rather for a chance to experience all the excitement and eccentricities of life. Some of my big regrets have been the chances I haven't taken. If I could, I would say "Yes" as much as possible.
I would never break my personal integrity under any circumstances
I am ashamed to admit that I have in the past. Given a second shot, this is one of the biggest things that would be on my mind. Complete integrity and congruence.
I would never accept anyone's attempts to control me
You know it is. When you are young and inexperienced, you fall for all kinds of traps. The traps work, because they are designed to. Bosses, girlfriends, teachers, mentors, colleagues, all seem to want control and power over you. So, they try to pull you into their game.
If I could return to those moments, I have politely shown myself the door and left.
I belong to no one.
I would stop ever trying to control anybody else
Some of the things I regret most in my life is the times I suddenly found myself manipulating someone else. It was never a conscious decision, but it's so easy to slip into. As I see it now, this has always been from a mentality of scarcity. I have no need to control others against their will. (Now, controlling others with their consent is a totally different conversation!)
I would start eating well sooner
The side effects of a bad diet are horrendous. I've lived them and seen what they turn into as one gets older. Once I changed how I approached eating, I finally started understanding what a difference it can make. I think I would like to have started that sooner.
I would start exercising and practicing yoga sooner
It took me years to settled into a fair regular health regimen. Now, it is vital to my life. But I only started after I noticed injuries starting to occur. If I could go back, I would add these elements to my life early on and make them life long habits.
I would meditate sooner (and more often)
Almost all of the internal progress I have made in my mental and emotional life has been through the practice of meditation. Understanding how to let my thoughts pass by, how to watch them, how disassociate and quiet your mind and has been of profound value for me and I can only imagine what this practice would bring me if I were able to introduce it to the "younger and stupider" Michael in the past.
I would stop comparing myself or trying to impress others
What a waste of time and energy that was!
I would notice things more (and be grateful for them)
I would make an effort to notice the quality of the sunlight during different parts of the day. The different expressions and moods of the people around me. The music I hear playing throughout the day. I would make a point of watching every single detail as an integral part of the unfolding tapestry of existence. Then, with those details in my mind, I would give thanks.
To me gratitude exists in a world separate from fear. The two can't really seem to exist in the same place, can they? When I feel deeply and truly grateful, I feel stronger and more powerful. Yet, at the same time, I feel more vulnerable. Perhaps that vulnerability is strength.
I would try to be more vulnerable
I have this "thing" that I do. I somehow make myself "better" than situations in my head, so as to not recognize that I might have something to lose. This is entirely based on a deep seated fear that I am not, at my core, worthy of anyone's real love. That it's always sunshine and rainbows until people meet the real "me".
To be honest, being one of the weird, creative ones on the planet hasn't helped this case much. I'm intense, very hard on myself, ambitious, creative, passionate, loving, confrontational, calm, and entirely emotional. I can't be someone else if I tried. (Trust me. It's been attempted.)
If it was possible, I should think I would like to try and be a bit more vulnerable. I think it would have led to a bit more heartbreak, but also many more magical experiences of connection and love.
I would give more of myself to every day
At the end of our lives, I like to think that we can look back and see the wildly intricate and varied journey we have lived. That we can see the people that we've touched and the ways we have made a difference.
If I could travel back and do it all again, I would like to think that I would try to everything more. With more passion. With more tenderness. With more creativity. With more charity.
If I could go back, I would do the things I've only really learned are important because of losing something. I've always tried to do by best in life and have failed so many times. But, I've also succeeded, as well. There is something undefinable and comic about trying to define a life. It's like a wide truth..you only see the angle you are seeing at the moment. Give it ten minutes, it will change. Does that mean the life is different? Or just different than you might have thought?
Time travel isn't possible. But living today is. Living the way I wish I had always lived is possible at this moment. So, I will endeavor to spend more time with those I love, exercise, eat better, keep my integrity, not own or be owned, throw my caution to wind and never worry about what someone else thinks, while I try to learn that I might just be worthy and valuable enough to accept real love into my life.
But, most of all, I think I just want to love more. A life spent doing that might not need time travel.
Tonight, I stood alone in the empty street. Snow and ice were all around me and, above my head, sat a sky full of stars. I drew my breath in deeply, letting the cold air fill up my lungs.
Then, I listened..
There, the silence was. The silence that was there before I opened my eyes on this world and the silence that will be there when I leave. And into my mind, like an old enemy, slipped the question.
The question that has reverberated in my head and heart of late is the cliched, but natural question:
Who am I?
Who is this whose earliest memories were of fishing with his father and being bathed in a kitchen sink? Who is this who remembers playing and imagining from the time before he had words enough to express it? Who is this who fought bullies in school, fist for fist, in defense of his friends?
Who is this that they said wouldn't survive? That they pulled apart and stitched back together, that they poisoned until the fast growing cells died first? Who is this that laid awake alone in hospital rooms as a child and felt the icy dark sense of surrender touching the soles of his feet?
Who is this that tried to play "normal", but who never could? Who met the scorn of many teachers and authority figures? Who is this who still lives that same reality?
Who is this who learned to sing from deep inside his heart, so that the hollow cry permanently lodged in his chest might escape on his breath from time to time?
Who is this who tried to love? Who lost it? Who still hides from it? Who is this who has broken hearts? Who regrets every moment of it?
Who is this who has lost brothers and regained new ones? Who still feels the pain daily of missing each one? Who has felt the depths of betrayal and sense of true loyalty? Who would, as always, fight to his last droplet of blood for those he loves?
Who is this who create all he could to help? Even if it was never received?
Who is this that believes that he will never know himself, only where he's going?
Who is this that will, no matter his work, pass into the unknown, a brief flicker on a spec of dust in the infinite?
Does it even matter "Who" this is?
Definitely not. And yet, absolutely yes. We are all in this story, not just myself, whatever "self" is. We are infinitely unimportant while completely and utterly important.
My story is still being written before it passes away forever. Until then, I just "am".