Looking Back

21 Jun 2023

I recently met up with some friends at a party; friends I hadn’t seen for twenty-three years. “You haven’t changed a bit!” we all cried, and, of course, it was true. 

And, of course, it wasn’t true. Each of us is twenty-three years older and we look it. If we could see ourselves all those years ago, we would say, “Didn’t we look young!” And – if our younger selves could look forward, they might say, “Don’t you look old!” On the other hand, they might be too polite to mention it.

A lot has happened in those twenty-three years. For two of us, we have had children who have grown into their late teens and early twenties. Our other friend is now a grandmother. And, yes, I did dutifully admire photographs of her engaging and very cute grandson.

Something older people seem to do is compare aches and pains and diseases. It’s natural I should do right now, since my health has been the principal factor in my life for the past eleven months, but it’s something nearly all people of middle age and older seem to do.

We never seem to get older in ourselves, but our bodies start to let us down, like old cars that spend more time in the garage than on the road.

It’s sometimes tempting to look back to the time when our bodies were young and lithe and when some of us looked good in a red sparkly dress, as one of our fellow guests did at the party. The irony is, for most of us, we never had the confidence to wear a red sparkly dress – or at least, I never did. I now have the confidence, but no longer have the figure – and feel it wouldn’t be appropriate anyway. I still wear red but forgo the sparkles on anything other than my shoes. I believe the right to sparkly shoes is unalienable and eternal.

To look back, however, takes energy that would be better spent on looking forward and concentrating on the now. Nearly all of us have a forward to look to, even if it’s a lot shorter than it used to be. We all have a now. 

You may not believe that each of us has a purpose in life, but surely you would agree it’s better to use our time now in pursuit of further wisdom and happiness.

If we look back, we can see a succession of triumphs and disasters: times we made the right decisions and times we made mistakes. Somehow, it’s always the mistakes we dwell on, and the memory makes us wince.

That’s why I say don’t look back, unless it’s to learn – and those lessons we should have learnt at the time; there is no point in self-flagellation now.

So, I urge us all to look forward; to learn new lessons, make new mistakes and take better decisions. Hopefully, we will gain further wisdom.

Does wisdom bring happiness? I don’t know – but it certainly doesn’t look back and waste time on negative emotions.


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