Monday, September 5, 2011

A Reunion Reflection

A concert is coming up for two bands that I liked when I was younger and I am going with an old friend.  It makes me think of all the people in my life I have met along the way and who have helped to shape me into who I am.  It is a reunion of sorts and a definite way to reflect on who I was, who I will become and the future me.

When you are younger, you have many friends.  As you get older, your friends dwindle and you come out with only a few close ones, but they are close in a way you never thought you'd have closeness.  They are truly family.  All the people you met along the way, however, added to your life and were important to you at that moment in time.  They add to the backpack of your life, that sack you carry with you to put things in, things you have learned.  Sometimes you fill it with regret, hope, love and all of the lessons learned.  I tell my students this, everything they do and experience now, will make them who they will become.  The good and the bad, the crying moments and the laughing ones.  And, exploring your past will give you further insight into the person you are today and everything that lead up to this moment in time.

One of my favorite books by Robert Fulghum talks about reunions:
The high school reunion event is a powerful ritual occasion, whether you decide to go or not.  And the real reunion is not with other people so much as it is with yourself.  Daily, we reunite with self in the bathroom mirror.  The first high school reunion is an invitation to look into a larger mirror.

Some people never go to reunions or go just once.  Some regret going.  And there are those who attend every reunion occasion that comes up as long as they live.  Whatever you are inclined to do, I have formed a strong opinion out of my experience:  The odds are in favor that the re-view in the mirror will lead you to the kind of self-revelation we associate with wisdom.  Which is why I say you should go at least once.  Go and see who you were or else you will never fully understand who you are and who you yet may become.  The mirror always has something to tell you.
I went to my 10 year high school reunion and had a blast.  It was in 2006 and I was so nervous because all of my close friends are a year younger than me, but Ian and I went anyway.  We met up with some friends, had drinks and enjoyed the show - running into people I used to know and seeing how their lives have ended up so far.  I learned something very important about myself that night, something I would not have realized unless I had gone back.  I am so happy I went.  And it's funny, we think this is final, this 10 year reunion.  But at our 20th, it will be a different show with a different focus and the same at our 40th or 50th.  We will be different people with a fuller backpack and more life experience.  Isn't that funny?

  (November 2006, the night of my 10 year reunion.)

There are many kind of reunions, not just these big events.  This concert I'm going to will be a reunion of sorts and it makes me think of all of the people I have met in my life.  I truly believe that each and every one of them added to who I am today and that I took something valuable away from our relationship.  Sometimes relationships end amicably and sometimes they don't, and many times I reflect on this ending.  I even think that different parts of my life have gone a certain way because of the choices I've made, the karma I've created for myself.  But either way, I thank each and every one of them for being in my life at the time because I believe they added something important.  And I know this works both ways, I have taught them something about themselves also.  All of your life events, all of your experiences have shaped someone, and hopefully they have taken something good away from it.  This is a true test - everyone gets knocked down and it's how many times you can get back up that shows your strength.  Instead of focusing on the negative that comes from the past, focus on what you have learned.

I read a book once called Life After Life where it explored a bunch of people's near death experiences.  (It is an eye-opener and if you are into that I suggest you read it.)  Out of all the people studied many of them had common things happen to them as they were dying and one of them was a bunch of pictures of their life flashing before their eyes.  I know you've heard of this before but something in this book affected me - they weren't just pictures like you were watching a move of your life.  Instead, as everything was happening and as you were watching, you were feeling what was going on too.  So if it was a good moment you were feeling the feelings you felt at that time, the happiness and the joy.  But if it was a moment where you upset someone or hurt them, you would feel how it made them feel.  That's something to think about.  After reading that it really makes you think about how you treat others, or how you've treated people in the past.  The sadness and heartbreak, you will feel it just as they did.  Wow.  It makes you think about your future actions and how from this moment forward you can change that, you can do better.

As I turn 33 in a few weeks I feel so old.  But as I think about my life and how many years I have yet to work before retirement and all the things I still want to do, I realize that I am not even yet to the middle of my life - so really I am so young.  It's just amazing with a difference 20 to 30 is and I can't even imagine the difference from 30-40.  We think we know so much as we go through life, but then your mind opens up - bad things happen, really good things happen, life happens and then you realize you knew absolutely nothing.  And it's true, you wonder where all the time went and you start forgetting parts of your life.  Robert Fulghum reflects on this too while sitting on top of his purchased grave plot):
Sitting for an afternoon on his own grave, he has had one of the potent experiences when the large pattern of his life has been unexpectedly reviewed:  the past, birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage, career, the present, and the future.  He has confronted finitude - the limits of life.  The fact that his own death lies before him and beneath him - raising the questions of the when and the where and the how of it.  What shall he do with his life between now and then?

I tell you these things with such certainty because the man is me.  I speak of him in third person because I often think of him in third person.  He's the man in the bathroom mirror I see every day.  For as long as I can remember, I have gone to meet him each morning.  And I see him each night before I go to bed.  Sometimes I ask myself:  Who is he?  What will become of him?  This daily consideration of the reflection of the man in the mirror is the oldest ritual of my life.  A sacred habit.  

I recall when I was a kid going through puberty.  I anxiously checked to see if he was becoming taller, growing hair, and getting pimples.  I felt older than the kid in the mirror.  Now I notice he's going through middle age, and I worry when I see he is growing wider, losing hair, and getting wrinkles.  That man in the mirror is older than I am now.  While I've been thirty for many years, he'll be fifty-eight next June.

I see his white hair and beard, the lines in his face, the liver spots an scars on his hands, the sagging of his flesh.  And I wonder how far from making use of his gravesite he might be?  He certainly looks closer to death than I am.
Every single time I look in the mirror and see a gray hair or a wrinkle I think of this passage.  Who is this person standing in front of me, staring back at me?  What has she done in her life, what is she going to do?  Who will she become?  What events/people will shape her life even more in the future?

So, as this reunion comes I think of my past and am happy for it.  I have some regrets but have learned from all of my experiences - so there really is no room for regret.  The person that doesn't learn from their mistakes is someone without remorse, someone to worry about.  I thank all the people I have met along the way and realize that each one of them was so important to me at a certain time in my life.  I am sorry for heartache and heartbreak, but am happy that we learned something together about ourselves.  You added to my backpack and made me a better person, and the things I have learned along the way will make me an even better friend, wife, daughter, sister and mother.  I am looking forward to another reunion, a place where I can find out something else about myself, from my past.

I encourage you to revisit your past and use it as a time to reflect.  Look in that mirror and see if you like what you see.  See if you can do better, we can always do better. 

Update 9/11/10:
Went to the show and it was a blast!  Saw old friends, saw people I knew that I knew but didn't know their names, ran around with a good friend like it was 1999 and ended up with no voice by 12am.  So much fun!

(Pulled out the tape of one of my favorite bands, who were playing, from 1997-98 so I could listen to it in the car on the way over.  Yep, I still have a tape player!)

(Keep Away rockin it!)

(June and I)

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