Don’t Look Back

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”

One of my favorite Dylan lines.

Another favorite: “I got nothing ma, to live up to.”

And John Prine said, “just give me something that I can hold on to. To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”

Sometimes it’s hard to get the wheels back on the rails but when you do, keep facing forward because you don’t know when the next wreck will happen. And when, not if, that wreck comes, be ready to roll fast.

We may think we’re in control but it is only an illusion. Understanding that we can’t control what happens to us can rock our carefully constructed world or it can break the chains and free us to become ourselves and realize that nobody is in control and “That it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to (thank you Bob Dylan).”

In the words of the great Satchel Paige, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”

Some people never get back on track and some people are so wounded, they never even try. Some people get so lost that they don’t know where to turn and they never find their way back. For me the wheels have fallen off the rails many times. I took much too long to get my life moving again, wasting time and years, with regrets and pity.

I know a man who had a successful career in law enforcement when he nearly died in a motorcycle accident. Recovery was unlikely and he was in a coma for three months. He came back and after months of tedious and painful, rehabilitation, he moved on to the next phase of his life, as a hunting guide, hardly missing a beat and with great success.

I know another man who reacted quite differently when faced with tragedy. He was an adult when his parents died in a car accident. The loss and sadness was too much for him to bare and he wandered in the desert for years, usually alone. He never found his way back home and after a while stopped even trying.

I reacted differently with my traumas and, like everyone, I’ve had a few.

I was emotionally wounded by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Aftershocks of fear came over me in waves and froze me in my tracks. I couldn’t fathom the reality or surrealism of an attack and feared it would happen again. I thought that type of attack only happened in other countries, far, far away. My bubble of false security in a logical world was blown apart and I was lost. It took me many months to recover only after I realized that the only way to heal was to move forward.

The COVID 19 pandemic is another world-changing moment for many people. It has literally locked people into their homes, where they are forced to stare into their past and to consider their future. I have not felt lost. Rather it has been a time of clarity as the specter of the deadly virus forced me to see that every moment that ticks by is a moment closer to the end. And I realized I have a lot of things to do now and to say now and that life is about being repeatedly born again (not in the religious sense).

There has to be a resolve to push ahead in the face of danger or tragedy. The worst regret is to end living with too many wasted years. Getting past regret can be the hardest thing to do. Don’t cry for long and wasted years or wasted loves. Everything is cracked, nothing is perfect but the cracks are where they light gets in, if you let it in. (Thank you Leonard Cohen).

Here’s “Anthem,” Cohen’s message about finding light in the darkness:

“The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I seem to hear them say

Do not dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack

A crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs

and the signs were sent:

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

of every single government

signs for all to see

I can’t run no more

with that lawless crowd

Ah but they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up

a thundercloud

and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack

A crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts

but you won’t have the sum

You can strike up the march

on your little broken drum

Every heart, every heart

to love will come

but like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

That’s how the light gets in

That’s how the light gets in.”

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