Q: Susie, I am in a committed relationship that I feel is a positive one. Lately though, I’ve been having fantasies about a man (boy) I knew in high school. I have thought little or nothing about this man for several decades until recently and it has me baffled. In my fantasy, I go back in time and date him. When we were teenagers, he liked me, but I rejected him and I really regret my actions back then. I don’t fantasize about leaving my partner now or anything like that, but it’s almost like I want to rewrite the past. I’ve tried to journal about this, but this intense preoccupation (that seemed to come out of left field) with this man is very confusing to me and I was hoping you could shed some light on it. Thank you.
A: Time is so linear, isn’t it? It’s like everything is laid out in a neat line—that was 10 years ago, that was one year ago, that was one month ago, this is happening now, and this all might happen at some point in the future. We stand here, in the present, and look behind us, remembering fondly or cringing. We look forward with anticipation or fear of the unknown, and it’s all this big “thing.” I think we’ve got it all messed up.
First off, I don’t think there’s really such a thing as linear time. I think it was constructed by us humans to help us make sense out of things and to get to the dentist on time. Other than that, it really doesn’t serve any purpose. The birds don’t need linear time to get by, the rocks and flowers certainly don’t need it, nor do clouds or hamsters. Yeah, but we’re “special.” We sure are, and look what that desire to be unique and figure the world out has gotten us: a whole lotta hurt.
I’m seeing you as a very serious person. You take your responsibilities seriously, and always strive to do the right thing and a good job. Heaven forbid if you think you’ve messed up on something because you’re probably going to beat yourself up something fierce.
Regarding this man boy, it doesn’t look like your current issues are really about him at all. Yup, you guessed it: I think it’s all about you (and why shouldn’t it all be about you?) and some current stresses you’re under. It looks like you’re coming to a fork in the road, making some major life changes, and you’re stressed about it because you want to make sure you make the “right” decision. But in this case, both choices could be the “best,” and it’s more a matter of what you want to do. It’s not “one or the other” but “what do I choose?” Does that make sense?
So, in the case of these two men in your life (your boyfriend from the past and your current steady), it is like that fork I see. It’s not that your steady was the wrong choice (or vice versa); it’s just that you made a choice between two good things. What if there were no wrong answers, only different decisions made at different times? What if the lines between right and wrong are drawn by you? What if there’s no one out there that has all the right answers? What if you get to decide what’s right for you? If you were to believe all of those questions I just posed, you may feel more at peace with your life choices.
You say you want to “rewrite the past,” but then if any single one thing changed about your past, you wouldn’t be exactly where you are today, and from all that I know, we are always exactly where we need to be in every moment. There is no such thing as chance. Even if we think we’re making a bad move, there always seems to be some important reasons why we did what we did.
You can’t see what might’ve happened if you’d ended up with boyfriend number one. Maybe he’s an abusive bullrider who lives out of his suitcase. And what about that job you keep beating yourself up for not taking? How do you know the business didn’t go belly up the next year, a reality that would’ve left you totally jobless?
I liken it to driving down the road. You see a sign that tells you there’s a detour up ahead. “I’m not going out of my way,” you say, “I want to get there faster. I’m going to keep going straight. Nobody can tell me what to do.”
So you ignore the signs and drive on. Now the road’s broken up, they’re working on building a bridge, and you’ve blown all of your tires. Smooth move. You should’ve listened. Somebody knew what was coming up, and they tried to warn you. Even if you had to go out of your way, go a different route than you’d intended, there was a very good reason for the change. Trust that.
There’s a reason you didn’t choose your first boyfriend. You may or may not consciously know (or remember) why. It doesn’t matter. You took the other fork in the road, and here you are today. Think of these feelings as a way of reminding you that you make hundreds of choices daily, but that doesn’t have to mean one is right and the other is wrong. You’re just making choices.
By alleviating the good/bad energy, you are now free to move into the what-if territory, which looks more like “what if I take this new job?” Sit with the what-if, tune in to how you’re feeling. Yucky? You may want to rethink the new job thing. Happy? This may be the right decision … for you. You are unique, you are one-of-a-kind. Nobody else can make your decisions for you, because nobody else is you.
Take control of your life and your power, and really feel good about who you are and what you do. You now get to take responsibility for all of the things that happen to you because you’re in charge. Is that an issue for you? Feeling like you may not be in charge of your life? Breathe deeply, and see if can’t feel that rightness in your decision made so long ago. It isn’t about that high school crush at all. It’s about believing in yourself. I believe in you. Now it’s your turn.
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