In one of my favorite novels, Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter, the title character bemoans a hypothetical novelist’s “clanking, obligatory trip into the Davy Jones’ locker of the past.” What’s done is done, right?
And yet, many of us find ourselves digging in the dirt on a regular basis. How we looked ten years ago. When we wore that dress. The way that big squat felt. The sub seven minute mile. Way back when, we were gold Ponyboy. Silver and gold.
The thing is, we’re alive now. In this very moment. Nothing will ever be the way it is right now, this second. Nothing, and then never again, and then never again. What we have now is a choice. We can see the past as a series of mountaintops, summits we’ve decamped for the gathering insults of a life we keep living.
Or we can look at those peaks and call them by another name: Steps. They can be moments in time, spots where we stood for a while, maybe even happily. But then we kept moving, so that we could get to where we are now. And now is all we ever have.
I look at the picture on my coach’s page, which was taken two years ago. Back then, I was probably wishing my beard hadn’t gone grey or that I didn’t close my eyes so much when I smile. Now? Today I look back and say, you know that was a pretty good picture–I probably look ten years older and twenty pounds heavier now. We romanticize the steps and turn them into peaks. And when we do that, nothing right now is ever quite good enough.
But when I go home later and I kiss my sons goodnight, they won’t look at me and wish they could be snuggled up with a picture of me from 2004. They’ll see their dad sitting right next to them. That’s who they see every morning and night–who I am now.
I bet the people in your life would say the same of you. Honor that. Who you are already is so very sufficient in so many different ways. Make sure to remember that.
Steps, not peaks.