Look Back to Move Forward
By EC Stilson
Over a decade ago . . .
Something drew me to the little fabric shop tucked away on Main Street. I trudged toward the door, gripped the handle, and paused. Why was I there?
“Belinda's" had become the most expensive fabric store in town—and their selection wasn't great—yet there I stood, with some stupid feeling that I needed to be there.
After going inside, and being blasted by the air conditioner, I sidled up to some watermelon-print fabric near the register.
I couldn't concentrate on that fabric though, too distracted from my dreams the night before.
“What's wrong?" the elderly lady at the register asked, pulling down her glasses and studying how I'd literally been petting the watermelon fabric.
“Oh!" I set the cotton down. "Just a long night." I sighed again and then shook my head—seriously what was I doing there?! I started to walk toward the exit, when the woman cleared her throat.
“I'm bored. And I love a good story. Would you mind telling me what's going on?"
That woman—who didn't know me AT ALL—pulled up two stools across from each other at the register and selflessly listened to how I’d been wondering if I should’ve made different choices in the past.
“Listen,” she finally said. “I'm eighty-five years old. And what you're going through is completely normal! Do you have time to hear my story?"
I nodded, pretty enthralled.
“My husband died five years ago. We were happily married for nearly fifty years, but like you, every time we had problems, I started thinking about—or even dreaming about—my old beau from high school."
“Even after fifty years?" I balked.
She looked down and nodded. "Yeah. So last year, I contacted my old beau. Things seemed great at first, but guess what happened? I ended up remembering why I broke up with him in high school. AND he'd never changed. We broke up for the same reason a lifetime later. We were still the same core people."
I felt utterly stunned.
“My point is: I spent all that time looking back on a man who wasn't worth my time. I remembered the good and forgot the bad, just to realize I broke up with him in the first place for a reason. All that time I wasted . . . wondering what if."
We hugged each other before I left. And that woman gave me a red sucker, even though I'm a grown woman and everything.
Anyway, years have passed, and I’ve been able to share this story with a lot of different people for various reasons.
If you're struggling, looking back to a possibly deluded past, I'd like to leave you with one quote:
The past is never where you think you left it.
-Katherine Anne Porter
There are so many things to be grateful for this holiday season. Plus, the happiest people seem to be those who are the most thankful.