I woke up thinking the day would be okay. I had no urgent emails, and from bed, I posted a photo to Instagram - part of my morning ritual. I then made it to the bathroom where I spent too much time peeing because my friend posted an interesting article on Facebook.
The night before I had PB&J, which seemed fitting for Hump Day Eve. Basically, a concessionary meal that we're almost halfway through the week; no need to exert energy that I'll need to get through tomorrow. I dipped my sandwich in milk that I poured into a glass tumbler. I hung the tumbler on the drying rack afterward, because the dishwasher was running.
Cue me walking into the kitchen at 7 AM. Oh, let me put this up. For some reason the tumbler wouldn't come off, so I tugged, it slipped and made its 8-inch descent into the sink where it ended its life at 7:02 AM.
I stared at the glass shards. How did that happen?
Okay, not much I can do about it now, so I wipe up the glass and toss it in the trashcan (in a sealed bag, Mom). I then proceed to make breakfast and pack lunch.
Lunch packed, bag packed, I'm ready to leave. But wait, I need my headphones. My current pair of headphones gave out the day before, so I go for the pair I got in my Christmas stocking, still in their packaging.
Therein lay a problem. It was a technology device in packaging aka impossible to open. I could not find a single opening to Trojan horse my way in. Out come the scissors. Stab stab. Cut cut.
I did consider I might snip something, but I looked through the plastic and saw nothing in the way. Also, what other option was there? Drive to the store and ask the clerk to extract my headphones? Walk to work listening to the birds? I am not Snow White.
I was most afraid of impaling myself. Thankfully, that didn't happen. I explode through the package finally, and you guessed it - I had cut the headphone's cord right in a half.
I was too sleep deprived to muster anything more than a grunt of despair. (I imagine in the sitcom of my life, the camera panned to the empty hallway where my groan echoed.) Nooooooo. My Christmas gift ruined! And now I had to buy another set, which isn't just money; it meant running errands that weekend. And it was all my fault.
If only I could go back thirty seconds, I could avoid this calamity. But we can't go back in time. I think that was the most disconcerting part of my Wednesday morning: The reminder that no matter how bad we want it, how hard we pray, or how much we imagine to the contrary, what is done is done. Time moves only forward; it stops for no mortal. You can only deal with its aftermath.
Of course, this isn't some new revelation; but today it felt acute. How often do I do something and think, if I could just go back five seconds? I wouldn't try to make that turn with my car and scrape the brick wall (that's never happened…). I wouldn't walk on black ice. I would tell someone how much they meant to me that night and not two weeks later when too much time has gone by. I wouldn’t cut my headphones in half.
Alas, you can't erase what you did or said. You can't pick up where you left off. You can't choose a different path.
What can you do?
Well, you can put the scissors down for one.
As long as you dwell on what you can’t change, the unsavory present is only going to linger into the future. That’s not helping anyone, least of all yourself. Sulking has never been a productive pastime, so stop it.
Dwelling sort of goes with stressing. How many times do people say, “I have so much to do” or “I can’t get over him/her” (the latter sobbed over cocktails)? Well, congratulations; you’ve recognized the issue. But if you have so much to do, then how do you do have time to dwell on it? There’s not a moment to waste.
And you can’t get over them, you say? Well, duh, if you’re going to dwell on it.
While you don’t have to dwell, you should seek wisdom in the madness. You know the adage, “Learn from your mistakes"? As basic as it sounds, it is as basic as it sounds. Remember what happened so you can avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Don’t send emails so fast – or maybe use the Gmail function where you have 30 seconds to un-send. Don’t paint the entire bathroom wall to see if you like the color only to recoil, “What color is this – regurgitated baby food?!?!” (My mom did this.) Avoid being drunk around exes. Avoid being drunk around your phone that has your ex’s number. Avoid having exes. Etc. etc. (Most of these lessons you should already know, but humans have never been heralded for being rational.)
This is different from dwelling. This is being constructive. Find the takeaway, take it, and …
Yeah, you can pause to think about your next step, but you can also think about it while you resume life’s hurtling pace. And if you miss the next metaphorical train because you’re ~thinking about the next step~, then you are dwelling. Stop that!
You’re not going back in time (need we revisit high school physics class?). The longer you pause, the more life you waste. Even if you have to find something to distract you, do it. Just quit hanging onto hope – because more than likely it’s false. They’re not going to call you. The scratch isn’t going to come out of your car. The tumbler is broken. You are going to need to repaint that bathroom wall (but, really, what were you thinking on that one, Mom?).
This is different than going back. While you can’t revert to where you once were in time – when you were a happy couple, when you had headphones that were in one piece, before you ate the entire pizza by yourself – you can work toward those goals again.
You can rekindle romance – or, better yet, find it with someone new. (Be rational, you irrational human.) You can buy new headphones. You can go running tomorrow.
The point here is, be proactive.
Of course, here is the caveat: Not every scenario offers a chance to rebuild. Sometimes you have to move on and there is no revisiting old goals. What was there will never be there again. The pieces are no longer in stock.
And stop wishing it was so, because that’s dwelling. (Have you got the message yet?) Here’s your first and only pass from me to go back in time: By that, I mean go back to the first point in this post. Stop Dwelling.
If there’s one thing to embrace about time, it is that it goes forward. And with it, life goes forward. Nothing is stagnant. Even the motionless collect dust.
As long as you’re living – that is, experiencing the day-to-day, connecting with people, enjoying things like music, sunlight, and coffee – you will find reasons to stop dwelling and move on. Life’s a fantastical gift. You just need to remember not to get stuck on some happen-chance thing like shattered glasses or shredded headphones.
(Though I still don’t know how I would have opened those headphones differently.)