Where the past can explain nothing

“All we really want is to get to the point where the past can explain nothing about us and we can get on with life.”
Richard Ford; The Sportswriter – Bloomsbury, 1986, p.21

I was drawn to this book by the blurb on the cover which told me it was about a bloke who was entering his own midlife journey and I have found much to like about the way it is written and some parallels with my own.

The sentence I quote above struck a particular chord with me because since I stumbled unknowingly onto this path I have spent a great deal of time pondering the long distant past. There are many events that lead us to where we are now and in the natural evaluation that comes with a midlife episode we spend a lot of time pondering the wotifs.

For me there are many that are a direct consequence of childhood – wotif my Dad didn’t drink to excess, wotif he had not had an affair, wotif Uncle Arthur didn’t die as a comparatively young man, wotif Dad had not had to work two jobs or if agoraphobia had not set in? Wotif I hadn’t joined the police force, or if I didn’t leave the police force when I did? Wotif the business I bought into had not failed? I could go on forever and of course the answers are moot anyway because all of these things did happen and all of them have made me what I am today.

I am not an angel. I am doing my best to put regrets behind me and not to dwell too much on things I can no longer change. Easier said than done.

I was told a couple of years ago that I appeared to be depressed and that I should see someone about it – I did and the diagnosis was that I wasn’t, which I already knew anyway. What I did find, however, was that there was much about my life with which I was dissatisfied and in being unhappy I was withdrawing and making those around me unhappy as well. I regret that but again I cannot change it.

It is very hard to forgive yourself for so many things when you spend so much time dwelling on the past, so like Frank Bascombe, the sportswriter, I look forward to the time when the past will reveal no more.



  1. Finn said,

    July 27, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Two good things about the past:

    1. It’s over.
    2. It made you who you are today. For that you should be thankful. Life is a process…


  2. Cynthia said,

    July 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    I love this entry. Getting over the past and forgiving myself are the two of the hardest things I have to do in this life. Thanks.

  3. The Angry Barcode said,

    July 27, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    When it comes to regret, I usually do one of two things. First, I try to let it go. If that doesn’t work, I sit down and I force myself to conjure up all of the doubt, fear, hurt and pain. I push it as far as it can go and let it rip through me. I cry and curse. I do this until it passes, or I pass out. It’s not punishment, it’s catharsis. Once it’s over I write about it.

    If you saw the process you’d swear it wasn’t healthy, but I think it’s sad how so many people push their feelings away. I’m not talking about people with a valid case of not being able to control their emotions, but the people who just pretend they can swallow it down without a nasty case of acid reflux.

    To me, A relatively brief moment of indulgent distress is worth a lifetime of discomfort. It’s very brave of you to be honest with yourself. To accept that you’ve done bad things and bad things have been done to you, but to keep trying to move forward is admirable.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. HollyGL said,

    July 27, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Loz, This reminds me of something I heard a long time ago about a sort of “therapy” where you re-create your past – mostly childhood years – in your mind. Stay with me here… You imagine that your life had been the way you wish now it would have been.

    I know it just seems like its diving into denial… but I feel like there is something to it, though I can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe a modified version of it would actually be possible. Maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep last night! 🙂

    Anyway, like they say, your life is right now. The past is what it is. Your future is yours to create. Hmmm, looking into my crystal ball, I see a bright future ahead for you, Mr. Joyce. 😉

  5. Jeff said,

    July 27, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    We will never get to that point where the past can explain nothing. Even though we point to our faults or our struggles and trace the footsteps back through our lives to find the root of those troubles, we tend to forget the other side of it. We can also trace them back for our successes and learn from them also. My wish for you is that you find that place where your past no longer explains your troubles and have THAT MOMENT in time to point to your successes as your tracks lead into the future. That way you can look back to THAT MOMENT and discover the joy of your past.

    Was that as hard to follow to you as it was in my mind as I was typing?

  6. paisley said,

    July 27, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    there was a time before the past haunted me,, and it was the same past… so i can only ascertain from that that there will indeed be a time it is no longer a source of desperate longing… i hope so… for both of us….

  7. Pen and the Sword said,

    July 27, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I think we all think like this often, Loz. I often wonder things, too, but the path never leads me to hubby and the boys so I have come to terms that though my dreams were good ones they would have ultimately been bad paths to travel down.

    You definitely have a healthy outlook on life and the paths you have chosen as well. But it never hurts to look back and wonder.

  8. Loz said,

    July 27, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Folks – you know I read back on some of what I write at times and it looks like I’ve had a lousy life. That’s not true but maybe that’s one of the major issues for me too. Why should someone who has been happy get to the stage where they’ve also been miserable?

  9. Dave J said,

    July 28, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Difficult prospect. How can we ever separate ourselves from our past, when it represents the sum total of who we are? Even what we want in the future, our dreams and aspirations, are shaped by the past.

    I was told once that if I had issues with anything in my past, i.e. such that I was having lots of nightmares related to, or depression/negativity… that I should confront those people or things. Unfortunately that did not help much.

    Then again, there are those who are capable of happiness regardless of circumstance. Not too terribly long ago I watched a video related to this, and in it, a fellow who had been wrongfully convicted of a crime was sentenced to prison where he sat for thirteen years knowing he was innocent. Once released he stated he had no regrets, and described the experience as having been “glorious” and that if he could go back he “wouldn’t change a thing.”

  10. Loz said,

    July 28, 2007 at 12:41 am

    He sounds like a brave man Dave but I guess that is all about not being able to change the past

  11. Blur Ting said,

    July 28, 2007 at 12:55 am

    I always think it’s best to look back at your past just so that you can learn and not repeat the same mistakes in future, or that you know how to deal with a situation better in future.

    But don’t beat yourself up about how things were cos you can’t change the past.

  12. Josie Two Shoes said,

    July 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    “It is very hard to forgive yourself for so many things when you spend so much time dwelling on the past, so like Frank Bascombe, the sportswriter, I look forward to the time when the past will reveal no more.”

    I sure can relate to that thought, Loz! When our lives go thru dramatic changes we do end up reflecting and analyzing and of course with that comes some regretting – lots of whatifs and ifonlys. But I think there does come a time when you have to stuff those boxes back up in the attic and say “it is what it is” and move on. We can’t undo it, we can try harder with those we love. I look forward to getting past this year, all of the legal hassles, and adjustments, and being able to focus entirely on moving forward!

  13. Bernie said,

    July 29, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Getting past the past is quite the challenge, isn’t it?

    I’m on a midlife journey of my own, so I enjoy reading other people’s perspectives in aging. Nice to know we’re not alone.

    Great stuff. See you again.

  14. JaniceNW said,

    July 29, 2007 at 4:45 am

    Loz~I find forgiving mistakes I made isn’t that hard for me. The past I have trouble letting go of is what has happened that was beyond my control. My third son dying at age 10 months of an always fatal, very rare (one in 27 million that two carriers will get together. If they do risk is 1 in 4. No tests to determine carriership.)genetic disease. My oldest son being bipolar 2 and his quitting high school before he would graduate. My youngest son died over 11 years ago. I still have some bad days. Maybe some past events are meant to stay in one’s life.

  15. Loz said,

    July 30, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Blur – not beating yourself up over things is one of the hardest lessons to learn

    Josie – me too!

    Bernie – thanks for dropping by, for me there has been a lot of pluses in reading other peoples stories too.

    Janice – I cannot pretend to know the pain of losing a child and the last thing I would want in that position would be to forget everything.

  16. jazzygal said,

    January 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    At least you followed through on the advice to see someone, even though you knew you weren't depressed. That action led you to the realisation of why you were unhappy and how that impacted on others around you. Which in turn gave you an chance to turn things around.Wotif you hadn't followed through on that suggestion ;-)Well done you :-)xx Jazzy…returning via Blog gems

  17. Lavender Luz said,

    January 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I can't stop looking at the fractal :-).It's well-timed that I'm reading this post now. A family member was just diagnosed with lung cancer (nonsmoker). I keep wanting to retrace her steps to see where the cause and effect was. It's pointless, of course, because it can't be changed, but that doesn't stop my mind from going there.Good choice for BlogGems, Loz!Lozza 😉

  18. Loz said,

    January 6, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Hi Jazzy – so man wotifs and we can't do anything about them

  19. Loz said,

    January 6, 2011 at 4:29 am

    Hi Lozza – firstly I'm impressed you recognise a fractal – that one is one of mine, just wish I could remember how I did it.

  20. January 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I don't often do the wotif thing, mostly because I can never come up with satisfactory answers or maybe because I am just afraid to? So much we can't change but I do see the value of understanding it and recognizing the impact is has made on who we are today. Thanks for joining in Blog Gems. Jen

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