Things I meant to say – Introduction

Of all the rash and midnight promises made in the name of love, none is more certain to be broken than “I’ll never leave you.”  What time doesn’t steal from under our noses, circumstance will.  It’s useless to hope otherwise, useless to dream that the world somehow means us good.  Everything of value, everything we cling to for our sanity, will rot or be snatched in the long run, and the abyss will gape beneath us, and suddenly, without so much as a breath of explanation, we will be gone.  Professions of love and all…[1]

A common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) in bloom (20080114_01294_ab)

Flowers are temporary, impermanence manifest in things destined to fulfill a single mission in life before vanishing into history’s ethereal grasp.  Most would say we appreciate them because of their beauty.  I disagree.  We appreciate them because we can never truly possess them, much like we can never truly possess the air we breathe.  Cut a flower from its mother plant and it withers and dies; leave it on its stem and it becomes pollinated and transforms into something else entirely.  It is ours only to appreciate for moments, always fated to disappear before our eyes, never to be ours for more than a season.

People and our relationships with them, like flowers, are temporary things, dark specters that flit through our lives before departing.  Why?  I’ve said before that “[e]verything is made to be broken,” that in this “universe that shelters us, nothing is eternal.”  We do not live forever.  People come and go.  Relationships change.  And our unfortunate tendency to always look to what we do not have, to always want what is not already in our possession, means we too often leave a wake of regrets in our personal lives.

What do we regret?  Opportunities squandered?  Assumptions about having time?  Taking for granted those things which should matter?  All these and more.

Regrets are cancerous, ghoulish demons that live forever in the shadows of our memory, tormenting our souls with what could have been.  We cannot go back in time and correct them.  We cannot undo what has been done.  We cannot take back words once said and we cannot say words after their bill is past due.

Regrets are manifestations of too late.  We were too late to say what needed to be said.  We were too late to offer what needed to be offered.  We were too late to realize we had taken the wrong path.  We were too late to act.

Regrets haunt the living with those two most painful words: what if.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.[2]

A common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seed head (20080114_01287_ab)

In my memorial entry about Derek, Scott made a good point: “I hope you told him these things when he was with you, too, because it sounds as if they were well deserved. It would be a shame if only we–and not he-–knew how deeply you felt for him.”  And though Derek knew precisely how I felt about him, the point hit me on a larger scale: what has gone unsaid?

My dear and beloved Annie is going through a worrying time with Jacques.  It has become clear he might not make a full recovery this time, might not have the time left that so many wish for him.  Through the ups and downs, the will he or won’t he, I keep pondering what regrets she might feel were he not to make it through this battle.  Are there things she meant to say?

I have kept an offline journal for more than 30 years.  In it I have spilled both the mundane and the profound.  Very few of its handwritten scribblings[3] have ever seen the light of day, and perhaps that will always be the case.  But recent events have begged of me the unending stream of “what if…” questions.

So I am opening the pages of my personal thoughts in order to share here a new recurring series called “Things I meant to say”[4].  It will cover areas that heretofore remained sacred territory betwixt me and those for whom these words were penned.

Some of those involved have long since passed away; some have left my life and moved on with their own; and some are as close to me now as they have ever been.  As a matter of decency, allow me in advance to apologize to those who may find themselves caught in this torrent of truth.  I will make every attempt to manage revelations in the same manner with which I handle all personal disclosure on this site: through obfuscation.

A plains sunflower (a.k.a. petioled sunflower or prairie sunflower; Helianthus petiolaris) facing the sunrise (20080726_09939_ab)

This is how we go on: one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time.  Dentists go on one root-canal at a time; boat-builders go on one hull at a time.  If you write books, you go on one page at a time.  We turn from all we know and all we fear.  We study catalogues, watch football games, choose Sprint over AT&T.  We count the birds in the sky and will not turn from the window when we hear the footsteps behind us as something comes up the hall; we say yes, I agree that clouds often look like other things—fish and unicorns and men on horseback—but they really are only clouds.  Even when the lightning flashes inside them we say they are only clouds and turn our attention to the next meal, the next pain, the next breath, the next page.  This is how we go on.[5]

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Paraphrased from Cabal by Clive Barker

[2] From a syndicated column by Sydney J. Harris in the January 8, 1951, edition of the Daily Courier of Waterloo, Iowa

[3] I could easily type my offline journal in some electronic notebook without making it available online.  I could still call it an “offline journal” and I could still keep it private.  But I’ve never given up the profound joy and mental stimulation that comes from putting pen to paper, from holding a writing implement in my hand and letting it channel my thoughts.  I believe the act of writing serves as an exercise for the mind that is lost in front of a keyboard.

[4] This is the first of at least a few recurring blog post themes that will come directly from my offline journal.  As I’ve reviewed that hefty collection these past months, I’ve realized there’s some worth in sharing bits and pieces here.

[5] From Bag of Bones by Stephen King

2 thoughts on “Things I meant to say – Introduction”

  1. I was surprised and touched to be in this post, especially since my offline friends have grown fatigued now that the situation has turned from crisis to chronic, and have vanished back into their lives to recover from the extraordinary and exhausting effort they made to support me/us. I expected this and was prepared for it, and they deserve a rest. Also, they are depressed that their heroic efforts couldn’t bring J back from his deepening withdrawal. It’s still lonely.

    What I regret is leaving J in the hospice facility for 4 nights while I went to visit family, instead of leaving him at home with a good round-the-clock caregiver as I always did before. I couldn’t afford it this time, having lost my job early this year. I suspect the stress of being in the facility, where they really weren’t prepared to handle someone his size — he got a pressure sore in 4 nights that he never got in 4 years — triggered the shingles that have probably been the beginning of the end for him.

  2. Jason, very beautiful post, and read with one breath almost. I like what you said about the flowers: ‘I disagree. We appreciate them because we can never truly possess them, much like we can never truly possess the air we breathe.’ – very well said. BTW photography is stunning. Anna 🙂

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