Life Comes Full Circle: facing the past with the knowledge of today

22 Jun

Since my last blog was of a serious nature and possibly controversial, I thought I would share a simple story with you today!  It is always my hope that, as you read each of my posts, you will find yourself saying, yes, that happened to me once!  Or wow, isn’t life funny that way?  No matter what your reaction is to the words written upon this page, I am merely happy that I could invoke some sort of emotional response!

I spend a lot of time thinking about how my paths have led to this very spot I stand today: those paths of delight, anticipation, and sheer joy, coupled with pain, sadness and disappointment.  It seems that, when I feel undeniably strong and profoundly stable, I am presented with a new moment of self-discovery through which I must face an occurrence in my past and acknowledge how that particular event has shaped the person I am today.  To face something a second time, seeing it through new eyes and with a much stronger, mature mindset, can show you just how far you have come in life.  

Today is father’s day.  The only father celebrating with us today was my brother; he is the proud parent of my 7 year old nephew.  We decided to spend the day, as with most family outings, on a picnic and hiking expedition.  It is usual and customary for us to head slightly west to the beautiful and quaint mountains of western North Carolina known as the Blue Ridge Mountains.  However, on this particular day, we made a different choice: a smaller, more centralized state park known as Stone Mountain.  My immediate family members had never ventured inside the gates of Stone Mountain… well… with the exception of myself.  And to be perfectly honest, I had forgotten what had brought me there so many years ago until…

I was driving my Jeep Grand Cherokee, sunroof open to the pale blue sky filled with puffy balls of cotton, on the long and winding road approaching the park.  As usual, my music was blaring something rock n’ roll which just didn’t seem to equate to the mood set by the tall pines and the fresh country air.  I tapped the CD button, wondering what might be in the first slot of my 6 disk CD system, hoping it was something more suitable for my new environment.  I wasn’t quite prepared for what was about to happen… a shift in thought from my 35 year old self to that of a 17 year old.  The song title isn’t important at this point, but moreover the first words from the young country singer’s lips… “they say time heals all wounds…” (Brett Greer).  Suddenly, as if time stood still, I remembered exactly why I had driven down this same path all those years ago: to mourn the breakup of my first love!  

Now, I know what you are thinking: first love, 17???  Well, one cannot control who they love and when it happens.  It just happens.  All I can say is that I remembered the sadness, as if it were yesterday, from an event that occurred over 18 years ago!   

For a brief time I put these thoughts away as my family began to enjoy a typical summer BBQ in the south: hamburgers (Carolina style no doubt), hotdogs, potato chips and onion dip, Dr. Peppers and a giant cookie exclaiming ‘Happy Father’s Day’ in 7 year old script.  The day couldn’t be better; a soft breeze rustling through the pines alleviated our fears of being too hot in the 90+ degree typical summer heat.  

After a relaxing lunch and usual conversation, we made our way down the hiking path toward Stone Mountain Falls.  My previous experiences here had been tucked away but never truly left, and as we made our way down the path, flanked with moss covered rocks and bright yellowish orange mushrooms, all my senses searched for some commonality.  And then it hit me: the tree!  I remembered standing by the Stone Mountain falls, a sad 17 year old, unsure of how my future would look and certainly tormented by the idea that my first love would no longer be by my side.  Wanting desperately to put our mark on the world one last time, I decided to do what many young kids do in the south: carve our initials on a tree.  

Now, keep in mind that my adult self would never deface a living thing… but what one does as a young adult…

I found a funny pep in my step as I began to imagine seeing our initials carved deep in the tree bark.  I’m not quite sure why, but it made the adventure more exciting nonetheless!  As my family approached the falls, the rocks and shallow pool at the base of the cascading water was filled with people.  I was somewhat distracted from my mission, especially as my nephew took much delight in seeing how far he could walk into the shallow pool before the bitterly cold mountain water reached his waist.  As our visit to the falls grew short, I found myself wandering through the few sparse trees lining the water’s edge.  I was drawn to this one lone tree, feeling as if it were a place I had been before.  I began to circle the tree, taking in all of the carvings that many others had left behind.  I knew this had to be the tree, but for some reason I could not see the initials any longer.  Had they disappeared with time?  Had the tree healed itself, much as I had healed myself and continued on my path of life?

I left the falls wanting to be sad, wanting desperately to remember exactly how I had felt those hours, those moments leading up to this event.  But alas I could not.  What did I feel you ask?  I felt happiness.  I felt happy that this person, my first love, had set me free to embark on the paths that have led me to this day.  I began to envision the things he taught me about myself… things that I acknowledge and accept today but saw as unrealistic or improbable at that point in my life.  Yes, there is some level of maturity now that helps me to see the silliness of my pain; the fact that it was simply a young country boy that stole my heart by writing love songs on his guitar.  Oh, at that time how I imagined my life was over as in a classic Judy Blume teenage novel!    

In summary, I believe that life does come full circle.  Sometimes, to understand who you are and why your path is as it is, one must be faced with the past and must look at it from a new set of eyes.  From a more traveled, weathered, seasoned point of view.  Happiness and satisfaction will no doubt be the outcome as you place another piece of your life puzzle on the coffee table…  🙂

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