In Julius Ceasar, Shakepeare wrote the words, “Beware the Ides of March.” For the better part of the last two decades, it has not just been the Ides, but the entire month of March that keeps me on my toes. Because the month also coincides with Lent, I typically use the time for self-reflection and personal growth, in lieu of the traditional practice of giving something up. It’s a reminder of the years when just getting through the month was a struggle. Although I no longer feel like I battle through the entire month, I find that every year I am presented with something that challenges my thinking, especially how I think about myself and my past.
Last year was about anniversaries. This year has been about beginnings and endings. One of my best friends is no longer a part of my life (refer to previous post “I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing”). After about three months of silence, I heard from him a few weeks ago. The email began, “Hi Corrina, Well it’s been months. I won’t begin to apologize because I don’t think it would help, but I am sorry…” and ended, “I hope you are well and I do miss you.” I realized it was too little and too late and unceremoniously closed that chapter of my life for good.
Then there was the news yesterday. I learned that someone I knew from high school passed away unexpectedly (how in the world did we survive before Facebook?). We dated briefly when I was a sophomore. We reconnected via Facebook less than a year ago. I was supposed to drive up to see him for lunch one day; I cancelled. We spoke again a little bit after that, but hadn’t spoken since September. After hearing of his passing I scrolled through our texts back and forth, and saw the text that is haunting me right now. We had been talking just about music (we were in choir together in school) and out of the blue he said, “It’s nice to have someone to talk to….”
I’m not the sort to believe that death suddenly gives someone amazing qualities that just happened to be overlooked in life. The truth is that we all have good and bad qualities and, even more importantly, the person that we are at any one point in time isn’t necessarily the same person we ultimately become. The problem is that death provides the ultimate opportunity to reflect on someone’s life as a whole, which isn’t an easy thing to do when we’re in the middle of life as it’s happening. I say this because not all of my memories of “Doug” are warm and fuzzy and happy. And I think it’s wrong to pretend otherwise. This was the guy who dumped me (twice), started seeing a college girl who called me and threatened to kick my ass for speaking for him, and after all of this tried to convince me that I should sleep with him. When we dated he made snide comments about my friends and tried to dictate what I wore to school. In my long line of failed relationships with Scorpios, he was the very first. But he was also the guy who first asked me out (via a mutual friend) on my birthday, the guy who first introduced me to Tori Amos’ music, and the guy who told me last summer that he still remembered the sound of my voice from when we sang in choir together twenty years ago. He wanted to get together at an open mic night one time to try a duet together, and I really wish that we had that chance. Instead, I just have a few old text messages.
And yet, despite the loss, the last few weeks have also brought me great joy. After feeling lost without the choir, I found a new one. This past Saturday night was the first time that I really felt like I was where I belonged (ironically, the new organist knows David- as I’ve said before, sometimes it feels like what’s supposed to be six degrees of separation is really morphed into some weird borderline incestuous soup). I’ve also recently started seeing a great guy (sorry, but I’m still feeling a little selfish about those particular memories). So the scales have balanced out- no need for pity.
But I have been reminded of just how short and how precious life is, and reflect on how many other times I’ve cancelled on my friends. When I was too tired, or busy or just wanted to be alone. When I figured I would just catch up with them next time. And that is my biggest regret and the real lesson I’ve taken to heart. Because let’s face it, sometimes that next time never comes.