In the 60's and early 70's, I sported a hippie wanna-be look. In retrospect, the look was a bit clownish. Afterwards, during the 80's, I wore – in public, mind you -- tight leggings with an oversized shirt. Even today I cringe when I view photographs of my hairstyles from the early 90's. What was I thinking? My grown children laugh uncontrollably when I tell stories about the “old days.” Bad clothing choices, weird jobs, and strange antics. Did I really do that? The past has a way of mixing embarrassment with a good dose of laughter.
Like many women over forty, I carry with me a fair amount of baggage from my past. Unlike the stories I tell my children, much of what constitutes this baggage is far from amusing. I often think that if I could go back in time, there are so many choices that I would make differently. But, then again, maybe I wouldn't, because those choices are some of the very things which have influenced who I am today, and who I hope to become.
I have grown children and step-children, as well as the accompanying in-laws and ex in-laws. I have a husband who I love, and an “ex” who I don't. And there it is... the “ex” factor. Once you've had children with someone, you cannot completely sever ties, no matter how much you'd like to do just that.
Some children wish for, and plot, to get their parents back together. Not so with my kids. They have made it abundantly clear that they want us as far away from each other as possible. They say this in all seriousness, with no hint of humor involved.
Upon my son's graduation from college last spring, the dreaded, but inevitable, gathering of me, my children, husband... and ex, occupying the same place at the same time, came to pass. Not that we planned on socializing, but we each knew, as we traveled to this meeting ground, that a time would come when we would all be together, wanting to share in the moment.
As it turned out, this monumental event took place on the campus lawn. There we stood, in all our awkwardness, forced into pleasantries and photographs. Group photographs. And by group, I mean my husband and ex... in the same shot.
To witness this photo session, you would have seen no hint of inner turmoil or threat of eruption boiling just below the surface. Within a few days, the group photo was front and center on my son's My Space page for all the world to see. Shock and awe is the only way that I can describe it seeing that photo.
Despite the uncomfortableness of it all, it was a small step in the right direction. Sometimes ex-spouses actually become close friends, going so far as to socialize together. While I don't expect -- or want -- that to happen, I hope, for all our sakes, that we can manage to repeat this episode. Afterall, the future promises more graduations, as well as weddings, and perhaps grandchildren.
Life is an accumulation of our experiences. All of them... the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the ridiculous. The longer we live, the more varied those experiences become, the more baggage we accumulate. Rather than attempt to cherry-pick the past, or pretend it doesn't exist, we owe it to ourselves to embrace it, for that past is an integral part of our present. Without a past we have no tools with which to chart our future.
So embrace who you are, ring for the baggage handler, and when they pull out that camera, don't forget to smile and say “cheese!”
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