It happened again the other day.
One of the last times I remember it happening was when I was sitting in the hospital. I was on a different continent entirely and I kept going back and wondering if I would always feel this way.
That sinking feeling and those same thoughts always come in waves.
This story should be different. I shouldn’t have to tell it this way. I should be somewhere else. I wasn’t supposed to feel like this.
Back to the night that my phone read 1 New Voicemail.
I’m standing outside of that restaurant, the neon sign above my head. The voice on the other end was angry. I was afraid. I knew that nothing was ever going to be the same.
It took years before I deleted that message. But when I finally did, I was hoping that somehow it would erase that night entirely. Fix it or fix me. That I would somehow come to terms with the truth about all the words that we said, the ones that little device held, words that never really told what we needed to say.
So, what about now?
I often ask that question as the blinker of my car flashes and ticks its familiar rhythm; as I weave through the lines of the highway.
What about now? Because I can’t go back. We cannot go back.
I have a secret that I’ve been trying to keep from God. One that I think if I shove it far enough inside, we’ll both forget about it and He might let time heal these things.
Letting go, it seems to be the thing people most often ask me about.
I’m no expert. I can’t say that I figured it out when I finally pressed that button. I can’t tell you that it’s that easy, that there’s a simple formula for moving on or a way to rewind and get back the time.
But what I can tell you is that you’re not going to wake up one day and have the quick fix, it doesn’t happen. You won’t suddenly open your eyes and feel changed, whole, free. Pain, like I’m talking about, doesn’t just fade. I wanted to believe it did. God knows that I hoped after I hit erase my memory could do it too, my heart could do it too.
But we are not creatures who forget. I’ve spent days and nights clawing at the insides of my mind and begging God to give me a mind that forgets. But we’ve got memories and reflexes, we are tied to old times. Thank God. Thank God that He doesn’t answer the prayer for me to let go in the ways I want to let go. I don’t get to let go by means of forgetting, of pushing it into the dark.
We let go by means of forgiveness. By remembering but choosing to lay it down. I have to lay it down—put it in a different place, stop holding it in these hands. I can’t keep gripping it, I have to unfurl these clenched hands, sometimes finger by finger, day by day. I have to know that white knuckling this thing won’t get it back. It hasn’t gotten it back.
This story will be different. I don’t have to tell it this way. I can be somewhere else. It doesn’t have to feel like this.
Stop going back to the night where my phone read 1 New Voicemail.
Stop going back, that’s what I can tell you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to forget, because you are not going to forget. We are not creatures who forget.
Lay it down. Keep laying it down. Stop holding it in your hands. Stop telling the story the way you do. You don’t have to tell it this way. You can be somewhere else. You don’t have to keep going back there.
You don’t have to learn how to live inside of that story without flinching. You just have to learn how to lay that chapter down and say, “Okay, I can’t re-write that part. I can’t keep re-reading that same chapter and hoping the characters do something else. I can’t keep flipping back and wishing that it went another way. I have to keep reading. I have to see where this thing goes and who we become. It’s going somewhere, but I can’t keep being disappointed with what happened back there. The rest is still worth reading. One sentence can make all the difference.”
It can, you know. One sentence you aren’t expecting might make all the difference.
But if you keep re-reading all the same ones you’ve read, looking for something back there to change, you’re just going to come up disappointed. The past is set in print, so let it go. The rest of what’s about to happen is absolutely worth reading.
Lay it down. Let it go. Stop telling and reading the same part of the story. You can read somewhere else. You don’t have to stay there.
We don’t have to stay there. You are not meant to live inside of one chapter, no matter how good or hard the words, promises, or sets of eyes. You don’t have to try and figure out where the plot line went wrong. You don’t have to keep pouring over those pages in regret and wondering if you could have changed that last sentence. You don’t have to dread the next chapter.
Just start with the next line on the next page.
One sentence can make all the difference and it might be just a few words away.