You go visit your family or friends. You all start talking about the past or the recent present. Someone tells you new information about what happened regarding you. It may be a fact or an insight into who they think you are. All of a sudden you think you have to reevaluate everything. You feel your world is turned upside down. You’re not the person you thought you were. Should you feel freaked out?
Of course, there’s no clear answer to this. You should take a breath and not immediately decide everything is different or wrong. So far you’ve lived your life under a certain set of assumptions. You can hold on a bit further. Life in many respects is still a choice.
There’s an Arthur Miller play called “The Price.” Briefly, two brothers are trying to wrap up their father’s estate. The older brother is a police officer. He took care of his father earlier, forestalling his own career plans because the father had no money. The younger brother, a doctor, tells him that Dad did have money and that there was no need for him to give up his plans. He offers him a position at his hospital. The older brother refuses, deciding he can’t change his life.
That was his decision—again. One has to deal with anger about what happened in the past. One has to accept that one’s present path has its own satisfactions and frustrations. One has to go on with others, trying to repair the damage that has happened. It’s not clean and it won’t necessarily clean up.
One woman I know told her then mother-in-law that she was a mean person who hurt everyone’s feelings all the time. The mother-in-law had no idea she was like that—according to her. But she didn’t apologize or change. She had seventy years in doing this. People expected it of her. So why change? Yet some people do: One client of mine saw her sister after an estrangement of many years and decided to mostly forget what bad things had happened between them and see what could happen in the future.
Life is a mixed bag. We can do the best we can. We have the opportunity to change ourselves and things, to make nice and forgive ourselves and others.