This came up over coffee at Zeli: A friend of mine was at a formal event recently. He was sitting with a prominent, accomplished family–dad, mom, and grown daughter. The daughter had gone to exclusive private schools, then on to college and graduate school. She was beautiful too. This friend of mine wondered what his life would be like if he had grown up in this family instead of his own—how much farther would he have gotten in life? Would he have been able to accomplish more had he not been born into his own highly dysfunctional family (so dysfunctional that he spent time in a children’s home when his parents were unable to care for him).
I had a very strong reaction to this line of thinking. “Sounds like a case of shoulda, woulda, coulda,” I said. “We don’t have any control over the family we’re born into. It’s much more important to me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” I illustrated this by marching my forefinger and middle finger in a line across the table.
My friend persisted. “Every year on my birthday, it all comes back to me. The hurt, the loss.”
We agreed on the idea that with some things in life, there is a permanent sense of loss. There are losses that are deep and irrevocable. These losses produce scars that may fade but never really go away. Sometimes these scars get re-aggravated. We may even have a propensity to get ourselves into situations that lead to the re-aggravation of these scars. Or we may be aware of our scars and learn how to take care of them and protect them. But they remain.
Still, I think it is fruitless, pointless, and a waste of energy to think about what might have been. Besides, that prominent family may look perfect on the outside, but I’m sure they’ve got their own peccadillos, losses, dramas and tragedies just like everyone else.
Do you think back on what might have been? Ponder how things could have been different (better) for you had you had a different (better) childhood? Or (like me) are you just trying to make do with what you’ve got and maintain some forward momentum, no matter how small the steps might be?
PS The Nutty Jazz show was outstanding. I’ve seen them several times now and they are consistently great. Here’s what my friend Kevin Carr said about them:
This just in – Nutty ROCKED The Sandbox for their final show there Wednesday night 10/21! Play was delayed at first on account of game (final Dodgers/Phils face-off), so the jazz started late, and it being a sports bar, everybody was bummed about LA’s loss. A real tribute to just how great this band is: eight out of eight tables plus the patrons at the bar all stayed for Nutty’s first set…and loved it! These cool cats made everyone forget their sorrows and just enjoy great classic rock meeting great classic jazz in a most NUTTY way!
Nutty will be at the Hip Kitty in Claremont on Saturday, November 21 at 8:00 pm. If you want to carpool from Pasadena, let me know.