The Past

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

I had a boyfriend once who lived purely in the past, forgetting about the precious moments of the present and letting life pass him by. He had an unusual background and a story like so many others before him and he believed truly if his parents had made alternative decisions his life would have been so much different and I can only assume he also thought it would be better. These feelings consumed and ate away at him; it became an obsession, dwelling on past misdemeanours and constantly trying to recreate them in his head. Despite these misgivings I married him and we had two children together at which point he became obsessed about the future; the future of his children and his own financial security. How we came to be together I don’t know as I have always lived in the present, enjoying the here and now and savouring every moment for what it’s worth. Only now, at this present moment in time have I dared to look into the future hole of unknowingness and merely cross my fingers and pray for the outcome I deserve. The present is only with us fleetingly as soon it becomes part of our past, a distant memory to be forgotten quickly or savoured and cherished. My passion for the here and now means I have few friends and I am unrelentingly unsentimental. The death of a loved one doesn’t fill me with dread but only the acknowledgement that it comes to us all and their passing should be marked with respect and dignity, then duly forgotten as time moves us on. Please don’t ask me to put flowers on your grave as once you’re gone you’re gone. This doesn’t mean I’m a cold hearted bitch as underneath it all I’m very emotional – you have to be to be a writer. I just get no comfort or joy out of the past. The past is a country to which you should never return; archaeology, I just don’t get it.

Unfortunately for me, places are also part of our past, not just people and the one place I couldn’t wait to get away from when I was a teenager was the small town I grew up in. I left there at eighteen, returning only to visit family with my big London ideas, marvelling at how small town attitudes hadn’t changed despite the passing of the years but relishing the fact that my time there was only fleeting and I had a big city life to return to. The problem with small towns is that not everyone belongs there; your life is probably fine and dandy if you fit in but if you’ve always been a square peg trying to squeeze yourself into a round hole you are never going to fit. That was my big problem, then and now because my husband’s obsession with the future had shuttled me onto the fast train back to the past; surely this wasn’t the best that fate could offer me. I felt like I was eighteen again; the attitudes hadn’t changed and I was still a square shape, just an older peg and less accommodating and even though the place started chipping away at the sides of me I know deep down that it’s never going to make me round.

There’s an alternative ending to this story. It’s the one where a young girl leaves her small town and she’s searching for the thing that will make her life complete; she spends her whole life searching, never happy, never settling down until circumstances force her to return to the place where it all began. She finds it then, love and happiness and realises that the true meaning to life was there all along, right under her nose, waiting for her to return and find completeness. It sounds like a Paulo Coelho novel but it just isn’t me. The minute, the very second, words flowed from my mind through my fingers tapping out a rhythm on that keyboard and watching the story miraculously appear on my screen I had already marked myself out as different. I can’t hide it and I can’t change it; I am square in a round world and I hope that soon my destiny will catch up with me.

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