I replay my past with anguish over my failures – my biggest – my hot temper which bubbles over when I suffer a narcissistic wound. Every time it happened I was ashamed in the aftermath, vowed not to do it again. In time I learned some patience, some cooling off before reacting, but never enough.
When I think of Courtenay’s last days, I suffer a different self-torment – that I wasn’t physically with him – not at the moment of his death, but in the days before, where I came and went.
I’ve been hearing from other grieving people since Courtenay died. Some are close friends, some are strangers, but all experience the same torment I do, the “if only” torment.
I admire Kate Atkinson as a writer, but when I read her 2013 Life After Life, it irritated me exactly that reason – the effort to rewrite a personal as well as a meta life. You could do it differently, you could affect the outcome – if only someone had killed Hitler (or, for that matter, Stalin) before 50 million people were murdered. If only you’d stayed home instead of going into town and contracting influenza. If this, if that. It seemed to me at the time to be unbearably juvenile, even while beautifully structured and written. Today it hits me even harder.
Ten years ago, if I’d been offered a chance for a do-over, it would have been for some missteps I took that harmed my public career. Now – I’d redo those last two days. Or the time I screamed my head off in traffic. Or – or – or.
The point is, if you were given one do-over, you’d always pick the wrong one. And then you’d spend your time wanting a do-over to change your choice.