It’s a double edge sword that old thing. You can’t get where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. But if you stay focused on where you’ve been you’ll never get where you’re supposed to be.
Sometimes you just shouldn’t look back. Don’t do it. Like when you’ve loaded the last box and are pulling out of the driveway of your first house headed to your new one…don’t look back. Especially when the one you’re leaving would have been paid off in another 3 years and you just signed up for an additional 30 years of payment bliss. And surely don’t look back 5 years later when your checkbook is begging for mercy and you start to think that maybe three girls sharing one room and bathroom could have worked out? Don’t look back. You signed on that dotted line, boo. You wanted the granite and the big porch and the fancy pantry. No use looking back now.
When you finally plop yourself down in that old blue beach chair, dig your heels in the sand, pop that top (even if it’s 10:30 in the morning) and exhale, it usually takes about 3 minutes for a kid to want to go to the pool. But when your husband, who you know wants to watch the baseball game at 7:00, jumps up and says I got this, let him. You’ve had a hell of week (actually 6 or 7 of them to be exact) and it took a whole lot to finally plop down in that chair. A lot of momma-ing, wife-ing, seamstress-ing, dance mom-ing, trip planner-ing, prayer warrior-ing, obedient servant-ing, car pack-ing, car unpack-ing, meal cook-ing, sunscreen apply-ing, beach bag and wagon load-ing then haul-ing…to finally plop down in that chair. So when he takes those girls to the pools and he’s been gone a while…do not look back. Do not turn around and look at that boardwalk. Even when it gets to be 4:30 in the afternoon. Don’t look back. They’ll show up soon enough. Even when you see emergency personnel race by in the red truck through the sand, do not look back! (Maybe check your phone as precaution but don’t look back.) When you hit that spot in the day where the volume on your ear buds is just loud enough to hear your perfect beach playlist but low enough to still hear the waves but yet not the droning of other people’s children…that’s lightening in a bottle my friend. Because once they do show up, two children who have spent 6 hours with their dad with nary a complaint will all of the sudden be hungry, thirsty, itchy, sweaty, sandy, cranky, and every other word that ends in -y the minute they lay eyes on you. Because Momma is the promised land. For the love of humanity, don’t turn around.
Sometimes though, you have to look back. Because sometimes that rearview mirror holds the key to moving forward. Or hell even just moving at all. Like when you have a bad month. A really bad month. So bad of a month that your friends have begun a countdown until the month is over. Your checkbook starts laughing at you and then it starts cursing you out then it just collapses in defeat waving a white flag. It was time to pay the piper on commitments you made months ago when your work load was quite a bit heavier. Then around the middle of the month you discover an $800 mistake. You lost $800. And with it you lost your mind for a day or two. And you couldn’t see the forest for the trees. You must sell your house, drive for Waitr during the day and work at Walgreens at night. There is no other answer. When will you big oil field companies decide that you need side pocket gauges again??? When will you people decide that you need new drapes??? What are you waiting for??? Don’t you KNOW??? So you start a social media fast, you use your spare time to pray harder, do a little more bible studying and wait. You once sat on a bathroom floor for three days waiting on a 3 year old to pee on the potty for the first time. You’re still waiting on your 15 year old to clean her room. You know how to wait. And all month He made you wait. He gave you a study that started on the first of the month about a widowed woman trying to survive a famine. Surely He wasn’t going to make you study her only to learn the lady starved to death, right? But He surely made you wait until the end to know that not only did she live but she got remarried and bore a son who helped bring about the lineage of Jesus Christ. Whoa. And even on the very last day of the month you still didn’t know if or how He was going to work out this pickle for you. But on the very first day of the next month He did. You found the $800 mistake. Oops. Paid a bill twice and didn’t see it until the new statement came. My bad. Same day your husband calls and tells you of the bonus he just got. His whaaaaaaaa? Then on the 2nd day of the month someone needs some drapes. A lot of them. And then on the 3rd, someone else. And on the 4th someone else. And that’s when you look back and see what He did there. And then you question why was it so hard to know that it would work out? Maybe if you had looked back over the last 12 years of your life and remembered all of the ways He delivered, redeemed and work out much bigger, much harder battles, then you wouldn’t have called a realtor.
And then there are times you don’t want to look back. Chapters that you thought you closed, boxes that you thought you had checked, keep opening and keep unchecking. Ugh. You have done a whole lot of work with your therapist of 12 years. Yes, I said therapist. Yes I said 12 years. You started one week to the day after life as you knew it changed. She’s had 4 couches and you’ve sat on all of them. You really don’t need to go anymore but she would miss you. Most times you don’t even talk about the thing that changed life as you knew it. But you start to talk more and more about your children’s issues and battles and why all of the sudden am I thinking of this thing from 10 years ago? From 5 years ago? And she connects the dots for you and you realize that you’re not quite as healed as you thought. And you cross your arms and say oh yes I am… I don’t want to go there and you can’t make me. You’re not the boss of ME. But you DO want your children healthy and happy and not carrying your baggage. So you agree to dive in again. To do the specific trauma work she is suggesting. The work you were never whole enough to do before. To relive it and dig deeper. You agree, reluctantly, to look back. Ugh.
But sometimes you get to look back and forward all at the same time. Like when you get a little surprise gift of an unexpected night at a most unexpected event with your teenage daughter and your soul sista friend. Who knew that 4 hours with Garth Brooks and these two wild and crazy gals would give such a full circle moment of reflection and also an opportunity to pass such sage wisdom on to your little grasshopper! To my little grasshopper….you think that you just tagged along with your mother and her friend to a concert. But we weren’t just at a concert, my girl. That little outing gave you a rare glimpse into a side of your mother you don’t get to see. A few hours earlier that day your mother was a screeching nag about your room, the laundry, the mess and constantly running up the stairs to work and back down to switch loads from washer to dryer. You only know that version along with the one who is always preaching or praying about something. But that’s not the momma who took you to “just a concert”. There is nothing like a song to take her back. Like when she jumped up and belted out in perfect sync with Trisha Yearwood to “She’s in Love with the Boy”….your momma loves that song because she married the hay seed plow boy and against many odds she’s still in love with him 20 years later. And that plow boy is now the man who loves you more than any other man ever will, because he loved you first. And when she nearly lost her voice singing “Friends in Low Places”, ‘The Thunder Rolls”, and “Shameless” it’s because it took her back to a carefree, responsibility-free, bill-free time of nothing but wild oat sewing. Long before your momma sewed drapes, she sewed oats. Lots. Of. Oats. And when she sat down with her arm around you squeezing the life out of you while she sang along to “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” it was because she knows all too well that sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come and moments like that one are to be breathed in. And when she sang “Unanswered Prayers” into your ear it’s because she remembers the break up before your dad came along and how her own momma reminded her of that song and sometimes unanswered prayers are gifts from God. Without that particular unanswered prayer there would be no you. So I’m glad that you tagged along with your momma and her friend to a concert. I’m glad that you got to see your momma act the fool and dance like no one was watching and let her hair down. There is far more to your momma than the nagging and the preaching and the praying. And I hope that one day you look back on that night and remember.
That rear view mirror…it’s a beautiful thing.