In case of a house fire, I have a few things in mind to grab first. I would get the photo albums in the top of the hall closet. I would fetch my Taylor guitar and I would make sure I have this card with me.
It’s a miniature history of our life together in a Hallmark card. The high points are listed year by year in her handwriting; the birth of our kids, first house, transition to the minivan phase, both of us unemployed at the same time, traveling to Ireland and Scotland with the four of us, the death of our fathers, etc. It’s a priceless chronology. If you get to the burning house before I do, it’s in my journal next to the chair upstairs where I read and reflect.
The tradition started on Valentine’s Day 1991, ten months into marriage. Karen wrote a new entry in it every year but one. 2017 was understandably missing. It was the worst of the bunch.
I know I can’t go back and change that year, or any other year for that matter. As I wrote previously, I’m in the middle of that wrestling match. From one corner of the ring, I hear, “You should have done that differently.” And being yelled out from the other, “Just get over it.”
My past conflict has a way of creating this dilemma. Conflict that has no opportunity to ever make right is even harder.
This is where Perspective comes in handy.
Occasionally Dad would need to remind me, “Son, when you have a flat, don’t curse the tire that went down. Give thanks that the other four didn’t.
“The other four?” I questioned?
He finished, “You got a spare, don’t you?
This is Perspective. Everything isn’t as it seems. There is always a different angle, always an alternate vantage point from which to observe. Always a different way to see.
I found myself this morning obsessing over the missing 2017 entry and all the regret it represented during that most difficult year. A huge phalanx of guilt came storming in. But the Kindness of Perspective stopped the assault as it nudged me to remember that there were 27 other notes that I was ignoring.
27 – 1. That’s a decent record. That’s a top seed in the tournament.
We had our share of conflict and struggle together and some of it went to her grave. I’ll never get a chance to get it right. But at the same time, I have to be fair to the other side of the narrative. I built some good things along the way. I planted some good seeds. I led us to make lasting memories. That investment will still keep paying dividends. Regrets only have power if I arm them with it.
On this Valentine’s Day, I only have memories and no more chances to make it right. And I get to own that. If you are fortunate to be with the one you love today, what does showing love look like for you? Does it manifest itself in roses and chocolates, or does it take the road less traveled? It may come in the form of courage to initiate counseling. It might mean the willingness to no longer sweep your conscience under the rug and take seriously the issue between the two of you that’s been bothering you for years.
Listen to your heart. It’s probably been telling you for quite some time now. Don’t ignore it. It can be trusted. Make things right.
I repeat these phrases to myself daily. They’ve become a mantra. From page 48 in my book.
Make today count.