If I could…oh, if only I could. If I could turn back time, I would not keep secrets. I would tell someone. And I would tell someone else. And I would tell another person and another and another until someone listened. Until someone believed me and realized I existed within a tortured reality while attempting to act as if everything was normal and safe. I would shout if I had to and tell the truth until someone heard, reacted and removed me from my parent’s home. I would tell them about the sexual abuse. The physical abuse. The neglect. The rejection and constant deriding. The emotional abuse. I would speak up and keep speaking until someone understood. Until they took me seriously. Until someone reached into the darkness where I was trapped and helped me escape.
“If I could turn back time…” So goes the song. So sings my heart. So cries my soul.
If I could turn back time, I would do whatever it took to get help a lot earlier. I would allow myself to believe I was worth the time and the money. I didn’t believe it then. I started so late. So late, it was too late. The brokenness had calcified. Cemented into place; impossible to dislodge. Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I would find someone who could help me untangle the knots, put the broken pieces back together and mend me. A gifted professional who could wade with me into the depths of pain flowing from the wounds created by my destructive childhood. I would let them show me a different reality and how to wade out of that vicious current to the other side. I wouldn’t put it off, thinking there was time…later. I would pursue healing relentlessly, with extreme urgency, doing whatever I had to do to make it happen. Because being healed would have completely changed the course of my life. In a wonderful way. It would have taken me into a new and healthy dimension where robust, genuine life was possible. I would have sacrificed whatever I had to sacrifice early in life to pursue wholeness and not given up until I found it.
If I could turn back time, I would never have gotten married when I was 17. I was so young. I felt old. I felt like I had already lived a lifetime, battling to survive. Going back, I would whisper in my own ear, “You have time…let yourself be young!” I wouldn’t have given my heart to an 18-year-old boy who would ask me for a divorce a mere two weeks after our wedding. And I wouldn’t have married again at 25. At least not the person I married back then. I let him convince me he loved me and wanted to be with me. I wanted so badly to be loved! I took the bait, longing to be filled. So, if I did again foolishly believe and marry him, when he told me a few months after we wed that he didn’t love me, I would have filed for divorce right away. I wouldn’t have wasted a lifetime hoping he would someday, somehow come to love and want me. I wouldn’t have hung on, believing he was the best life had to offer. I wouldn’t have given him 22 years of my time. I wouldn’t have allowed him to move into my soul, breaking my heart in the process.
If I could turn back time, I would have gone to college. When I was young and just out of high school. Lived on campus. Had the whole experience. Taken interesting classes and hung out with friends until I could discern a path that excited me. I would have worked hard too. I was always good at making the grades. But I also would have torn down my walls, raised my expectations, explored, learned, laughed, figured out who I was and moved forward into the light of a promising future.
I would also relocate to one of the places I dreamed of living. I would move there when I was young. When it was easier. When I wasn’t so encumbered with the burdensome responsibilities and debts of life. I would have made my way closer to the ocean. And started building my life there. Not wasting time living where things seemed to fall into place, taking the path of least resistance. I would move to a desirable location and find ways to stay as I created the existence I yearned for and dreamed about. Even if it was hard initially. I would carve out a home in that space and finally find a sliver of joy. I would spend time on the beach, listening to the soothing and calming voice of the waves. Basking beneath glorious sunrises and sunsets. Rejoicing in the warmth. Greeting the day with gratefulness instead of reluctantly waking while bound by heavy disappointment and despair.
I wouldn’t have worked jobs that demeaned and demoralized me. Not if I could turn back time. I wouldn’t slave for bosses who didn’t appreciate me. Who used me all the more because I was too unsure of my value to protest. I would have pursued fulfilling work instead. Pursued my dreams. While I still had dreams. And hope. And a future ahead of me. If I could turn back time, I would save more money and spend more on the things that create memories with those I love. If I could turn back time, I would surround myself with those people…the ones who live in my heart and bring joy into my life by simply being. I would work harder at staying real – even vulnerable – so I could truly connect with others in a deep and significant way. I would take the risk instead of hiding and pretending and trying to fit in with the crowd. I wouldn’t close myself away in darkness or shroud myself with shame that I wore like skin. A skin I grew into while still very young. Because of the abuse. I would seek help. I would tell myself over and over again that it wasn’t my fault. I would tell myself until I believed it. Until I knew without doubt that what was done to me didn’t mean I should be ashamed. Didn’t mean I was disgusting and tainted. My past wouldn’t be something to hide. It’s my reality. My history. So, I would stop denying where I came from and what it had done to me. I would acknowledge that past, embrace the possibilities of the future and begin to connect deeply with special people when I encountered them. Meaningfully. I would be transparent, unmasked, open and do what it took to build deep relationships. Those connections would be my priority. If I had another chance. Another chance to do it over.
If I could turn back time, I would listen more to my heart and less to my brain. I would try more things, even if I was afraid of failing, looking stupid and making mistakes. I would kayak and kick-box and learn a martial art. I would dance often. I would visit the ocean frequently and let it sooth my wounds. I would live where there was lots of sunshine. I would ride in a hot air balloon, even if I had to save up for a long time to afford the pleasure. I would take classes on subjects that were of interest to me. I would sing more. Write that book. Publish those poems. I would risk and not let fear rule my choices.
If I could turn back time, I would hold on to each moment. Live it. Fully experience each day. The pain and the joy. The fun and the difficulties. I would be present in the present and tattoo each experience on my brain for later enjoyment. For later contemplation. I would fill my memory bag with experiences so when I looked back, the years would not have disappeared in an unending chain of monotony. There would be more happy memories and less regrets. More to recall. More worth remembering. I’m sure I would still make mistakes. But I think I would make smaller ones, less costly ones, having learned some hard lessons the hard way. I wouldn’t make so many of the huge, monumental errors that erode quality of life until there is no life left. I wouldn’t let life…or the people in my life…tell me I didn’t matter. I wouldn’t accept being a worthless object to be used and cast aside when inconvenient or if not operating up to user expectations. No, having worked hard early on to find a place of wholeness, I would believe in myself and in my own worth. I wouldn’t be beaten down, settling for simply being tolerated. I would move on. Cut my losses. Find a healthier path. If I could turn back time, I would understand the value of the minutes that were sifting silently through my hand and I would cling to each one. I wouldn’t live for a blurry tomorrow. I would live for today. Milking each moment for every drop of happiness and meaning I could find. I would dance in the rain and soak up the sunshine. I would follow my dreams. I would refuse to be numbed by the blows. I would feel each emotion: deep, small, hurtful, joyful. I would face the damage, tear it apart and rebuild when I was young, strong, more pliable. And continue to rebuild throughout my existence, repairing, refinishing, refurbishing, restoring. I would not settle. I would not sleepwalk through the days.
I would give my heart only to those who also gave their heart to me. Never casting my pearls before swine. Understanding that even my broken heart was a pearl. That life is a treasure. And I need to spend this treasure carefully. I would savor each one of those seconds while I was standing within them.
If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t now be sitting in a dark room alone but for my dogs, surrounded by regrets and loss and pain. I would be a different person in a different place living a very different life. Silence wouldn’t accompany me throughout my days. Numbness would not cripple me. There would be laughter and tears and conversation. My world would not be empty. It would be messy and full of all that results from a life well lived. I believe I would understand so much more clearly what was at stake and would act accordingly. I would discover the person I was meant to be…before the wounding, abuse, rejection and destruction. I would be fully alive. Finally. If only I could turn back time. If only there was such a thing as a second chance.