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03 July 2005 @ 01:52 pm
If I knew then what I know now...  
Several years ago I read a book called "Replay" by Ken Grimwood. It followed two characters who relived their lives over and over again, being cast back into their teenaged bodies at the time of their death. We first follow the man, who doesn't know if he's the only one or not. Later he meets the woman, and they find one other person who's experiencing the same phenomenon. (As an aside, imagine living the 80s over and over and over again!) They try a variety of approaches to their "replays" over the years, first desperately trying to recapture their old lives, then moving on to try variations, desperately trying to come to terms with it. (edited to avoid spoiling ending for those who haven't read it)

This was an intriguing idea and I hear it's being made into a movie. That should be interesting.

But it made me think a lot about what I would do differently. At first I thought, well, I must of course have my children again, so I have to join the temple and meet my abusive first husband in order to have them.

Then I thought, why not treat it as a reincarnation, look at my children as having been a part of my previous life, and NOT meet my abusive ex husband again? What if I stayed in school, which I could experience differently from my new perspective, and go to college right away, instead of years later? What if I were not bound to any of the choices I had made previously? What if I took the road not travelled the first time around?

So I spent some time imagining actually being back in that period of my life, which was one of the most unpleasant. How would I deal with my depressive mother? Could I help her with her depression, knowing what I know about it now? Would she let me? Could I help her get over her stubborn attempt to get her mother to demonstrate love for her? Could I show her that she needs to let go and love herself? And could I also help her improve her heart health and maybe put off her surgeries and heart attacks?

How would I handle the kids at school from an adult vantage point? Could I let it roll off my back, seeing their verbal abuse as the pathetic attempt to shore up their own shaky self esteem that it was? Could I stop playing into it by stubbornly being so nonconformist? Would they start to wonder about my changed attitude and new air of self confidence? (From my perspective, I would have lost over a hundred pounds. I thought I was huge then; now I recognize that I was exactly where I'd like to be.)

Then there is the perennial question about my eighth grade science teacher, who I will call Mr. K.

I don't know how to characterize our relationship--that is the crux of the problem. What we did is spend time nearly every day after school in the science lab, where he oversaw detentions, and talk theology. I was busy studying Catholicism and he was trying to dissuade me. We were exploring world religions and becoming, at least, friends. We played chess as well, and joked and flirted. Well, I flirted and I believe he did his part to keep it going. He also gave me rides home in his Karman Ghia. I'd have to say he was my first serious crush. I later saw him and corresponded with him when I was 26, until his current wife (number 3) got upset and stopped it. I tried to ask him via letter if he was tempted or attracted to me when I was his student, but he declined to answer. Answer enough? Not for me.



So...what would I do about him if I went back? Keep up the seeming innocent friendship? Try for a relationship that could get him fired and thrown in jail? Or end the friendship, knowing that I could no longer keep up the pretense?

I suspect that after he'd had a few weeks to notice the newly mature version of me who suddenly knew far more about religion and life, I'd have that talk and let him know that I didn't feel platonic and I couldn't go on pretending that I do, so if he didn't feel the same about me I'd have to end the friendship. I'm sure I would be tempted to tell him that I was not the teenager he was seeing but even older than him...but who'd believe something like that? Well, I might. :)

This was a pivotal relationship for me, whatever it was, and has had serious effects in my life ever since. At the time I had zero self confidence in the realm of romance or my ability to attract anyone, had never had a date, couldn't imagine anyone at school ever being willing to be seen with me in that way (true), and was still recovering from the apparent rejection of my father. Whatever signals that Mr. K. may have found me attractive were lost on me, as I had no experience picking up such signs. I was passionately in love with him and I felt he must have known, but didn't take me seriously because of my age. Yet as a somewhat precocious teen I felt like an adult. So I was hurt by that apparent dismissal, and felt that I deserved the dignity of acknowledgement, even if that meant the answer was no.

Those who know me well know what consequences this had in my later years, as I tried to create scenarios to heal this wounded part of myself, all unconsciously.

I would have to advise a teacher in Mr. K.'s situation to set greater boundaries in their relationships with students, no matter how much they want to help or mentor them. Keep the nature of the relationship abundantly clear, don't do things like give rides, let them come to your home, or talk for hours on end to you after school. Don't play games with them--in any sense. Don't allow them to feed your ego. If they are troubled, keep the conversation related to helping, refer them to resources as needed. If it becomes obvious that they have a crush, address it directly and make it clear that such a relationship is not appropriate and that you just don't feel that way in any event. Put even firmer boundaries in place at that point, maybe see if a colleague can take an interest in them--one of a different gender.

One of the consequences of this situation was that I married the first person who fell in love with me--my abusive first husband. But that's another story.

As I played out this fantasy in my mind, I discovered something important. While I often think that I wish I had known then what I know now, I realized that I prefer to be here now. :)

Here is where I have the degree to go with my knowledge, here is where my husband, daughter, grandsons and friends are, here is where I have a job, an income, a car, and all the other trappings of adulthood. Not even to have a young, thin, healthy body would I put up with the status of a teenager in the 70s, no internet, no cds, access only to the songs, technology and society of that time. Many of the things I enjoy and do in my life now would not be feasible then.

Just about the only real advantage of going back that I could see is improving my overall health now that I know some of the specific things that would help delay heart disease. (Starting with avoiding the stress of an abusive marriage...and the resulting years of poverty.)

Yes, I could try to save my mother in her dysfunctional dance with my grandmother, her suicide attempts and her depression, but there's no guarantee I'd succeed or that she'd take my suggestions seriously. I suppose I could become rich in real estate and stocks, and at least give her a comfortable life before she dies, one not dependent on the money game she and my grandma played over and over again.

Ultimately, I'll take the life I built for myself against all odds. Yet it was a useful exercise in that it allowed me to examine my life and my past from an interesting angle. One of the things I realized was that even if I could go back and finally snag Mr. K.--I'd be pining for Dave, waiting for him to grow up so I could somehow meet and marry him all over again.

(edited to add that the icon and large pic is my 9th grade school picture)
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