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A Look Back

As the end of the year approaches, many people will be looking back at 2023 so they can enjoy again their big successes, struggle at understanding their big losses, chuckle at a few funny moments and cry at some personal tragedies. There might even be a person or two who will use this year’s experiences to work on next year’s resolutions, or for the more structured, next year’s goals. And there will be some wishing to do it all over again.

 

As we look back over our year, we find about a year ago we had written a post about looking back, and asking the question, if you could do it again, would you? We cautioned you then, if you wanted to redo anything, you may find yourself having to redo everything, and not always with the best results.

 

Movie goers are used to seeing films in which main characters look back over their lives, see things really weren’t that bad and with just a small adjustment, a happier ending is right around the corner. Holidays are good for these sorts of movies. Think “It’s a Wonderful Life” or A “Christmas Carol” and how George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge start off in different bad places, but by seeing how life would have been without him (George) or how life was with him (Ebenezer), they both realized it has all the makings of, if you’ll pardon the obvious observation, a wonderful life. Just a tweak in how they respond to the world and suddenly the world is a happier place for them and theirs.

 

But Mr. Baily and Mr. Scrooge did not actually have to redo anything other than rethink their outlooks. Another holiday movie may be closer to real life if we ever indeed were offered the chance to answer the question would you do it again if you could. That’s just what Sheila Page gets to do in 1947’s “Repeat Performance.” In a heavily reworked version of the 1942 William O’Farrell novel, Sheila gets to not just observe her past life like George and Ebenezer, nor does she dream or imagine what a do over might get her the second time around. She gets dropped right back into her previous year with the full knowledge of the happenings of her first go at it and a plan for rewriting the script to redo her complete year, reliving 1946 from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve.

 

When you say to yourself, “if I could only do that again” or “I wish I could have that day back,” are you thinking of it as an observer ala George Bailey or a doer like Sheila Page. You probably can figure out that just as things aren’t guaranteed to go your way the first time around, that no guarantee extends to do overs either.  Last year we warned readers, “That is the risk, that any one thing you change may have unchangeable influences on other decisions you have already made, other journeys you have already taken, other people you have already met. Changing anything in your life may mean having to undo already made decisions or even release people from your circle.” Even movie screenwriters know that score. While George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge had happy endings based on their observations of what was versus what might have been, Sheila Page’s do over ending was far from happy, or even satisfying. She discovered the problem with a redo is that everyone else comes along too, wanted or not. Even as you can do your part differently, everybody else gets to cash in on the opportunity you opened to adjusting and refining their actions.

 

None of that means a look back and some adjustments to your previous actions is not a viable activity for the last week of the year. We repeat what we said last year at this time. “There is no changing of the past. But you can adjust, you can refine, you can maintain.” You cannot change the past, but you can decide how you feel about it. That can tell you how to adjust to make next year better. Instead of, “If I could do it all over again?” ask yourself, “What if I did this little thing differently?”

 

Go ahead and take that look back. Instead of regretting anything you did or did not do that brought you anything less than satisfaction, rather than seeing it as a wish to do it over again, look at it as an opportunity to adjust, to refine, to improve. Then the one thing you might wish to do again at the end of next December is to bask in the enjoyment the year brought you.

 



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Another year almost finished, and your observations are once again spot on. We don't get re-dos for a reason--time is a gift God gives us for the present. Learning from the mistakes we make, though always a challenge, is also the reminder that life itself is a gift. Every day is a blank page, and we get to choose what we put on it. I love your remarks on regret--spilled milk, after all, is still spilled. Regrets don't help anyone. Thanks for your continued wonderful insights. Happy New Year to you both!

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