Today is a new day, they say. Forget about the mistakes of yesterday. This is sound advice for overcoming regret, but it has a dark side.
When you wake up in the morning, you’re back to zero on all of your achievements. And you have to renew the effort that brought you the success that’s now slipping out of your grasp. Nothing sticks to a blank slate; life is long enough for failing past the point where failure has anything left to teach you.
You ate well yesterday. Made good choices. Did all the things you needed to do. And now you have to do it all over again. Sometimes it’s what you don’t do that counts. You didn’t drink a jug of moonshine and ram your Dodge ram into a daycare center, shoot up or snort lines or blow a paycheck on hookers. Sometimes it’s doing one thing rather than another. You volunteered at the homeless shelter instead of posting on anti semitic message boards.
But that was one day of holding the hounds of vice at bay. Now it’s a new day and they’re chomping and snarling and ready to tear you apart again. Do you have the energy, the will, the heart to keep resisting? You’re ready to leave your mistakes behind, but what about everything you did well, can you take that with you?
You need the support of knowing that you’ve made it this far and can do it all over again. Longstanding experience conditions us to remember pain and forget happiness. We have to tell people to move on because for most of our history, survival depending on remembering what hurts. You have to make a special, evolutionarily novel effort to hold on to everything that isn’t deadly and threatening. Grudges are adaptive and suffering is definitive.
What have you done for me lately? The devils of frustrated ambition are always asking. Matter disintegrates. Love fades. Memory warps the fabric of the past. You’re free from your failures but you can’t keep the victories either. Everything good and bad from the far gone to the just passed is forever unreachable once it passes through the sieve of the present.
You have talent but how reliable is that? Maybe one day your fingers don’t move the way they used to and you can’t play the guitar anymore. You have strength but it wanes without constant testing and upkeep. One day you’re benching a mobile home and then a few days later you can’t lift a bag of flour without groaning, sweating, and shaking.
Maybe one day your wit leaves you and your speech stumbles in the middle of a conversation. You always had something to say and your mind brimmed with ideas, but now it’s nothing but tumbleweeds rolling across an arid expanse.
It doesn’t have to be a mechanical failure. Even if your body is healthy and your mind is sharp, the soul grows weary. The internal critic muffles the external praise and you lose the love for what you do. When you fight complacency you might destroy contentment. There’s always collateral damage in a war and there’s always a war.
But we have to keep going, keep fighting. A grim outcome might seem certain but what do we really know? We’re in this together and we can’t give up on each other. You never know who you’re influencing and who’s hanging around because of what you do.