The past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited, or erased. It can only be accepted. I believe that these words are true. I also believe that it is easier to spout these words than it is to live with them. I recently read two novels – back to back – and was surprised to find that they were both treatises on this concept. I loved how these stories proved my sentiment to be correct – it can be hard to live with decisions made in the past.
The first book was George & Lizzie by Nancy Pearl. In it, Lizzie is a high school senior. I should mention up front that both her parents are psychologists and that they have less interest in her than they have in a lab rat. Starved for attention, Lizzie goes along with the idea proposed by a friend, Andrea: the girls will sleep with the entire football team, or at least with the starters, all 23 of them. A 12/11 split of the boys is proposed for “The Great Game.” Each girl would play with one player per week until all the deeds were done. When Andrea backs out of this extra-curricular activity, Lizzie goes ahead on her own, pretty much thinking (with her 18-year-old brain) that to have sex with 23 boys (in 23 weeks) will be a funny story to laugh over for the rest of her life. The aftermath is no laughing matter. It is damaging instead. She cannot change, forget, edit, or erase her past, nor can she easily accept it. Though there is hope for Lizzie in the end, for most of the book she is an emotional mess.
The second book was Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin. In this novel, college student, Aviva Grossman, is a political science major who becomes a congressional intern. Her boss, Congressman Levin, is handsome and charismatic and of course, unhappily married. She falls in love with him and they have an affair. It becomes public and as the book jacket puts it, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line. The affair is her undoing, but of course, not his. “Knowing” Aviva through this book puts a human face on the very famous political scandal it echoes. Ultimately Aviva moves away and becomes Jane Young, a single mom and a self-employed event planner. She is known and loved by many and ultimately is convinced to run for political office. As much as Jane has tried to erase her past, it is not erasable, certainly not in the age of the Internet and ultimately, she is found out. Fortunately, Jane is a formidable woman ready to face her past, accept it, and move on.
These books as companion pieces are very interesting. Why is one woman unable to rise above her past and the other supremely able to do so? I have no answer to that question but if you are suffering from a pitfall in the past, perhaps these books can help you. Additionally, I have these wise words to offer on the topic, straight from my social media posts to you:
- Don’t stumble over what’s behind you.
- Your past mistakes are meant to guide you not define you.
- Forgive yourself for not knowing what you did not know before you learned it.
- Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
And finally, here is the Self Forgiveness Prayer (author unknown):
Lord grant me the ability to forgive myself for past stumbles and falls;
the power to correct what I can;
the strength to accept what I can’t;
and the courage to try again,
this time a bit wiser.
To learn more about these two novels, read my reviews of them on Goodreads:
George & Lizzie:https://bit.ly/2HrFG49
Young Jane Young: https://bit.ly/2JycdLe
I spotted this sign in a gift shop in Shipshewana, Indiana.