Yard Guy stopped by the other day. I can’t remember anymore how I first met him. I think he came to cut the grass for me after I got divorced, when I realized I didn’t have any lawnmower other than a push type and couldn’t manage the yard in the house I was renting (too many bumps). He did the big yard cleanup so desperately necessary when I moved to this house in 1998 and went on cutting my grass and doing the fall leaf gathering for several years, and even stacked a cord of wood for me that I could not manage (and that we are still burning many years later), until Pure Luck came into the picture and asked why in the world I didn’t have a lawn mower?
"I do," I said. "His name is Yard Guy."
Needless to say our next errand involved buying a lawn mower.
I still see Yard Guy occasionally. He does yard work for one of my elderly neighbors. Since Pure Luck is often away at the height of yard clean-up (spring and fall), I hire him to do the work if the timing is right.
Conversation with Yard Guy always includes an update on his romantic life, which has the same themes each time: girlfriend with children of her own, great fondness for said children, can’t make up his mind to get married for one reason or another, relationship ends. I’ve heard it play out at least three different times. This week I heard about the latest, a story involving multiple fathers of children, a particular love for the youngest child, an effort to comprehend the multitudinous life issues of the girlfriend, some unwillingness to admit his own, but a better grip on things than he had ten years ago when we first met.
These conversations are really more like monologues, and they go on for a very long time. When I first knew him, I had time to listen. When he came by the other day, I had work to do, but it was hard to cut him off without appearing rude. So, I listened.
After describing his girlfriend’s traumatic childhood, he said, "I kept telling her, you have to stop living in the past!!"
Given her circumstances, it was probably not the best thing to be saying.
But for mine? Perfect.
I felt like I should write him a check. But that will wait for the yardwork. Meanwhile, I’m examining ways in which I can set myself free from old patterns of relationship and self-evaluation. There are some people from your past, and in your present, too, who you will never figure out and who can never make amends to you. Your only choice in those cases is to decide how to relate to them (or whether to, depending on the circumstances) and to make a commitment to silence the inner voices that want you to keep giving in or playing nice or compensating or enabling or whatever your particular self-protective tendency might be.
The broken branch on my apple tree will not get better, and the broken trunk of the round arborvitae will not revive. Sometimes you have to prune; sometimes you have to dig out and replant.