by guest blogger Renee James, humorist and blogger
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. That theory appeared years ago in one of my columns, and as it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Sometime after the column was published, I read Tony Hendra’s poignant memoir, Father Joe. In it, Father Joseph Warrilow, the man Hendra says “saved his soul,” shared the same theory, albeit a bit more poetically: “You see, dear—I think there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide the world up into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.”
All due respect to the late Father Joe and to my former self, I’ve changed my mind.
Like many startling and random thoughts, this one occurred to me during a run, courtesy of Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin. As I ran, listening to “Me and Bobby McGee” prompted another option. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who would “trade all [their] tomorrows for one single yesterday” and those who wouldn’t.
Janis and Kris would trade all of their tomorrows for a chance to hold “Bobby” again. What do you want again? A day without physical pain…a day free of emotional turmoil…a day with your true love? Honestly, I’m not sure I would fall into the “trade” camp, but if I did, that single yesterday and what it held would matter enormously. Maybe it would be my wedding day, with all its promise and anticipation, or the birthdays of my children, when I was imagining their futures.
Then, again, maybe my yesterday wouldn’t have to be a watershed day. Maybe it would be me at age 9, just spending a carefree summer afternoon in my neighborhood, or maybe a little older at a sleepover with my high-school girlfriends. Or one particular Saturday in college, spending the first perfect spring afternoon at a picnic: stereo playing (speakers propped up in a window), burgers and dogs on a grill, a tapped keg, a Frisbee, and probably a dog or two running around. I remember thinking that day: This is exactly right.
I could choose the last happy day I spent with my dad or mom: no cancer, no chemo, no hospitals, not a surgeon nor a beeping, blinking, relentless machine in sight. Or perhaps that yesterday would be exactly one day before I could define the word “alcoholism.” Maybe it would be one day before I felt bereft of joy and confused by a circumstance in my life that blindsided me.
Let’s sum up. I would go back to a day when I didn’t feel “as faded as my jeans.”
And what about those who wouldn’t trade their tomorrows? They begin each day filled with enthusiasm for what’s around the corner, for what could be if they remain open to it. They have zero interest in reliving the past, even one resplendent with accolades and love and fulfillment. No matter how good the yesterday, how full of contentment and satisfaction it was, it could never compete with the possibilities of what’s to come. Put that way, one option sounds sort of depressing; the other sounds downright ebullient.
Maybe the dividing line isn’t whether or not you’d make the trade. Maybe it’s more about how you react to the offer. Intrigued or dismayed? Curious or left cold?
I think we’d all welcome a “do over,” at least once in a while. We’ve all lived those “glory days” Bruce sings about—those times when we felt strong and smart and connected and unbeatable. And young. So young and so optimistic…when just about everything was simply one moment, one decision, one leap, one kiss away. But this is different. These lyrics describe passion so consuming (yet ultimately so fleeting) that getting the chance to feel even one moment of it again is worth every tomorrow. Tempting, sure. But personally, I have too much I want to see and do and discover during every one of my “tomorrows” to choose to go back.
What about you? Would you trade all your tomorrows for one single yesterday?
Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (or wants to, anyway), and she welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.