I recently read Tobias Wolff’s autobiographical “This Boy’s Life,” about his time as a young delinquent. Since I’ve also read his, “In Pharaoh’s Army,” an autobiographical account of his time in Vietnam, I feel as though I’ve pretty well covered the guy’s life up until he became a writer.
Near the end of “This Boy’s Life,” Wolff said something that stuck with me. (I can’t quote it exactly; I’ve already returned the book to the library.)
He said that when we’re young, we haven’t yet acquired the gift of knowing that things change. That pain recedes. The young feel that everything that IS will always BE. As we grow older, we learn through experience that pain really does lessen over time. That’s not just something that people tell us.
What Wolff didn’t talk about was how little this insight actually helps us. Or, rather, it may help us a lot, but we still have to deal with the pain before it recedes. Knowing that it will someday only helps a little today.
I’ve been thinking that it’s a matter of sunrises. When something bad happens, the pain is going to be raw until X amount of sunrises goes by. Maybe it’s 300. Maybe it’s 30. Depends on the event.
But until those sunrises come and go, you have to deal with it. And yeah, it’s good to know that 300 sunrises from now you’ll be ok, but the fact that you have this knowledge definitely doesn’t mean that you’re ok now. You can picture the you on the other side of the 300 sunrises, but it’s like picturing yourself with a fat inheritence while you still can’t pay the rent.
The time has to pass and there are no shortcuts.