Okay, let me see if I can take 3 unrelated events and combined them together with the one thought that keeps running through my mind.
1. I just listened to This American Life: Thugs, Act Two: Lifers
It's about a woman who feels personally responsible for a juvenile delinquent who turned into a remorseless killer on death row. She was the only person who took the stand in his defense at the trial for his first murder. Not only did she believe he was innocent for this first murder, but she also felt personally responsible for the second and third murders because she didn't answer her telephone when he called. She is in denial throughout the entire interview, not understanding what she didn't do. She visits the grown man in jail because she can't continue her life without knowing what more could have been done. He says, of course, that nothing more could have been done, he did everything he wanted to do, and nobody would have gotten in the way of that; not his mother, not his god.
2. I'm going to a funeral today. A graduate student in my Department died this week. Did I know her? NO. Did she work in my office or lab? NO. Had I ever said 'hello' to her? NO. Yet still, I feel at a lost for words to explain why I'm so touched by this death. Perhaps this is insensitive for me to blog about or maybe hurtful and selfish. She died from anorexia. There was talk of an intervention. Her condition could not have been hidden, she was a walking skeleton. I told my friends about her last week and my coworker and I had just expressed our concerns and bewilderment about what should be done. I feel like this day can't pass without trying to honor her in some way. She'll never know how touched and effected I was by her life and I can't forget about that now. What could have been done? Why did I feel too prideful to say anything? Why did we all just go about our lives, like it wasn't our business, or like we didn't have the time or ability to change anything?
3. It's come that time where I need to move on. I know everyone is saying, "shit, are you just figuring that out?" Yesterday I volunteered at my friend's nonprofit, cause driven, film festival, Lights, Camera, Help. As an usher, I stood outside the theater re-reading old blogs, old emails, and old texts to/about my ex and couldn't stop crying. What more could I have done to have kept my last relationship going? Ending it was the last thing I wanted to do, but what more could I have done?! More wallowing, more questions about what I could have done differently, why was I not good enough, how I shouldn't have given up whenever I knew he was trying to get me to. I 'checked' myself and began watching films about other peoples problems; real problems: Mexican drug cartels, children with terminal illnesses, women being shot and killed by their boyfriends, poverty, human rights injustices.... Afterwards I shared some beer with Alison and Brittany (and poor Aaron who had to experience a mini-ladies night), who are both absolutely fed up with hearing about how I 'lost the love of my life.' WTF should be all they need to say, but I'm too stubborn, too strong-willed, too damn stupid, and completely unwilling to accept defeat. I didn't do enough and I can't move on until I hear, "you did everything you could. I stopped loving you. I don't love you. There's nothing you can do to change or fix that and there wasn't anything you could have done." More importantly, I need to learn that on my own without problem-solving a situation that doesn't exist anymore.
So, here goes the connector of my 3 stories. Why do we focus on the 'what more could I have done?' Is it a human characteristic that makes us anguish over not succeeding at something or is it a self-centered quality, turning everything into some relation to our own personal quests? What does it take to just let things go and move on?