I don’t tend to assume that life will deliver second chances. Some opportunities repeat, but many do not. I’m all too aware that sometimes you say goodbye to a person, and you never get to see them again, and you do not know at the time that this will happen. Chances to experience things, to connect with people, to fix problems, to learn… anything that turns up can be a one shot deal. There isn’t time always to follow every lead, but making those choices conscious that there may be no second chances, helps focus the mind rather.
I tend to give second chances where I can. I’m acutely aware that people mess up, and mess up for good and honourable reasons and the best possible intentions. If there’s anything to suggest that might have been the case, I’ll cut a lot of slack. People who mess up in that way are usually keen to fix things and get them right, which makes it well worth having the conversation. However, people who are sure they know better than me how I feel and what I need may have convinced themselves of their noble intentions, but do not get to pull that stunt repeatedly.
The majority of my closest friendships have, at some point been tested to breaking point, through challenges, things I’ve done, things they have done. The determination to come back and fix is key here. The person who says ‘how do we put this right?’ and who takes the time with me to do that, or to listen to my request to do that if I’m the one who messed up… these are the people I keep. The measure of a person is not their capacity for perfection, but what they do when things go wrong. Where we own mistakes, there’s scope to work with it and move forwards. Where there is genuine remorse, there’s every opportunity to sort things out.
However, where the desire is to blame, to score points, to ‘win’ I quit, as fast as I can these days. I’ve tried reconciliation with folks who like to score points, and sooner or later they do it all again. If the appearance of being right is more important than the actuality, I walk away. If the other person’s aim is to blame, or duck responsibility, to never admit to being wrong, I walk away. If I think for a moment that someone enjoys inflicting pain, I am out of there, fast. If there are double standards, and someone excuses in themselves something they find unacceptable in me, that’s another sign to leave. I do not stick around for ego trips, melodrama, scapegoating and people who like having a whipping post. Since I’ve adopted a low tolerance to this kind of behaviour, my life has improved considerably.
Not all of the losses of people and opportunity are about conscious choice, or mistakes made. Sometimes life draws people in different directions, and the slipping away is a slow, accidental process. Sometimes other factors change what’s available. Sometimes we don’t realise the value of the person we lost until there is no way back. Often there are no second chances with these, once contact is lost, there’s no scope for rebuilding it. And yet… the last week or so has raised the possibility of reconnecting with two people who were hugely important to me in my teens.
Second chances are precious things, rare, and worth being wide –eyed with awe and a little bit daunted over. Not something to take for granted.