If I had to write down a list of the stuff that cause more friction between me and my significant other, the different way we react to adversities is pretty close to the top. We find ourselves at the two extrema of the spectrum: she tends to get emotional and angry, and to dwell in regret, tormenting herself for stuff out of her control.
I, on the other hand, turn into a robot. Instead of thinking too much about what has been, I overthink the “what to do next”. That’s how I’m done I guess, I find certain situations so uncomfortable that I need to get out of them quickly if I want to take away any kind of wisdom from them.
As soon as I put down Colleen M. Story’s “The Beached Ones” I couldn’t help but think about this dichotomy, about how the book explored the relationship between dwelling into the past and letting go. Before that, of course, I went through any kind of emotions you can think of. This is funny, especially if you think that I found the opening chapters of this book too confusing to pique my interest. I couldn’t tell whether the scenes on the beach and on the railroad tracks were real or not, nor how did Daniel’s travelling across the States worked.
But right after that, things stopped spinning around me as I read and I was able to get a grasp on them. Ok, Daniel is actually dead and nobody but a bunch of people can see him: still he knows he needs to be in San Francisco in time to meet his little brother Tony, who is finishing summer camp. He gets help from his ex-girlfriend Jolene and her new boyfriend Brent, despite the latter not being enthusiastic about it. For some reason, Brent seems to regard Daniel as competition even though he’s dead.
Once the picture was established, the book was a very quick read for me. Yes, there are a few things that made a small alarm ring in the back of my head, but I was too curious about what was going to happen once Daniel picked up his brother that I didn’t think about them too much. Until they all came back at my face with the high reveal towards the end of the book: I know I should have seen it coming, but for some reason I was caught by surprise. It’s like If Daniel and I went through the same process of unraveling the past at the same time, even though I guess his shock would have been much stronger than mine.
From there, the perception I had about the story changed once more as the end got closer and closer. The reveal about what Daniel’s rendezvous in San Francisco was really about almost went unnoticed in the swirl of emotions I was as I read the book, speeding through the pages.
At that point, with all the clues in their place, it was clear that the story actually was about Daniel being able to let go and forgive, which can save the lives of someone he cares about.
There were so many things he had no power on anymore, and I guess that lingering around the people from his former life was painful to him. Seeing people around you moving on, realizing that you couldn’t do anything else for them (or could you?). But in the end, Daniel found a way to let go and to do what’s right, so that he can finally rest in peace.
The message of this book is much more powerful than I’m making it, but this is because I’ve been lucky enough in my life to never find myself in such a low position to actually harm myself. But this doesn’t mean that I can’t take anything away from it: it’s a story about moving on, after all, about the different ways to do so.
And in the end, who is right? That voice forcing you to dwell in the past, to go over your mistakes and failures over and over again until they ultimately crush you under their own weight? But if you always forget and move on, what good does the past do for you? How can you learn something from the past if you’re too focused looking ahead?
The answer, as for many other things in the world, is balance.