Friday, April 13, 2012

Backward, Turn Backward

Elizabeth Akers Allen (1838-1915) wrote a poem called "Rock Me to Sleep," which began with the famous line "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight." That poem probably inspired the 2008 Brad Pitt film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I've not seen the film, had a dream the other night where time had indeed begun running backwards. I emerged backwards from sleep one evening and began moving backward through the day. And with each moment I moved backward, my memory of what then became the future disappeared. I had full memory of the past, of course, and was aware of what was happening.

Dreams being what they are, I accepted this as perfectly natural. I knew that I would eventually move backward through my cancer recovery, treatment, and symptoms until I emerged from that period able to eat again: to actually eat and chew and taste and swallow and take a huge bite out of a Big Mac, and look up at a passing airplane, and be totally oblivious to the fact that there was a time, in my vanished future, where these things were impossible for me. 

I would move backwards from Pence, Wisconsin to Los Angeles, to my mom’s crossing from death to life in the hospital, to her cancer disappearing, to my dad’s being alive again, to my original years in Chicago, to graduating from college, to going back into the navy, to enlisting in the Navcads, to graduating from high school…well, you get the idea.

It was really a most interesting dream, but it reminded me that, as much time as I spend dwelling on the past in these blogs and elsewhere, for all the wonderful things I would re-experience while moving back through time, there would also be an incredible amount of pain. The fact that it would be experienced backward would be of some comfort since I'd know that whatever heartache or physical pain I was going through would always get better and eventually disappear completely. But pain is pain no matter in which direction you’re moving through it.

Things would get easier and easier as time regressed. Fewer and fewer major problems. More and more reliance on the love and protection of parents and no-longer-dead family. And eventually, in moving backward in time, I would come to the the moment of my birth. My mother would reverse through her pregnancy, and I from fetus to embryo to zygote until I reentered that place where babies go before they are conceived. It is exactly the same place, I believe with all my heart, that we go when, moving forward through time, we however reluctantly reach the end of our allotted time on earth. And I think that is why I have never really been afraid of death. We came from nothing, we return to nothing. And how can one fear nothing?

I’m not quite sure why I seem to take so much pleasure―which I must or I wouldn’t be doing it―in speculating on the impossible. But I find “what if?” to be among the most fascinating of phrases. I suppose it is another reflection of the fact that I really have never been satisfied with the way things are, and always want…and often truly ache for…what I cannot have.

So I spend endless hours in the attic of my mind, sitting cross-legged on the dusty floor, opening boxes of long-sealed memories and watching tiny spiders in the rafters spin dreams. All of which provide me with an endless supply of “never was” and “never could be” to contemplate and play with.

Imagining having time move backward is just another variation in the game of “what if?” But while I fully realize that I can never have all those things that I so desperately want, it certainly doesn’t stand in the way of my wanting them. And it’s a fun game.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Beth Anderson said...

Yanno, Dorien, that sounds to me like a book trying to form. Maybe a brand new lead character, someone just beginning to form in your mind. Interesting concept, anyhow, and I'd love to see you do it. XOXO, my friend, another wonderful, beautifully blog written post.

Beth Anderson

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks, Beth. Interesting suggestion...let me think on it.

Diana said...

If you were able to go back in time and change things would you if you didn't know what the effect of doing so would have on your life today.

Vastine Bondurant said...

What a wonderful, intense thought, Dorien.

I know one thing. How I would love to hang out with you, cross-legged in that attic, going through those boxes of memories.

I SO love your thoughts.