How to Revisit the Ghosts of Your Past

It’s never too late to say the thing you’ve been meaning to say

The moments we address on the show are often decades old. A lot of times that’s for the best, because the people involved have grown up and have had the space and time to clarify their feelings. For example, when Christina was in 11th grade, her foster mother made her quit playing basketball. After that, she felt like her life never got back on course. And so she always wanted to ask her foster mother why she made her quit. By the time Christina actually asks this question, she’s 42. The intervening decades have allowed her to understand her feelings in a way that she couldn’t at 16. She’s able to hear her foster mother’s response and take it in without shutting down.

Often the solution to a problem — past or present — is simply to say what you’re feeling. It’s something I’ve been trying to do more frequently. But saying what you’re feeling is often slippery and terrifying; mostly I’ve gotten into the habit of saying what I felt at one time, a while ago, and explaining what I want to clear up now, years later. For example, after I started working on “Heavyweight,” I called my mom to apologize for a time that I was a brat in high school. I also texted my childhood best friend to thank her for consoling me when I didn’t get into the school play. I can see how such a thing would seem insane, but so far, everyone has reacted positively.

Even if it feels odd — or maybe especially if it feels odd — remember: It’s never too late to say something, once you figure out what that something is. And if you’re waiting for the perfect moment to fix things, that moment might never come, so you might as well pick an imperfect moment. Like, say, right now.

You don’t know why someone isn’t responding to you

Here is a thing that happens to us often on “Heavyweight”: Someone sends a message saying something like, “Hey, I’d love to talk to you about that thing that happened 20 years ago that was very emotional for me,” and the recipient does not respond. Here are the top three reasons the message writers think they haven’t received a response:

1. This person hates them.

2. This person doesn’t want to talk about that thing from 20 years ago.

3. This person is creeped out by being contacted after so long.

Sometimes those things are true! But unless the person you’re writing says that outright, you have no way of knowing for sure. Here are three other reasons people don’t respond:

1. They are busy and this thing from 20 years ago is not as emotional for them, so they just haven’t gotten around to answering.


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