The next challenge in the 30 Day Writing Challenge (I’ve stopped numbering them–I’m just picking them and trying not to replicate any by simply going on what’s in my memory…which is really really BAD so we could all end up right back where we started. Which is kind of how I like to do things anyway)…the next challenge is to write about something I always think: “What if…?” about.
But here’s the thing about me: I think “What if…?” a lot. I mean a LOT. What if…I’d made a right there instead of a left? What if…I hadn’t taken that one class? What if…I’d just slept in that day? What if…I’d not hit that stupid follow button that dumb night? Lots and lots of what ifs in my noggin. ALL THE TIME.
So can I just tell you my general thoughts about What If?
What if? is a constant source of pain for me. I’m a drastic over-thinker. An acute self-analyzer, a worrisome worry wart, a wannabe clairvoyant, a perfectionistic people pleaser, and an eternal maternal nurturer who wants to save and fix everybody and make it all better. I want everyone to feel good and be happy; the overpowering need I have to make this happen has landed me in complicated hot water, in situations that were the opposite of my intentions, way more than once in my life. Like, at least 28 times per year. And I’m 44 years old. You do the math because I don’t feel like pulling up my computer’s calculator.
I could detail out some of the consequences I’ve gotten to enjoy over the years due to my incessant and insatiable need to Make Everybody Feel Good, but I will not. Because people are reading this blog and that’s had consequences for me in the past too, so I’m going off road now. Trekking off into the wilds of the unexplored jungle.
Because really, I think, that’s what Life comes down to: it’s simply a series of forks in the road. Here’s your Road A and Road B for the month of August. Now get choosing. And then after you choose, you get to wonder “But what if I’d gone down the other road…?” I don’t know about you, but I know I can spend, and have spent, a lot of time looking back, wondering what was down the other road.
Robert Frost wrote a poem exactly about this. So many people think, when they read this lovely poem, that it’s just a poetically wonderful piece of advice to all of us to choose the road less traveled–take the path that not a lot of people have taken before, or maybe the one that looks the bumpiest.
But here’s the thing: I read the poem closely, and I noticed Robert’s actually not giving advice at all; he’s saying both roads aren’t very traveled, and so either one he chooses will be just fine. (“And BOTH that morning equally lay/In leaves NO STEP had trodden black…” Right? Nobody’s gone down either road…they’re both less traveled. He also says he kept the first for another day…meaning, he’ll eventually try that path, too.)
So there is no wrong choice. Robert Frost said so. Which means asking yourself “What if…?” is just crazy-making behavior. Stop it, you! (If you must have advice from Robert Frost in that poem, I think that’s the advice he’s giving you.)
Thus concludes my thoughts about “What If…?” Me and Robert Frost say: Don’t ask What if... all the time. You’ll go insane. This is how I’m doing it now–I’m just taking a step, then another step, then another. Each day. And wherever I land is where I’m meant to be. Right now, I’m here, in this apartment. I have the friends I have always had and the new ones I’ve picked up along the way. And I’m sitting with the choices I’ve made. And the debts, O the massive debts, I’ve incurred.
I’ll just tell anyone reading this: I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year beating myself up for choices and decisions I’ve made and then spent a lot of time suffering from the ensuing consequences. I don’t know what else to say except this is, has been, an exhausting way to live. I’ve wallowed in self pity and deep anger. I’ve tangoed with extreme hope and almost every night I make love to deep sadness. But more than anything, I fear hurting C, creating havoc in the complacent/unhappy/comfortable place we’ve reached as not-legally-divorced-but-coparenting-well people while longing for love that doesn’t come with a lot of conditions and rules.
Yet I will also tell anyone reading this that when I was with C, I spent a lot of time thinking about “What if…?” in terms of “What if I got my own apartment and didn’t have to deal with A, B, and C?” And now I’ve gone down that road and I’m dealing with X, Y, and Z instead. So there are no wrong choices. Stay or go, there will be consequences. Just take a step. MOVE.
Then know that’s exactly what you were supposed to go through, precisely who you were supposed to meet, and entirely where you were supposed to be all along.