Does life ever make you wonder if you’ve done everything a$$-backwards? Do you ever look back and say What. The. Hell.??? How did I land here?
Sober. Single. Speed walking towards the other side of 40.
Did I miss important opportunities? Overlook the love of my life? Turn left when I should have turned right? What about all those roads not taken….?
Reflecting on this made me think of “Choose Your Adventure Books”. Remember those? They’re stories with alternative endings depending on which page you turn to. What if life was like that, and we could go back and choose a different outcome? If I could rewind and make some of my “No”s a “Yes”…What would life look like? What if I’d picked a different fork in any of the following roads…? I’m all about forward progress but everyone once in while, a memory comes up and makes me wonder….
- The Sweet Stranger One: A young man with an alluring smile followed me in to work and asked directions to a hospital department. But I was a glowing bride to be with a ring on my finger and eyes for no one else. After helping him out, we parted ways. The next morning after my shift I found a business card tucked into the windshield wiper on my car. “You’re so beautiful, I had to take a chance. Please contact me if you’re interested”. My ego lit up with flattery and I emailed him to say that while he was charming, I was engaged. I applauded his courage but let him down easy. Truthfully? I kept the card for awhile, in my glove box. Not with any plans to contact him, but as a reminder of the sweet gesture, his kind smile and the risk he took. Of course now that card is long gone…..
- The Rock Star One:
As a rebellious Rock N Roll loving teen I followed Pantera around on one of their tours. After the shows my friends and I would hang around getting autographs and handing six packs of beer over the fence to the band members. I wore ripped up jeans (which I still own!) and a tiny tank top covered in rock star’s signatures. At the end of one show the band’s security came up to me “Phil wants you to come to his bus” they said. Speechless, I followed, and came face to face with Pantera lead singer and metal legend, Phil Anselmo. He invited me to join him inside the bus. Somehow I sputtered”Sorry, I have a boyfriend! We’re going to get married!” He smirked. “You sure about that? What are you, 18?” I was 19 actually. He laughed but wished me good luck. Imagine the story that could have been, if I’d seen the inside of that tour bus!….. Or maybe don’t imagine it. Ew. That’s one memory I’m glad didn’t go any further.
- The Doctor One: Me – A fresh faced nurse with a pretty red ponytail. Him- a dashingly handsome doctor (he gets better looking every time I tell the story). The scene- my very first “code blue” – an emergency situation in patient care. While I tried to keep my head on straight, Mr. Doctor was confidently running the show from the back of the room. Later that day I was told he’d asked about me….was I available? Sadly, I was not. Just one less scene from Grey’s Anatomy played out in my life.
- The Grocery Store One: He kept running into me in different aisles, and eventually commented on my hair which was brilliantly red and up in a messy bun. “I hope it’s ok to tell you… your hair looks great.” My face turned as red as my hair. I smiled a thank you, and left. I got to my car and that same guy drove up in a truck “I’m so sorry,” he said “I never do this…but would you have coffee with me?” He pointed to the Starbucks attached to the store “We could go now if you have time?” I was so impressed by his courage I wanted to say yes. “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend” I told him. But I also applauded his audacity and told him I thought it would pay off someday. Wonder if he still buys his produce at that grocery store?
- The Never Single at the Same Time One: Years ago, I was at a pub with a group of female and male colleagues. I’d worked with one guy in particular in a variety of departments, and over the years each of us had been single at turns. Somewhat reserved and stunningly good looking, we’d chatted in passing but never spent any time together outside of work. Like every other red blooded female, I had a perfectly harmless secret crush. We were all tipsy, taking turns dancing together to the live music in the bar. As it changed to a slow song, I found myself in a moment of drunken lucidity; my head rested against his shoulder as we both shyly admitted to each other …..if we’d only ever been single at the same time…..if only he’d asked me before the other guy….if only I’d spoken up before he met the other girl….and then it was over, with a mutual smile as the song ended. Never talked about in the light of day, and no regrets. Except for a hangover the next morning, and a bit of a blush wondering if he remembers too.
- The Canadian one: He’s 23, “foreign”, and drives a fast red Camaro. I’m 18 and he likes me! He “likes me likes me!” I couldn’t have been more infatuated and naive, and quickly learned the definition of “booty call”. One night over the phone he surprised me with a proposal…would I marry him? Stunned, I stuttered out a “no thank you” while he tried to convince me of the mutual benefits of a Canadian/American wedlock. He wanted a green card and he wasn’t afraid to ask for it candidly. My answer was an emphatic No Way. But I wonder if he’s still willing? That offer sounds more attractive every day….
What if???? Did I bypass a princess ending? Or avoid certain disaster? One thing I’m perfectly sure of is that I dodged a bullet (and probably an STD or two) by turning down Mr. Anselmo. That much is clear.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life was like the books and we could peek ahead to see the ending? Do we solve the mystery and have great success, or end up lost in a cave or stranded on an island? No worries! Just turn back the page, and pick a different ending! “Take that Space Vampire! You can’t get me if I turn to page 43 instead!” It would be just like saying “Take that divorce! You can’t hurt me car accident! No problem job opportunity I turned down! I’ll just pick a different ending!”
It takes practice, but I’m beginning to allow the past to be past, and the future to stay where it belongs. This ability to “Accept what is” and to “Be here now” has never been my default mode. In recovery, I’m learning to counteract my brain’s reactive nature – the need to know, fix everything, agonize over details. It gets easier with daily meditations and a conscious decision to let go of attachments and accept each moment as it comes.
My goal is to experience each chapter of my life with compassionate curiosity vs. an urgency to control. I want to spend less time grieving what could have been, shaming myself for what I “should” have done, or hoping “someday” I’ll find happiness. In my experience, living in the past or the future – anywhere except for in this moment now – causes unnecessary suffering. No more wallowing in the “what might have been” memories, and no trying to force-write an ending that isn’t meant to be. Besides that, no one likes a spoiler.
Trying to shut up and live life gratefully as it happens…..
Cheers and Gratitude,