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Considering What-If

The pandemic and sheltering in place has offered us opportunities to clear out our closets, basements, and attics, as well as a chance to unclutter our minds. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. COVID19 has given us ample time for examination and self-reflection, something we may only do around “odometer” birthdays or life-altering events.

What do you consider the pivotal moments in your life, the times of adjacent possibilities where you chose one path and not the other, forever changing your life? It might have been something as seemingly simple as trying a cigarette or as monumental as deciding to have children.

I found the end of the movie Sliding Doors comforting. It’s where we find the main character’s life turns out the same regardless of which “door” she chooses. But do we want our lives to be predetermined? Do we want an unseen hand not just guiding us, but forcing our way? Wouldn’t we prefer to be co-creators of our destiny?

In my own life, I sometimes wonder where I would be if I had gone to a different high school, the private school I wanted to attend. Would I have still gone to the same university? If so, I imagine my life would be pretty much the same as it is. What if I had gone to college in Boston instead of Madison? With that decision, I most likely would not have the same husband or children that I do. What were your crossroads? Do you wish yourself back, able to take the other path?

Not only is this an “odometer” year for me, but it seems lately I’m in a vortex of death. My mother-in-law died last year. My father-in-law has stage four lung cancer. We euthanized out dog, Lulu, in May, which was hard, as losing a pet always is. The death vortex reminded me of the other people and pets we’ve lost.

With that, my thoughts turned to my unborn children and how I had never taken the time to process my emotions about them. I don’t regret my decision. I’m pro-choice and abortion is not only legal, but good for society. What I found I regret is that I didn’t ask for support. I valued self-sufficiency and asking for help would have tarnished that image of myself. I was embarrassed that I had gotten pregnant. I felt it was a stupid thing for an intelligent young woman to have let happen. I barely told anyone and dealt with it in the most matter-of-fact manner. Would my friends have judged me? Not any true friend. I felt utterly alone and it was my own doing.

When we allow ourselves to objectively regard our mistakes, large and small, when we allow ourselves to consider regret, as opposed to being defensive or rationalizing the path we took, it shows we have humility. And that we are still capable of growth. The events of your life, whether they happened to you or by your choosing, make up the tapestry that is you. Reflect, unpack, declutter, and embrace your past.

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