|My parents' 40th anniversary|
I sat in the darkened living room surprised by a twinge of emotion rare for me: envy. I've never been much for envy. I mean, what's the point? But watching that montage of unrelentingly happy occasions, I realized that young widowhood and, later, divorce robbed me of a long and photogenic marital history. And as the schmaltzy background music--my favorite "The Way We Were"-- faded, I couldn't help thinking: IF ONLY. If only I'd made other, different choices early on, maybe it would have been me up there on the screen holding hands with a generic blue-eyed, dark-haired husband of thirty years, having that perfect life.
Then the lights came on, really, because the wife, a woman who never failed to speak her mind, stood smiling wryly to announce, "And that, my friends, is the edited version."
The edited version. Of course. What we see from the outside is life Photoshopped to erase flaws, nicks and scars. The inside truth is that no one escapes pain and sadness; or as my mother used to cheerily remind me as she combed tangles from my hair, none of us gets out of this world without suffering.
It occurred to me then, as it does to so many of us at our age, that decisions made when we're young spin off life-changing repercussions. The engagement to the med school suma cum laude that I broke because he wanted to settle down and I wanted to live it up...bad move? He's probably a top surgeon today and still a sweetie. Could be, though, he's running a meth lab up in the mountains. The three-book poetry contract offered by a major publisher after my first collection got a thumbs-up in People? The contract I turned down because...God knows why? Stu-pid decision. But maybe I wouldn't have gotten to write novels, which I'm sure is my true calling.
Say I were offered the chance to rewind my life and I took the road not taken--then what? Then I'd have "different" at the very least. Not my family which is incomparable. Not my friends, ditto. Maybe I wouldn't have experienced the stuff that turned into stories filled with laughter and spirit, or the heartbreak that left me softer, the losses that left me stronger. The thing is, I'm much of who I am because of the choices--good, bad and you've-got-to-be kidding-- I made long ago. My life and I are far from perfect. Yet I wouldn't trade us for anything or anyone else. So, regrets--I've had a few, but then again--as the song goes-- too few to mention.
How about you? Did your life turn out the way you dreamed or planned it? If you had it to live over, would you do it differently?