Thursday, October 22, 2009

What If?

I'm happy with my life...but now and then...most often at 4am...I lie awake wondering what might have been had I made different decisions along the way...what have I missed out on? It's not that I want a different life, just that I'd like to have a few more, going on in parallel. Mrs Ditter, do you have any advice on how to deal with this existential angst or should I just make a cup of tea and go back to sleep? -- Anonymous

Oh, I love this question. Haven't we all been there? What if I had/hadn't (choose one): gotten married to this person/moved across the country/moved back across the country/gone to this university/taken the bus that day/worn the pink lacy panties instead of the plain white ones. I think we can agree that greater minds than ours have tackled this question in the past. Lesser minds, as well. So by all means, brew up a fresh cuppa while we chew on it for a while.
First of all, maybe you DO have one or two other lives going on in parallel to this one. You wouldn't exactly know, would you, unless you stumbled across some strange wormhole in the fabric of time and space. At this very moment, you may be essentially yourself, but doing something totally different, in a different reality. That's a wierdly comforting thought, in a way. Makes you feel not so bad about all that untapped potential you're leaving lying around in THIS life.
Second, a great way to stop fretting about this is to write the script of that alternate life. Seriously. I've done it, and it's a blast. The next time you're staring at the ceiling at 4:00 a.m., get up, grab a fresh piece of paper or open a new document on your screen, and go for it. Give yourself the story of yourself, with different choices: You didn't leave the Midwest. You did marry that guy you dated in college. You had five kids instead of two, or one kid instead of six, or no kids at all. You studied science instead of art. You never got married! And on and on and on. Each new choice leads down a new path, sort of like those kids books that were so popular several years ago, where the readers got to craft the story as they went along. Does Amanda open the door into the scary room? If yes, turn to page 193. If no, turn to page 115.  
Finally, you may enjoy checking out movies and books that have played with this concept. Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has a few books that explore time/space/alternate realities. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon begins with a woman transported back in time (as do many other books). "Sliding Doors" starring Gwyneth Paltrow and some random hot guys revolves around two alternate realities, based on whether or not she makes it onto the London tube or if she misses her train.
"The unexamined life is not worth living," said Socrates (and you can bet he's a greater mind than you and me combined). Examine away, what-if until your head hurts, and then come back to your current lovely, wonderful, terrific life.
And what if you want the lovely tea mug in the above picture? Lucky you. Just follow this link:

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