As I get older, I spend less time rewriting my personal history using the “what if” game. Of course, I play it the most when I am bored or unhappy. Despite that, I think I’ve identified some defensible points in my life where decisions either changed things or had the potential to change things:
- Attended art school after graduating from high school.
- Changed my major and finished college (instead of only my freshman year).
- Refused to forgive my ex-husband when he first sent me a “Dear Jane” letter or later when he cancelled our first wedding.
- Remained in Anchorage, Alaska in a place I loved doing a job I liked when my ex-husband changed his mind and re-enlisted (instead of leaving the Army).
- Spent more time with the horses at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Bought my own horse.
- Insisted on living in quarters rather than purchasing and then selling a house.
- Pursued my dream of becoming a writer.
- Fought to preserve my marriage even though I felt undervalued and betrayed.
- Made different decisions about people I dated.
- Died young as I expected to.
The question I rarely ask now is, “How would everyone act if I was dead?” Since I routinely ran that scenario in bed each night from about the age of 12 until I left home, I consider it a vast improvement. I did replace it with scenarios happening to other people that I always prefaced with, “I don’t want this to really happen, but …” My guilty secret is I sometimes still do that …
A corollary question is: What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time
- Have a few close friends, but gather acquaintances too.
- It’s okay not to fit in, but join in whenever you can. Participate.
- Not everything is your fault. Sometimes others are at fault and sometimes its just your share of crap from the universe.
- Don’t avoid confrontation when its important to you.
- Do whatever you want, unless there’s a really good reason not to.
- Pursue what you love not just what will pay well.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Fix what you can and move on.
- Finish what you start. Don’t procrastinate.
- You can’t control anyone or anything, only how you react.
- Take care of your body instead of dividing yourself into “me’ and “my body.”
Of course, none of this is possible and I value the life I have (most of the time). I am still an intellectual who has to work at listening to her intuition and emotions. Contentment works for me, giving me peace rather than a happiness high followed by a disappointment low. When I feel bogged down, I try to define where I am, what isn’t working and where I want to be. Then I devise a motto to live by.
After the divorce: I feel old and tired and I want to feel young and happy.
Currently: I feel stuck and distracted and I want to feel focused and motivated.
Now I measure my actions, choices, activities, family, friends and co-workers against the motto.