Monday, February 17, 2014

What Would I Be Willing to Change?

Having dinner yesterday I had one of those flashes of deja vu that we occasionally experience and for which there is no real good explanation.

You know the feeling,"I've been here, doing exactly this with the sun slanting exactly this way and I know down in my bones what comes next."

While I don't believe in reincarnation, this was one of those moments that was so intense that I almost felt like Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day."

It set me to thinking, if we could get a reset on our life, what would be the point without knowing what was to come? If we had to stumble blindly through life not knowing what we needed to change, would we do any better or would we make the same tragic mistakes? If I had a reset, would I dare to choose a totally different path, or would I be determined to stay on the one I'm on but somehow change where it takes me? Not on Dec. 15, 2013, but on some day years before when there was a little boy with an uneasy look in his eyes who wasn't quite as much like his mother as I believed.

What if I were already reliving it and trying to change those moments? How many times would I choose to repeat the same painful cycle before I decided not to try it again?

Given a choice, would my soul say sure, send me back and let me try to salvage my son one more time, or would I say no, let me take a different path? Let me be a farmer's wife instead of a journalist. Let me have children and grandchildren I don't know in this life, but would love in that life. Or would I make another change and decide that one child was enough, that I could sacrifice the joy of knowing him to avoid the pain of losing him?

How many of us haven't dreamed of a do over? When we learn that high school isn't the end of the world, how many of us wouldn't like to go back and tell ourselves to go for it and not worry so much? When our marriage fell apart, wouldn't we like to have been able to rewind and never marry, or perhaps do something different in those early days that would have sent us down a different path? When tragedy strikes, wouldn't we love to change the course of events by doing something different, or at least taking the time to say the words we would have wanted to say?

I try to not be consumed by the what ifs, but that flash of deja vu sent me to wondering and made me a quiet dinner companion.

Would I risk the happiness I have now -- the man I love, my daughter and son-in-law, the three Es -- for a life with the potential for less sorrow? Would I trade the successes and disasters that have brought me to where I am now to change those bits of my life that hurt so bad? Could I choose never to know Ethan, if I knew that loving him would lead to so much pain?

It would be nice to get to live our lives over and over until we get them right, wouldn't it? To have the chance to start over at each point that we knew we screwed up and have that opportunity instead of the one we took, and if that one didn't work out either, go back and choose again.

But this isn't a dress rehearsal, it's the time we're given. It slips through our fingers like sand to pile around our feet and cause us to stumble through our past mistakes, clinging to us like the last remnants of a beach trip as we try to brush away the bad choices.

My flight of fancy came to a lurching halt on the idea of trading what I have for what I might have had. A beautiful, headstrong, slightly OCD daughter, a son-in-law with the same quirky sense of humor our family shares, three precious beyond words granddaughters and a man who loves me as I could only dream of being loved are beyond priceless, too great of a treasure to gamble on a different happily ever after.

The memories of a blue-eyed boy with white blond hair, who grew into a troubled young man with a big heart and a demon on his back are equally precious. Although there will be no aging and no happily ever after for him in this life, I would not undo his birth to save myself a bit of pain, although, if I could change it to save him I surely would.

The sense of having been there lingered, but I knew that even knowing where life has taken me, I would have to take the same path again, hoping things would be different and that Ethan would choose a different path of his own.

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