…you lived a completely different life?
I’ll get back to that question, and I’ll get back to why I’m asking soon enough.
But first, some context.
I was toying with this idea for a post for a while. But I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. It was way too amorphous to try to give it any shape, let alone sharpen it to a fine point.
This afternoon, I was driving along…the sun was shining, I felt happy…seven feet of black snow piled up on the side of the road be damned. I was ripping it up to 2Pac & Dr. Dre’s California Love…I was killing it. I caught a glimpse of myself in my rearview mirror and I felt myself simultaneously comfortable and lost at the intersection of who I am (an almost 48 year old woman) and how I was acting (like a 14-year old boy) and before I even knew what was happening, that song ended, I changed the station, and I was belting out Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” There was a good run on 70s on 7, as I continued to lay out on “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “The Gambler.”
Who am I? What am I doing?
Why am I asking?
And why do I care?
Which brings me back to my opening question. Do you ever wish you lived a completely different life?
(Although I’ll definitely need to circle back at some point to why DCOL and The Gambler are awesome songs.)
I was at a conference in Detroit a few months ago, and part of the event involved dinner and a tour of The Willard…an old lumber baron’s house converted into a restaurant with a top-floor bar called the Ghost Bar. Notoriously haunted, the place is a big draw. When we were there, it was pointed out that the bar was full of med school students from nearby Wayne State University.
As we passed through, and I watched their interactions, I asked my girlfriend (she was at the same conference) “do you ever wish you lived a completely different life?” I had barely gotten the question out when she answered, forcefully and emphatically, “No!” And she did it in a way that made we wonder whether I had just asked the most ridiculous question ever. I tried to explain, despite my happiness, that I sometimes wish I lived a completely different life. And I know that’s a strange concept. Because if I lived a completely different life, everything would be completely different. And if I’m happy now, why would I want it completely different?
And in that conversation, I was reminded of the danger of absolutes. And I also was reminded of the random yet deliberate chain of events that this life is. If I did some things differently, would I be in this same spot, but as happy? Happier? A different spot, but unhappy? Or happier?
Why am I asking?
And why do I care?
Because I do. That’s why.
It just has all kind of come together and got me thinking. Who cares? I did what I did for whatever reasons and none of it matters because it’s done. Did I do the best I could? Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t, and sometimes I can justify things by saying that I did the best I could at the time.
In the end, what’s done is done. So the only reason I should care about what I did or didn’t do is irrelevant except for the extent to which it influences what I do. I realized it there in my car as I was simply going with it. Enjoying the sun despite the snow. Feeling the warmth despite the frigid temperatures.
I think of all the direct and indirect pressure on us all right now. All this conventional “wisdom” telling us that “all” we need to do to be happy is this or that. I call bullshit.
There’s no magic bullet. There’s no quick-study course tha’s going to help any of us get a license to be happy.
But in that moment of existential conflict, I realized all that mattered is what I chose to do in that moment, who I chose to be, and how I chose to respond to myself.
Do I buy that happiness is a choice? I do. And this is a good reminder that it is:
“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.” ~Aeschylus
So today I was feeling happy without explanation and rather than question why or whether I should be, I hopped in the shower and surfed that wave of existential crisis right down to a local beer store and enjoyed a nice tasting, made a purchase, hit the library, and hustled home to sit and enjoy this choice to be happy.
Don’t listen to anyone elsee, unless it helps you to be happy.
And if you’re wondering what it looked like, my existential crisis looked like this (I was smiling broadly on the inside):