What if… I think it is quite common for us humans to wonder the what if’s. I know I do. At this stage of my life, I find myself doing so more often. I think there is so much I could have done, should have done, wished I’d done. I wonder where I would be now if one thing or another hadn’t happened. However, what I am left with is what is. I understand intellectually that being disappointed with what my life is, where it brought me, how I ended up where I am, is pointless. But then again thinking about it doesn’t have to be pointless. In fact, it can be just the opposite. According to personality theorist Eric Erickson reviewing one’s life is a task for the last stage of life with the ultimate goal of accepting life such as it was/is. It is from this reviewing and evaluating with compassion and acceptance that wisdom is gained.
I just finished reading two books that resonated with basically this message. I thought it was odd that I read these two particular books back to back not knowing that they would resonate for me on related level. And what’s more, I read each book in two days. Which is a record for me. I smile now at the blatant synchronicity at work here.
The first book, Light On Snow by Anita Shreve was from the point of view of an eleven-year-old girl, Nikky. Her and her father were in the habit of taking a walk at a certain time every day but there were times when they didn’t. On the day of this story they found a newborn baby in the snow barely alive. They rescued the little girl and become famous in the local news. The mother of the baby sees the article and shows up at their house. Finding the baby and meeting the mother had a big impact on the Nikky and she wonders what would have happened if her and her father had not went on a walk that day, what if they left later and the baby was completely covered by snow. The baby would never have been found at that crucial time.
With A Hatred For Tulips by Richard Lourie, the two main characters were brothers separated for 60 years and reunited. One brother stayed behind in Holland with the father, the other ended up in the U.S. with the mother. The brother left behind had a horrific story to tell about what happened to the family during WWII in Holland. The Holland brother contemplates the what if’s the consequences of decisions he made.
What stood out for me from these two stories was how every action starting from one’s birth has consequences and relevance to one’s own life, to other’s one comes in contact with, to life in general. The morning after I finished A Hatred For Tulips, I woke thinking about the story which led me to thinking about my life and my what if’s. Oddly enough the phrase, it’s all relevant, popped into my head. “Yes,” I said out loud nodding to myself smiling in spite of my natural tendency toward skepticism, “it is all relevant.” Every single thing that I went through had a reason, was of importance, brought me to where I am today. The trick is to believe my particular circumstances, where I am at now in my life, that my life in particular is of importance not only to myself but also to my family, friends both now and those who are yet to come.
Photo Figure and Tree by Simon Howden