Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Life Built on Choices

I had a friend for quite a few years who I realised at one point was unhealthy for me, and I slowly distanced myself from her until now I doubt either of us considers the other a friend at all. I think about her sometimes and feel sad, it’s always sad to lose a friend, but I know looking back it was the right thing to do.

She would always say to me, “Lauri, you could do so much more with your life. You have so many talents. You’re hiding yourself here in Botswana. You must leave this life and find the one you were destined for.” She would say this in so many ways and in so saying she was negating the life I had chosen. She seemed to have a plan for me and often led me by the hand down the path that she had chosen. When I look back, I often wonder how she did that as I’ve been known to be stubborn; maybe she got me at vulnerable moments. Twice I nearly left my husband because of her. I drove away certain I was on my way to the life she knew waited for me elsewhere, but I didn’t quite know the way. That alone frightened me. I’ve run away before; my life has a theme of running, but always I knew where I was going. I had a plan, a map drawn out in my head. It was because the leaving was of my doing I guess. It was a choice made by me, not imposed by the wishes of another.

I don’t know if it’s because in a few weeks I will be 45, but I look back on my uncertainty during that time and I feel sad and not a little bit scared. Scared how easily I could have done the wrong thing. How many times in our lives have we made choices? Some good and some bad, but most made on little more than instinct, sometimes not much more than a mental flip of a coin. It is terrifying to realise what comes of such whimsical decisions. What if that 16 year old girl I was so long ago hadn’t got on the bus that took her away from the psychotic abuse she could stand no longer? What would my life be if I hadn’t run from America to Botswana? What if I hadn’t chosen to remain in Botswana and marry my husband and instead went off to the internship at the United Nations? What if I hadn’t decided to take that leap of faith that led me to become a full time writer? Out there somewhere in ‘what if land’ lay the lives I chose not to live.

We should look back every once in awhile I think, not with regrets, because I have no time for those, but to assess; to take a look at the path that we’ve built by those choices. At 45 (less a month or so) I feel I haven’t done so badly. I’ve carved out a small, simple life for myself that keeps me sane (a big deal in my family of legally declared loonies). To others, my former friend included, small and simple are not important attributes for a life, they are not something that should be striven for; but that doesn’t matter. For me it is exactly what I’ve been searching for. A little spot to be safe, and happy in the odd moment; the successful life defined and built by the only person that matters- me.


Anonymous said...

From where I'm standing you certainly look as if your life choices are working for you. Your life and your achievements are something to be proud of. I do think that living life on your own terms is very important; the alternative leads to regret and dissatisfaction. Simple pleasures, peace and quiet, solace, being true to yourself - those are the things that count. Those are the things that make for a contented life.

Lauri said...

Selma in your blog yesterday you talked about enjoying growing old and I've been thinking about that. I used to care for elderly women and some were so bitter about growing old. I think now what you've said is exactly the truth. We must live our lives by our own terms. If we do,happiness and contentment will surely follow.

Thanks for your kind words and your always wise insights.