Monday, November 16, 2009

The Path We Choose

I am by nature a decisive person. Being in the middle of a decision is very stressful for me. I even feel vicarious stress when people around me are indecisive. I would rather make a bad decision and change it later than sit in the purgatory between paths. Because of this it seems odd how I dwell on those paths not chosen. I spend many hours thinking of the lives that might have been. The turned down marriage proposals- what if they'd been taken? What of the careers I turned away from? What would that woman look like?

Though I think of those could-have-been lives, I don't have regrets, mostly because I chose. I actively stepped forward. I dream of those could-have-been lives only out of curiosity. The wife to the Italian, Catholic boy- what does she do everyday? The peace worker at the United Nations, where does she find love? The wildlife vet -does she sleep content? Questions to ponder nothing more, no regrets.

I just finished On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and if there is book I wish my children to read above all others it may well be this one. I can't bear the sadness of a life of omission, a passively led life. There is where you will find unbearable regrets. The waste and inefficiency of allowing a passive life, tossed by the whims of fate and happenstance seems the largest crime a person can commit. That life is one of unfathomable depths of sadness where those other lives mercilessly taunt you.

The saddest line in the book for me is: "This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing."

We must act. Is there a decision you struggle with? Is there something you need to say but hesitate? Is there a wish in your heart? Why wait? Doing nothing may cause more harm.


Sue Guiney said...

You are so right, Laurie. Thanks for this. And I'm ashamed to admit that i haven't read the boopk, but I'll get on that asap.

Lauri said...

I tend to latch on to writers and become obsessed. I'd read Atonement and was not so impressed. I loved Saturday and then couldn't find any of his books here. I found this in a pile of half priced books (lucky me). Now I've become obsessed. I'll soon get a stupid credit card just to buy books online. I don't know why they don't take debit cards which are Visa also? My bad money ways with a credit card could all go pear shaped.

This advice is maybe more for me than anyone else right now. I hesitated to apply for a writers residency programme thinking I would fail. But I've applied now. I've accepted failure as an option and I'm fine with that, but without applying failure is guaranteed.

It's funny though- just the applying has wiped away the strange ennui that has been surrounding me. So that is a plus.

Val said...

thank you Laurie - i needed to hear that today :-)

Helen Ginger said...

What a beautiful post, Laurie. I do sometimes struggle over decisions. I'm in the midst of one now. Do I? Don't I? Should I? Can I? I feel I've come to the decision, but now it becomes, How?

Straight From Hel

Elspeth Futcher said...

What a wonderful line; and one I will be muttering to myself for days. I loved Atonement; so much so that I stayed away from the movie. I'm like you, I tend to go on author rampages.


T. Powell Coltrin said...

YES! to the first three questions. :) I am the most indecisive person I know, but I hide it well. Most don't know the agonzing process of my decision making.

Really great quote. And I believe it.

Lauri said...

Val- glad the post was helpful.

Helen- Hope you found your way to a decision.

Elspeth- A wonderful line and a wonderful sad book.

Journaling Woman- You have my sympathy with your decision making problems.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

What a great topic for a post.

I am a very decisive person. But my strong suit is also patience, and that trait has served me well. We all make mistakes, but better to make mistakes than to remain ineffective and passive. I think many women are prone to indecision, and tend to stay in a bad situation, rather than risk dealing with the unknown. (So sad.)

I share you admiration for Ian, but "Atonement" drove me bonkers. That nasty little girl made me so mad I wanted to smack her. I found the ending to be abrupt and unsatisfying. But, he is a wonderful writer. (The reader was supposed to be frustrated and angry with the little girl and he certainly accomplished that!) His prose is beautiful as well.

Lauri said...

Elizabeth - Have you read Saturday? The tension- my gosh! I read it in one setting and I'm a pretty slow reader.

You're right- decisiveness is best with patience. That is where I fail miserably I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I love Ian McEwan so much I would willingly have his baby. Even if it were possible at my age. Certain lines of his move me so much I almost can't bear to read them. It's an understatement to say he has a way with words, but well, you know...

I have regrets about a couple of things mainly because I believe the outcome would have been better if I had acted instead of letting things go. But what's done is done.

Incidentally, you have to read 'Amsterdam.' It's one of McEwan's best. It won the Booker in 1998.

Lauri said...

Selma I will look for Amsterdam.

Gutsy Living said...

When my father told me at 84 that he has no regrets, and that he's doing everything he wants to with his life, I was full of admiration. You see, he still travels, from Paris to Australia, Brazil, all over and reads all the newspapers, listens to TV news, sports, does Suduko daily, and had a tough life during WWII, yet he has no regrets. That's what motivated me to keep doing new things.