Once I read that if we were born just one hour earlier or later, our whole lives would be different than they are today. Hmmm….maybe that one hour would have made a difference. However, I do believe, many everyday choices have ramifications that alter our lives forever.
At the crossroads, we look one way and then the other, shift from foot to foot, ruminate about which way to go – marriage, committing to a life partner, divorce, which college to attend or whether to go at all, jobs, big moves, whether to have children. We debate, ask advise, lose sleep, make lists of pros and cons, fretfully strain to to see as far down the dark road as we can in order to make the best decisions. And occasionally, we even energetically and enthusiastically embrace a decision feeling certain that our choice will transform and shape our lives for the better.
Then there are those times that we are thrust unwittingly and unnervingly where we do not want to be. At a routine physical checkup, the physician frowns and orders some extra tests. A boss informs us the company is downsizing and our position, regrettably, will be one of the first to go. A spouse or partner announces he has found a new love.
But in the end, all that happens is simply part of the the great mystery. We cannot know how choices we make and things that are thrust upon us will manifest in the story of our lives.
What happens involves decades of past events, people who have come before us, where we were born, what we were taught as children, what we learned as we grew older and begin to form beliefs of our own. We are woven together in surprising ways that intersect the most unlikely of us and produce the most unimagined events. If we trace back to crossroads (wanted and unwanted), friends we have, choices we have made, we can get the only the slightest idea of how we managed to find ourselves where we are today. (Just as an aside – at your next dinner party, think for a moment how all those people ended up your table and where they grew up and where they came from and how you all managed to be sharing a meal together.)
Sometimes we fantasize about what if…I had gone to a different college…took that other job…studied harder…not met that man…not had that car accident…Things would be different. Yes, different, but probably not in the way we might think or hope.
The Bhagavad Gita, that ancient Hindu text, reminds us to act well without attachment to the fruit of our actions. To make the best decisions we can at the time and then let go. What will be will be.
Helen Keller talked about this, too. “Security is mostly a superstition,” she stated flatly. “It does not exist in nature nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
In the end, I believe we have to embrace an unconditional “yes” to life. One of the first purchases my husband and I made together is a wrought iron piece of art that says simply, “Yes.” It reminds us that yes really is our only choice. It calls us to embrace life on life’s terms. To make the best decisions we can at the time we make them. To react the best way we know how. But to know we do not control the consequences of our decisions or actions.