Choosing Like You’re Already There

A few things have been coming together in the last week or so, and it’s hard to put into words what those things are, but I’m going to try.

I think it’s easiest to see in fiction, or in the lives of others, and especially in the lives of those who are already gone:  there are usually big, sweeping themes and events that have changed the trajectory of a person’s life, and people in a person’s life who have defined one another’s lives or have at least defined parts of one another’s life.

I just finished watching the Masterpiece mini-series Little Women, a story I read as a girl and I likely didn’t completely understand, but I understood enough to know that I loved it. Little Women was the first book that made me cry — really cry sobbing tears, I was so distraught when Beth died — so it has its own place in my heart as a book that added a richness and a depth to my reading life. But as an adult looking back on the story overall and especially on the girls’ storylines I can see that for each girl they had their life trajectories, their destinies even, that were partially set by their place in history, by their circumstances, but also by their personalities, their talents, and their decisions. Each girl came to a crossroads, and they chose, and in choosing they defined themselves in one way or another.

I’m also in the midst of watching a multi-part documentary on Netflix called Wild Wild Country about the Rajneeshee spiritual group. Similarly, these real people — most of whom are still living — came to important crossroads in their lives and they chose, and in choosing they defined themselves and changed their lives. Some of the choices made people criminals, attempted murderers even. Other choices made people faithful guardians of justice. Still other choices made people bystanders, simply people in the background living lives that were tangential to all the chaos and drama.

I’ve also seen some old photos of family members, retold myself some family histories, and sifted through my own old memories. I’ve reflected on the themes of family members’ lives, where they seemed to have flourished, where they seemed to have deflated, the legacies and memories they left behind with me, the marks they made on their families, the personal lives’ works they created. It’s all very beautiful and mysterious.

So what does this have to do with me — with anything? I know I’ve said it before in some previous entry, but there is such power in deciding. And sometimes life does us a favor and forces us to choose, be it because of a life-threatening illness, a lost job, a relationship breakup or a marriage proposal, sometimes even the death of a loved one. Because these big events cannot easily be avoided and we must deal with them. We must choose. Other times, our lives go along quietly, slowly drifting with the current and little change from one day to the next. Slowly, imperceptibly days turn into weeks turn into months and even years with little discernible change. To me, this is the hard part, because as someone living a life, this is when I must make change, when I must be my own force — face things that must be faced in order to change and grow, let go of things that must be put down so that new things can be chosen and picked up.

And that’s where I see that I am now. I went through a big period of growth and change when I met my wife. We got married and lived through our first couple of years of marriage. Those experiences were transformative and have left an indelible — and I’d venture to say positive — mark on me. But I’ve been dormant lately, and honestly a little lazy. So it’s time to force some change. A woman whose videos I often watch online mentioned once that in order to make change you have to treat yourself like you’re already the person you wish to be, make choices like the person you want to be, live your life like you already are that person. And that message is so simple — cliche even — but it’s so true.

So that’s the plan — to treat myself as if I’m already arrived where I want to be, and make choices like I’m already there. Which for me means choices that promote physical health, spiritual growth, creative expression, healthy relationships, and all kinds of experiences. Because when I look back on my life as an old woman, as a middle aged woman, even a year from now, I want my big sweeping themes to be just that — health, spirituality, creativity, community, and even a little magic.

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