To think about

To think about

The name of the blog

"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Defining Moments

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco California, and died at age 88 in 1963. In 1915, following his return to the United States after three years in England, Frost sent his poem "The Road Not Taken" to a good friend and fellow writer Edward Thomas. Reportedly, Frosts intention when sending the poem to his friend were to gently mock the indecision of his friend that he had picked up on during their walks together. However, Wikipedia notes in the analysis of the poem: The final lines "I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference" are often cited as emblematic of America's individualist spirit of adventure, in a reading that assumes they are to be taken literally. This is doubtful: whatever difference the choice might have made, it was not made on the basis of a discerned difference between the two paths that opened up before the traveller. The speaker admits in the second and third stanzas that both paths may be equally worn and equally leaf-covered, and it is only in his future recollection that he will call one of the two roads, the one he took, "less traveled by."

The "sigh" can be interpreted as one of regret or of self-satisfaction; in either case, the irony lies in the distance between what the speaker has just told us about the roads' similarity and what his or her later claims will be. Frost might also have intended a personal irony: in a 1925 letter to Crystine Yates of Dickson, Tennessee, asking about the sigh, Frost replied, "It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life."
According to Larry L. Finger's analysis, nearly all critics have agreed that the sigh represents regret as this is mirrored in the regretful tone of the opening lines. He quotes scholar Eleanor Sickels as saying that the poem is about "the human tendency to wobble illogically in decision and later to assume that the decision was, after all, logical and enormously important, but forever to tell of it 'with a sigh' as depriving the speaker of who-knows-what interesting experience."
Likewise, Lawrance Thompson is cited as saying that the speaker of the poem is "one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected."
While a case could be made for the sigh being one of satisfaction, given the critical support of the 'regret' analysis it seems fair to say that this poem is about the human tendency to look back and attribute blame to minor events in one's life, or to make more meaning of things than they may deserve.
I studied this poem in my first year of college and fell in love with it. It resonated deeply within me the way no other poem ever has. I have often thought on it, quoted it, taken solace in it, and I have a magnet on my fridge with the lines "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference" to remind me when I falter in my decision making confidence. To me, this poem has always been about choices in life, a reminder that we will all be tasked, over and over, to make serious decisions that will change the course of our lives, with little to no information. Even indecision is a form of decision making. I understand this poem to mean that there will be times in my life when I will be alone and faced with a significant choice, and although both options may have their positive attributes, since it is unlikely that I will ever be faced with the option of revisiting the other path, and I do not believe in the multi-verse, there is no point in regretting the path I did not choose. Instead, I choose to believe that the path I chose made all the difference in my life.

Last night my friend was telling me about Dr. Phil's theory that every life will have, on average, five to eight defining moments. Times when the lightbulb goes off, a crisis engulfs you, or you are suddenly faced with choices, the proverbial fork in the road you did not see coming. Since I do not watch Dr. Phil I am paraphrasing, and hoping I have accurately captured what I was hearing and not misquoting anyone. I found this at According to Dr. Phil, you can trace who you've become in this life to three types of external factors: 10 defining moments, seven critical choices, and five pivotal people. But first it's important to understand the following terms: 

Ten Defining Moments: In every person's life, there have been moments, both positive and negative, that have defined and redefined who you are. Those events entered your consciousness with such power that they changed the very core of who and what you thought you were. A part of you was changed by those events, and caused you to define yourself, to some degree by your experience of that event.

Seven Critical Choices: There are a surprisingly small number of choices that rise to the level of life-changing ones. Critical choices are those that have changed your life, positively or negatively, and are major factors in determining who and what you will become. They are the choices that have affected your life up to today, and have set you on a path.

J and I talked about this during our long drive back from a hockey game in Vancouver, and I thought about my life out loud, counting my defining moments, which based on the description above were probably a mix of critical choices and defining moments. Although it seems to me that in large part, my critical choices have almost always become defining moments. The times in my life that I stood looking at the two roads in the woods. I guess the difference is, in part, that a defining moment is not about choice; it is when you or I am suddenly catapulted down the new path in the wood, possibly quite afraid. At the age of 41 I am already up to 7 defining moments and/or critical choices. I never wanted to live a boring life; I wanted to live a life less ordinary, and it seems I am accomplishing that. 

When I was 18 and found out I was pregnant, that was my first critical choice. Choosing to have a child at that age, having not even graduated from high school yet, absolutely changed the course of my life, and for the better I believe. I have no regrets with regard to having my son when I did, although that choice did not make for smooth travels. There were many rutted and bumpy moments. My only regrets about that decision would be for the things I think my son might have missed out on due to my choices. My second defining moment and/or critical choice came about a year and a half later when I left my son's Dad. That divorce absolutely freed me from an unpleasant path and set a tone of strength and independence. A third defining moment and critical choice was becoming a prison guard at age 23. That choice offered me a significant pay check for a relatively uneducated young single mom, with stability, a pension, health benefits , etc. It also, over many years, hardened me beyond recognition, swallowed my soul, burnt me out, and a host of other negative things that I am recovering from now 17 years later. 

My fourth defining moment came at age 28 when I decided to leave my son behind in BC under the care of good friends, and move half way across the country to attend school and follow a dream I had wanted for years. Those next six months proved to be the best and the worst time of my life, to this day. The course was horrendously difficult and had an appallingly low success rate so I was experiencing stress like never before; one failed test and I would be sent home. There was simply no margin for error, day in and day out. Those are excruciating ideals to try to maintain, but I did somehow. I missed my son beyond belief and struggled constantly with the guilt of having left him, worried that I was scarring him indefinitely and condemning him to be a serial killer. I had also never had such intellectual stimulation, nor been with a peer group that was so on par to me. Everyone there was of equal intelligence and drive. Almost everyone there was risking something back home, broke, missing their family, and working their asses off with the course load. I imagine this living in the same building we went to school in and took all our meals in was the equivalent of living in the dorms or a fraternity at university, something I had always wanted. Ultimately, that experience changed me forever. To say I developed an ego could be an understatement. I was elite in my abilities to think spatially; the last statistic I knew was approximately 2% of the population can think like I can. I realized I was an intelligent as my parents and teachers had told me all those years; my brains capacity for knowledge, comprehension and understanding was truly amazing. I was stronger than I had ever known in terms of missing my son yet carrying on, always hoping the sacrifice we were both making would lead to a better life. And lastly, for the first time in my life, I knew I was attractive and held the power as a female. I had never been so sought after given the ration of men to women was about 10 to 1. Of the 20 people in my class, I was one of two women, and a few months into the course, became the only single woman. I knew I could have my choice of four different suitors. The one I chose was the man I married; the man who has just cheated on me and left me for another woman. Which is defining moment number seven. The fifth moment came in-between when I left that career I had fought so hard to achieve to move my son and I to another province to live with M; to give love a chance. In most of those situations I had choices; when I reflect back on the telling of these forks in the road, it is really only the last with my ex-husband where I felt I had no choices. So will I look back ages and ages hence, sigh, and regret the role I played in the ending of my marriage? I hope not. I don't think I will because I have never been a big acceptor of regret. 

The sixth defining moment of my life came via a letter during the summer of 2005 I think. My Dad wrote me to tell me that I had a full biological sister. My parents had conceived her out of wedlock and had given her up for adoption. I was heartbroken and stunned. I cried and cried, struggling to breathe. I called my Dad and asked why? It was all I wanted to know. Why had they given her up, why had they not told me before, why had they adopted my younger brother, had I really been a twin as told or was that my parents way of dealing with what they had done, why had my Mom taken this piece of news to her grave? A lot of my tears were from a place of grief that my Mom had died many years ago and I could not ask her about the adoption. And a lot of my tears were regret based; time that I could never get back with a sister I had always wanted. My sister and I had a few faltering attempts over the years to establish a relationship, but for whatever reason, it never took. I no longer carry regret around that piece of my life; just some sadness.

I have always thought it is better to regret something you have done, rather than to regret what you did not do. I also believe in fate. I believe that we have free will to make choices, but ultimately, the souls we are destined to meet, the experiences that we are destined to have, the path we are meant to walk, will happen, no matter which road I choose in the wood. If I get waylaid, fate will correct me on my journey, which I believe is what is happening right now. I think that regret is such a negative and useless emotion, and quite frankly pointless given my spiritual beliefs. Regret spirals into guilt, and if you have a tendency towards addiction, poor behaviour choices follow, which produce even more guilt and regret. It is a never ending downward spiral if you entertain it. Even if you do not share my beliefs about the way the universe unfolds, I strongly caution you from a good place not to buy into regret. You cannot change the past, and you and I were making the best decisions with the information we had, at the time. A mentor once told me we are all doing our very best with what we have at any given moment. So forgive yourself, and if possible and appropriate, forgive others. And of course, make amends to earn the forgiveness of others if that is where your regret birthed. In the meantime, take solace that a century ago, and probably since the dawn of mankind's evolution into a thinking and feeling entity, people have been grappling with the very same issues around decision making, life's choices, and hindsight that we are today. I don't think Frost regretted the paths he chose despite what the scholars might say, not at all. I think Frost chose a positive attitude and believed he had made the right decision regardless, because it made him who he was and gave him the life he had. We should all be so lucky to have no regrets in our twilight years. 

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