the half truth hangover: time for change

Photo 19

(Me looking artistically and thoughtfully at you as you read this highly unexpected post.)

This past week I returned to my homeland for our yearly “family reunion” (made difficult because my actual family is now permanently de-reunioned and the family that reunions all works in the same law office, making the whole thing a touch odd). I’ve found that it’s important to only return home when you’re feeling good about yourself, otherwise you get caught in the trap of revealing that all your independent decisions since leaving home have been poor and your life has turned out mediocre at best. This is ill-advised because, as I learned painfully a few years back, it takes years to regain your “responsible overachiever” status. (I was fat, miserable, and had bleached my hair white. Rather than look like the individualistic femme sophisticate that I was hoping for, I looked like a fat, miserable, confused girl… with white hair.)

The trip was mercifully uneventful and gave me a lot of time to step back from the life that I have created in Boston and compare it (in a healthy way) with all the “what ifs” that I have avoided for so long. One thing about me as a person is that I spend an inordinate amount of my free (and sometimes not so free) time pondering intensely. I think about work not only as it applies to my colleagues and clients, but also how it manifests itself in a broader sense: is what I do important to my overall understanding of life? It’s some heavy stuff, but it is what makes me uniquely capable of doing what I do. (Without killing myself.)

With this philosophical pondering comes the inevitable questions about life: the what ifs. For the most part I avoid what ifs because I have experienced how negatively they can influence your life. I’ve pondered silly what ifs before: what would I look like right now if I snapped my fingers and selectively removed all Snickers candy bars from my consumption history? What about Triscuits? (Who knows, maybe Triscuits have been a key contributor to my waistline all those years…) It’s fun, but more importantly, it’s not dangerous. Dangerous is when you start playing out the what ifs that can only end poorly. What if i would have said yes to him? What if I would have moved there? What if I would have said no?

These what ifs will (excuse my language) fuck you up. They (excuse me again) fuck you up because we as human beings are drawn to some notion that the things that didnt happen were far better and more exciting than the things that did.

I used to %#$ with myself by imagining what would happen if I didnt get married. What if I would have graduated from college, moved to New York, and lived the fabulous single life? When I imagine this scenario I am fabulous, laden with cash and opportunity, and called upon like a more sophisticated Carrie Bradshaw. Never in all my what iffing days have I ever imagined my single life in New York City as a drag. Not once did I think that I would be working as an $8/hr admin filing paperwork all day and then taking the train to my hovel in Queens. I never consider that I’d still be wondering who I was or what I wanted to be or how to become something. I don’t think about the incredible opportunities that have been presented to me here, or the relationships that I would never have made.

That girl in my what if is conveniently not me.

Because the iCaroline cannot entertain that what if because it never could have happened. I couldn’t have moved to New York City and lived the fabulous single life because I was never fabulous as a single person. I was awkward. The worst parts of my personality were on display when I was single. These days I can hide my vulnerability behind the courage that I get from the hubs. Even when I’m not good, he is. He is the half of myself that I know is right. When I was a single gal there was no half that I trusted was right. It’s no wonder I jumped from pre-med to philosophy to advertising to writing. When I met the hubs, that otherwise vulnerable girl had the courage to finally say, “this is who I am.”

And he said, “okay.”

That was all I needed. It doesn’t make me weak or sad, it makes me human. But it also gives me a reason to believe that what ifs are a dark and scary corner of the world. You, reading this, need to know that there is no such thing as a what if. The only possible existence for you is the one you have now. There are a million possiblities for the future– whatever you decide– but where you ended up –where you are now–is the product of the only possible decision: the one you made.

So I find myself at a cross roads with the Half Truth of a Whole life. The blog that I started three years ago was intended to be a place holder, a thought keeper for the many ideas that I would gather until I had the time (or the courage) to write a book. But then something strange happened: I started writing for someone other than myself. I heard the comments, watched the reactions, and what I learned was that people expected me to be funny. Humor was never intended to be the sum of the parts; humor was a device to express profound pain, understanding, joy, or concern. I am not a humorist. I am an essayist. I am a writer of things truthful and painful. When humor can help me express myself it is a necessary part of my writing, but it was never meant to be my writing.

So for my last labored what if: what if I would have remained true to myself and told the stories I wanted to tell in the way I wanted to tell them?

If I would have done that, would I be done with my book today?

No, because I made the only decision possible. The one I made.

But the possibilities for the future exist only if I decide to return to the place that this blog started all those years ago.

This blog is the Half Truth of a Whole Life. It’s the stories of my family, the truth about myself, and the beginning of what I hope is a long story about life and the people that make it worth it.

I hope that’s enough.

11 thoughts on “the half truth hangover: time for change

  1. I think I will have to agree. This is excellent. Very you. This was a wonderful Waltonia. What if the cows had not eaten my azaleas while I was gone?

  2. That was a thoughtful soul searching article…fit to print! I’ve never engaged in any what ifs and for me that is a blessing….maybe that means there were no second choices to begin with or that I’m rather shallow. But, I prefer to believe I was somehow born a sunbeam. I truly charish my position. I’ve always enjoyed looking ahead and not back . It excites me to skip towards the journey and not lag behind. My dear friend, Lucy, always said I hated not being part of the action and I find she knows me well. Action is real life. Skip to a different beat and enjoy the company along the way. Dear heart, remember, we’re all just bunnies trying to do our best. Nobody is as tough on us as we ourselves. Fiddle dee dee on the what ifs….go for inner peace. That’s the true gold ring………Darlin’

  3. …ditto on all the above responses. ….And if you never moved to boston, or moved onto (address shall remain anonymous) i would have never met you…and my life would have been incomplete…and COMPLETELY affected by not meeting you. I applaud your decisions! 😉

  4. This is my very very favorite piece (peace.) “Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” This is my current mantra – I believe it will continue to be. I also believe that you and the hubs are the calm in each others hearts. You are by far my favorite writer and have been for some time. Keep it up…you always shine so brightly. XO

  5. Hey, great thoughts!! So much more that could easily be said– but you successfully (and delicately,) selected only the important things. Well done. And good form…

    Thanksgiving in Beantown?

  6. Hi Caroline, I enjoyed your blog. For the ultimate what if read Ron Currie Jr’s “Everything Matters.”
    Cheers!
    Craig B.

  7. To be a grownup is to wrestle with this stuff. The only alternative is to be a thoughtless drone.

    For me it comes down to something Salon captured, on the appeal of the television series “Mad Men” (a fave.)

    “This tension, between secure but trapped and free but lost, inhabits the deeply ambivalent heart of the American experience. No matter which path you choose, you’ll still feel like you’re missing out on something.”

    Thanks for sharing. And it’s nice to make your acquaintance.

  8. Sing it, sister. I could have written this myself- you totally echo my current state of mind. I was just speaking yesterday of my life long pre-occupation with the “what if’s” and my theory that i would have been vastly cooler/happier/more successful had I taken another path. But I didn’t. And things ain’t so bad. Now if only I could believe that.

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