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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Choices

Several days ago, I got a phone call from an old high school friend, one of the very few I have kept in touch with over the years.  She asked if I was going to the high school thing.  Thing?  What thing?  No one told me about a thing.  And when she explained that it was our 20-year reunion, and she gave me the event information so I could find it on Facebook, I told her I’d have to think about it and call her back.

Honestly, I have avoided staying in touch with most of the people I went to high school with, but not because I dislike them as people.  It was mostly because of the emotions that I associate with that time of my life, and I wasn’t sure if being around people who reminded me of all those insecurities was a good choice for me.  For many years, I could not handle the mere idea of talking to anyone I knew from that time in my life; I’d left it all behind, moved on to other things.  But I had eventually contacted a couple of close friends who I had missed over the years, and now, I realized I was again at a crossroads.  It’s my 20-year high school reunion, and it’s happening about ten minutes away from where I currently live.  Do I choose to go, hold my head high, and not worry about what others think of me?  Or do I choose to stay home, avoid the possibility of feeling insecure and out of place, but also avoid the possibility of having fun and reconnecting with people who I would honestly like to talk to?

I chose to go.

I walked into the bar last night, knowing by way of text messaging that my close friend had already arrived, and immediately started scanning the room for her face.  I felt somewhat out of place walking in there alone.  But almost immediately, I saw a cluster of familiarity in the center of the room; faces I could not put with names, but faces I knew.  And pretty soon I was greeting and recognizing old friends as if it had been merely a few weeks since graduation instead of 20 years.

I had a drink, started making conversation, and began to relax.  I told my story a few times; I’m separated, and thanks for the sympathy, but I’m actually really happy now; I have two kids, I have employment issues, but I’m honestly better off than I’ve been in years.  And none of it bothered me.  I wasn’t trying to impress people with what I’ve done with my life, so it was easy to avoid feeling inferior.  I don’t need to compare myself to them or what they’ve done.  But after a while, I found myself in a cluster of happily married women chattering about how great it was that they’d finally found the perfect guy, and my drink was long since empty by then, and I had nothing positive to add to the conversation at that point, so I slowly retreated back to the bar and sat down quietly. 

I sat in an almost contemplative silence for a few minutes, as contemplative as you can get in the middle of a noisy bar.  I thought about the last time I’d seen most of these people, at age 18, and all of the major events in my life from then until now flashed before me, as though the last 20 years of my life were a mere glimpse.  I was sober and perfectly capable of driving, and I was starting to feel withdrawn, and I really thought about leaving.  I didn’t want to be there if it was going to leave me feeling depressed.

I checked my watch.  It was only 8:30.

Again, I had a choice.  I could choose to stay, have fun, go talk to people, and make the best of having an evening out without the kids; or I could choose to feel sorry for myself, go home, and mope. 

I chose to stay.  But I’ll be honest; at that point, I ordered another drink.  Sometimes, even the best of choices need a little nudge in the right direction. 

In both of those choices, as in many other times in my life, I realized that I was much better off deciding to be happy than allowing myself to sink into gloom and remorse.  True, overall, I am very happy with the choices I have made in my life, including the choice to leave my marriage and start over; but I still have a long way to go in rebuilding my life, and at times it’s easy to allow that positive decision to carry a negative weight by dwelling on the things I don’t have right now.  What I do have, however, is peace.  I have happiness.  I have freedom.  I have two beautiful children.  I have friends and family who love me; I am surrounded by love, I know this.  And while I don’t have my own house to live in, or a job I love, or a husband, or any number of things, they don’t define who I am, because I choose not to let them.  I am not defined by my circumstances in life.  As one of my friends told me last night, “don’t choose things that make you sad.  Choose to be happy.”  She was absolutely right.  Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance. 

And when I came home, the first thing I did was creep quietly upstairs and kiss those two beautiful choices of mine who were dozing silently on their pillows.  Those are the two best choices I ever made.  For their sake as well as mine, as many times as the choice presents itself to me every day, I choose to be happy.  

4 comments:

Mommy, Daddy, Baby Girl, and Baby Boy said...

I am glad you choose to be happy. ((hugs))

Kim V. said...

I know this was a hard choice for you. A lot of the choices you have made in the past few months have not been easy, but you have come through and now you are able to not only choose happiness, but also recognize true happiness when you encounter it. Anyone can bury their head in the sand and pretend to be happy for the world, but you have learned how to actually be happy with your life and with your choices. I am so proud of you.

E said...

I love seeing your thought process, AM. How you make choices, consciously, and then act on them. It's really a lesson for me.

Lisa Kling Roeder said...

I am so glad that you made the decision to attend the reunion. It was so great seeing you there. I just read your blog entries and they are wonderful. You are doing great things for Samuel, Abi, and yourself. You go girl!!