So everybody knows I’m a hopeFUL romantic.
(If you’re here, and you don’t know that? Are you READING the blog? Just saying…)
And I’ve written at length that I have this freaky memory with words. I’ve been asked questions like this (and I bet you have too) with some regularity…
“If you could repeat <childhood/middle school/high school/college/your first love/your first job/whatever> over again, would you?”
I’m a romantic optimist, but to most of that, my knee-jerk initial reaction would be ‘HELL NO! Not for all of EVERYBODY’S money…’
Because while I like to place my focus on the good times and positive things and I’m pretty sunny and future oriented for the most part, I remember all the shit in my past too. Childhood for me was not all dandelion wishes and running through sprinklers and jumping in leaves and building snowmen. Middle school was AWFUL…yeah. All caps awful. High school? I was pretty done with things. Read my post about Rex Manning Day. Etc. Etc. Etc…
But then there’s THIS addendum to those questions, which makes them related, but definitely not the same:
“If you knew then what you know now, would you do it all over?”
“If you knew then what you know now, would you go back and change things if you could?”
“If you knew then what you know now, would you still do X? Say Y? Choose Z?”
And I’ve vaguely (or maybe clearly…who knows) touched on the way my brain detects patterns and connects things and my fascination with cause and effect and moving parts and variables. We can’t ever really know how intricately connected everything in our lives is or what a delicate balance our universe revolves in. We don’t know for sure which actions lead to which consequences as far as human relationships go. Sure. There’s physics and the scientific method to objectively get some answers and prove things, but the human mind is as unexplored as the ocean floor…as space. We know some stuff. But we could look forever to try to fully understand ONE person’s motives and intentions and drives and fears and hopes and dreams. And it would still take several lifetimes. And we’d still probably be incomplete and/or inaccurate. Add in the variables of multiple people exercising their own versions of free will and that’s an infinite set of action and reaction; cause and effect; internal and external forces and hidden agendas and observable phenomena. It’s not just starting the record over on the right groove. It’s the soft or rough and hasty touch of the hand that lays the needle to the vinyl. It’s the background noise. It’s the mixing equipment. It’s the amplifiers and what shape they’re in and what level they’re set at…
It’s not even just that one record playing. It’s that record and some more and a tape or two and maybe a movie and some digital stuff all running in unison in the same studio.
J is an engineer and he says he doesn’t have the patience or bandwidth for fiction and philosophy, but really…my mind and his aren’t that different. He looks at a broken machine or a buggy computer program and looks for that one rogue 0 instead of a 1 in the code or that one loose screw that is more than likely the issue. It’s usually just one little change that fouls up the whole system. And it’s one little change that might fix it too. And that’s the same way I think about the world and reality and human relationships. So after thinking more deeply about those questions…would I do it all over again, knowing what I know now? Knowing that whatever I faced in whichever part of my past led me to right here, right now…with J…with my son…living THIS life? Would I change something? Something little? Or would I just let it replay?
Yeah. I’d do it all over. All of it. Even the shit. Even knowing it’s going to end and how it’s going to end.
When our boy was a small one, and he was into picture books, not 800 page fantasy epics, we read a lot of Mo Willems (AMAZING children’s book author…he wrote for Sesame Street, folks. He’s the real deal). If you have small fries in your life who are picture book age, I highly recommend ALL of Mo Willems’ stuff. And one book in his Elephant and Piggie series is We Are In A Book! It’s silly (his stuff is silly). But it teaches some really complex lessons about the finite nature of things in reality.
Gerald (the elephant) gets super anxious about this in the book. So his best friend, Piggie, offers him some hopeful possibility. Readers can choose, if they like, to read the book again. So it’s over…but not really. Not definitely. Not forever. Maybe. Depends on the choice of the reader. Gerald thinks about this. If the book starts over, exactly like it is, he’ll feel anxious again, like he is currently feeling, which is no fun. But then he thinks…I’ll also get to replay laughing super hard about making the reader say the word ‘banana.’ (Read the book. Seriously. It’s cute. But deep.) So he makes this call…
And I guess I’m like Gerald the elephant. There are definitely some parts of my life I could do without re-running. But I’m glad it was there. Maybe without the shit, I wouldn’t have met J. If I didn’t meet J, I wouldn’t have my boy. Or hell, my dog, for that matter. If I didn’t get my dog, maybe I wouldn’t have my boy. If I didn’t meet J, I wouldn’t have started blogging. If I didn’t start blogging, I’d have never let a person I didn’t know look at the fiction I wrote. You know what? Without the shit? Maybe there’s no fiction. Maybe I’d have never written down a word of anything. And so I’d have never written an online dating profile to meet J. Or anybody else. Maybe my life would be ENTIRELY different if I changed just ONE shitty thing. Or if I’d held back words I said once. Or if I stayed instead of leaving once. Or…or…or…
But I don’t want a different life. THIS is the life I want to live. Hell, sometimes I sit in gratitude for my life as it is right now and can’t even believe it’s real. So I’d totally do it all over. And maybe I could replay it for J. With J. With my boy. With my best friend now who wasn’t there for the early parts. They’d understand me better. Maybe it’d make the shitty parts less shitty. Because I know that part of the book ends. I know how the book ends.
And that’s sort of what my latest novel, Waiting, is about.
Choosing to do it all over. And over. And over.
Choosing to reread the book, even knowing how it ends.
Maybe because you know how it ends.
But definitely because there are parts of it you so enjoy replaying, it makes it worth replaying (or at least fast forwarding through) the shitty parts.
Waiting is on sale in ebook format this week for $.99/copy. I hope if you read it, you like it. And I hope if you like it, you find some way to talk to me about it.