If you could see into your future, would you?
If someone handed you a crystal ball right now, is that knowledge you’d want?
I mean, maybe I’d like to know if I should buy these jeans today or if they’re going on sale next week, but would I really want to know what my life is going to look like ten years from now?
I’m probably not going to shock you with my opinion on uncertainty. I don’t like it.
But, here’s the thing. Life is one great big ball of uncertainty.
While my natural tendency is to view uncertainty with fear, my friend recently framed an issue I was dealing with as an adventure. That phrase stuck with me. Uncertainty doesn’t have to be feared. Reframed, uncertainty becomes adventure. Uncertainty is scary. Adventure is exciting.
Not always easy, but exciting.
I grew up in the 1980s, and Choose Your Own Adventure books were all the rage when I was 12. I loved them, but being given the option to “turn to page 13 to follow the corridor to the left” or “turn to page 43 to open the door on the right” often froze me with indecision, even though I knew I could flip back and choose again if I realized page 13 wasn’t what I wanted after all.
Twenty-five years later, it’s not any easier to choose a path.
I have never been married. Never even given myself the chance to get close. My life had a plan and it only ever involved me. And I’ve been happy. I’m not going to lie and say I never saw other people on their paths and questioned myself, but I never truly doubted that I was on the right path. And that path was straight ahead, as far as the eye could see.
Until it wasn’t.
Eventually, the equivalent of a giant cartoon fork dropped out of the sky and staked itself before me. But my path didn’t just fork into two choices. It split into an infinite number of possibilities.
That same friend who helped me turn uncertainty into adventure, also put into words, unspoken thoughts that had been in my head for months. She wrote, “…I also want you to be the happiest and most fulfilled you can be. Only you know if that’s by staying solo or putting yourself out there.”
And that’s the problem. I don’t know.
I don’t know if I want to stay solo or put myself out there. And I feel like I should know. Right this minute. I feel like if I turn to the wrong page, I’ll end up on the wrong path. And there’s no flipping pages back and choosing again like I did when I was 12.
This is the first time in my life I’ve been completely on my own on a daily basis. Making my decisions with no other input or opinions to consider. I’ve got to say, the independence is invigorating. I’ve never doubted my strength, but I feel I am only just starting to learn what I am truly capable of on my own.
That being said…I’m not sure if I want to be on my own forever.
And there’s not just the “if”, there’s also the “how”. If I’m meant to cross paths with this hypothetical single man who is blindly leading his own personal adventure, where on earth is it going to happen? At His Lordship’s lavish dance? This isn’t Downton Abbey or a Jane Austen novel.
I have no desire to go somewhere specifically in the hopes of meeting someone. I don’t want to join activities I’m not really interested in or go to places that make me uncomfortable. Not only does that feel false to me, I also feel like if I go some place I wouldn’t normally go or act like someone I’m not, I wouldn’t meet the type of person that is right for me.
Finally one day it occurred to me, people meet people all the time. Everywhere. It is absolutely possible to meet someone with the same interests I have. Meeting someone doesn’t mean needing to change myself or be someone I’m not. If I want to meet someone who loves the history museum as much as I do, the history museum might just be the place to meet him. I don’t have to join a singles group. I might meet a guy who loves walking in the outdoors as much as I do…while I’m hiking in the forest. (Although, meeting some random guy in the forest does sound a bit sketchy when written down on paper. Whatever. It’s an analogy, just go with it.)
I don’t need to CHANGE myself to meet someone. I need to BE myself to meet someone. I need to go the places I love to go and do the things I love to do and one day I just might meet a man who is right for me.
Or I might not.
You get your pages one day at a time. There’s no flipping ahead for sneak peeks and no flipping back for rewrites. Every minute you are making choices that send your day, your life in one direction or the other. So is everyone else in the world.
Maybe you make the choice to go to the museum and the man you are meant to run into there has the choice of going to the museum or going to a movie. What if he chooses the movie that day? Are you destined to never meet? Maybe.
But life is a really, really complicated Choose Your Own Adventure book. On page 52 you might have chosen the museum and he might have chosen the movie, but maybe two years later you both end up on page 84 working on your laptops at the same cafe three days in a row and you strike up a conversation.
You don’t even know page 84 exists when you’re on page 52. And I think that’s for the best. As much as I THINK I want to know what the future holds for me, given the chance to find out now how the rest of my life is going to unfold, I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending early.
So, no. If you handed me a crystal ball, I wouldn’t ask it a question. I’d hand it right back to you.
Knowing in advance doesn’t make the hard things any easier and it makes the fantastic things a bit anticlimactic.
And at the end of the day the question everybody wants the answer to is: Will I be happy?
I don’t need a crystal ball for that. I know for a fact I am going to be happy. I am a happy person by nature. I have been blessed with the ability to seek out the good in every bad situation. Sure I have bad days, just like everyone, but for the long haul, I’m going to be happy and I know that.
So why all the worrying? I wouldn’t even call it worrying. I’d call it wondering. My insatiable curiosity and boundless imagination are to blame. It’s more like I’m enjoying reading the book of my life so much, I can’t help wanting to flip ahead. Maybe the best way to deal with my own impatience is to remind myself, the fun of the book is reading the words, not flipping the pages.
6 thoughts on “Take Your Crystal Ball And Shove It”
Straight from the file in my head labeled, Cliché: To know anything in advance of when it happens, is to be denied the lesson, and the knowledge that comes with that “anything”.
Another cliché: I tend to think we are here to experience situations, not be ready for them.
Oh, and lastly, a cut and paste job from a letter I wrote to my daughter shortly after she graduated from college:
“You get married someday. If you do get married that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable, or tragic. If it’s like many marriages, it may hold elements of all of these. It may also include divorce. Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage. Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state the quality of that relationship.
If a relationship fails, you may ask yourself how many soul mates does one get…? At best, that question creates knots in my stomach daily. At its worst, it paralyzes me to a point of emotional stagnation. Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and are able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing.”
Being single myself, I have quit trying to force the issue of my next wife, or my next ex-wife. If there is to be one, I would like that meeting to be organic; two shopping carts collide in search of red cabbage, or the dog groomer who touches my wrist inadvertently as she hands me back by pup.
Those lines from the letter to your daughter are beautiful, Roy. Thank you for sharing them. And thank you for reminding me we are here to experience situations, not be ready for them. While that idea is oft spoken, I’ve never heard it worded quite that way. I’ve always had a tendency to overprepare, to the point of my own detriment. You have now earned yourself a distinction previously only held by Heidi, your quote has made its way to one of my post-it notes, so I can remind myself of it often. Also, THANK YOU for finding the perfect word that eluded me: organic. “If there is to be one, I would like that meeting to be organic; two shopping carts collide in search of red cabbage…”. Perfect!
“Whatever. It’s an analogy, just go with it.” Ha! Love it!
One of the most depressing things I’ve ever done in my professional life was to help manage another person’s calendar. This particular person was very important and good at his job and he was therefore scheduled 2-3 years out for meetings, business trips, etc. I remember thinking to myself: Please don’t let me be in a position where I already know with 100 percent certainty that I will be on a business trip 3 years from now. I want more spontaneity in my life than that. Strike that…I need more spontaneity than that. You, my friend, have a blank canvas on which to paint. Use all the colors that your heart desires!
I knew you’d pick up on the line that made me laugh out loud while I was writing it! Thank you for always being an example of how to truly enjoy life by living in the moment and (whether by choice or necessity of an overwhelmingly hectic schedule) not looking any further ahead than is good for you.
This: “I don’t need to CHANGE myself to meet someone. I need to BE myself to meet someone.”
I think people who want to be in a relationship find relationships. It’s the being open to them that makes them happen. And the only key to happiness in them that I know is being who you truly are. (Having been twice divorced and currently in a relationship that I’m very happy with, I know a few things about this topic.)
Something else I know from hard experience: A rich life is going to have a certain amount of pain. Love and pain are different sides of the same coin. I don’t think this is a bad thing! The deeper we love, the deeper the potential heartache. When I am at the end of my life, I want more to have fully lived than to have safely lived. That means messy and challenging and sometimes painful–but also wonderful and joyful and interesting. All that said, I don’t think you have to have a primary romantic relationship to have that. Sometimes my relationships keep me from other kinds of wonderful experiences. That’s why it all goes back to your words that I started this reply with: Know yourself and be yourself, and you’ll be happy.
That’s so thoughtfully put, Rita, and I thank you for that. What an excellent point. I, too, want to have lived fully rather than safely. I’ve spent thirty-some-odd years more or less living safely and guess what? Plenty of crummy stuff has still happened to me, and nothing I did or didn’t do beforehand made any difference, and I have always come out on the other side better for the experience. As I have recently started being more open to whatever life has to offer me, I have found experiences to be that much more vibrant, and I find myself enjoying each experience that much more fully. I love that you said, sometimes your relationships keep you from other kinds of wonderful experiences. It’s so easy for me to forget occasionally that for every one thing I sometimes feel I’m missing out on by being single, I can name one thing I’d be missing out on if I wasn’t single. I appreciate your words of wisdom today!