The Journey: A Look at Aging - Chapter 13
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.” ~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” ~ Rumi
This is chapter 13 of a 16 chapter series, written by 16 Hubpages authors. A new chapter has been published each weekday during the month of July 2012 and linked to the other chapters at the bottom of each hub. The planning began weeks ago as each of us posed a question to our collaborators about the journey through life and the lessons we've each learned through aging. I answered each of their questions, and below are their answers to mine.
I can't say enough about the positive spirit that this effort has generated within this group, and hopefully to a larger audience of online authors. Our currency with each other was being of service, being generous of each other and being altruistic in an authentic effort to pass along wisdom and experience garnered during our lives. The goal of this concept has been to respect and honor the richness of life, as well as acknowledge the challenges we experience as we move through our existence.
In my question, I chose to explore the concept of choices - how we look at those significant choices we have made, and whether we would make them again. This poses an interesting dilemma - whether we think we made the right choice or not, and whether we want to defend the choices we did make. Is the grass truly greener on the other side of the pasture?
What was your most important fork in the road moment? With the wisdom that comes with experience, would you make the same choice? Why or why not?
Answers from my collaborators
Her answer: I made a vital, necessary fork-in-road choice, but as most choices are, it was the result of prior less wise choices. I had to exert my independence from stifling domination by my eldest sister, Harriet, who’d sought to ‘fix’ me, - her way. She was 14 when I was born; she’d led and I’d followed, till, at 21, it became clear that her control was to continue past graduation for the rest of my life. I escaped her influence, setting off on my own: a wise choice. But I didn’t confront her: poor choice. I’d have made the same choice, but more assertively, sooner.Tragedy soon took her and her family’s lives; I’d have been among them, had I followed her plans. This became a long-lasting, many-faceted influence on my life for its next major segment and casts its shadow even now. She never forgave or really knew me: a shared loss and regret. I must believe there’s ‘more’, for both our sakes.Because of the difficult, valuable experience and its influence, eventually I learned to confront my challenges assertively and directly, in spite of established patterns.
His answer: My marriage fell apart because my wife had Thyroid disease and was completely unstable for years. She had a diagnosis but refused to take any action. Eventually I had taken all I could and left. In retrospect, or if this were to occur now, I would work harder to find a way to help the other person solve the situation. There are times when you are involved in a situation, even for years and you can lose sight of what was important. What I would tell those that follow , is that even when things seem like there is no solution there will be one right around the next corner. All you have to do is look for it.
His answer: I would have to say it happened earlier rather than later for me. My most important fork would have to be when I met my Mentor and father I never had at the tender teen age of 15 years old. If we had not met, I don't know where my life would have headed as I was brought up in a very poor area of the city and I was hanging out with boys who later in their lives were either imprisoned for crimes they committed or killed for them. My Mentor changed my life and turned it completely around and I am the man today because of him. The choice was mine at the time, he just insured I made the right one and today Vincent is very thankful for my angel placing him square in the middle of my fork in the road.
Her answer: I took a “wrong fork in the road” when young and immature, sacrificing college to an ill-considered marriage. The resulting unhappy union gave me three beloved children, so I wouldn’t erase it, even if I had a magic wish. I do regret, however, that I didn’t cut my losses much sooner than I did. I thought children were better off with both parents even in a toxic marriage. Wrong! I learned, too late, that children fare better growing up with a single parent in a non-stressful environment than in a dysfunctional, high-tension family unit. If I could revoke one choice, it would be that one. With hindsight, I believe my children and I would all have benefited if I hadn’t clung to a sinking ship. If only I’d had the wisdom to make the right choice at that critical earlier stage!As I wrote in a poem, “Alas, I’ll never know.” There are no magic wishes.
Her answer: Hmm, my most important fork-in-the road moment? I'm not really sure I had one. My life has been an accumulation of fork-in-the-road moments; the decision to marry, the decision to have children, the decision to work, the decision to go back to work when my children were in school...these are just some of the fork-in-the-road decisions I have made. I never had one of those 'struck by lightning' moments when everything was suddenly made clear and the decision was right before me. My life has progressed in little steps that had big consequences and results but none that I truly regret. Taking my life one day at a time and keeping close to what I believe and who I love has been my guiding precept. If I do ever have one of those fork-in-the road moments I'll be ready.
His answer: With the (seemingly small) amount of wisdom that comes with age, looking back at those"fork in the road moments", I guess the one I would be most likely to want to change would be getting married almost as soon as I graduated from high school. It is a story I won't relate in answering this question, but it set the tone for later decisions as well. Would I really change it? No. As I think I said elsewhere in this question and answer project, I feel that every decision made along the way results in who I am now, in this moment. I would have to be pretty miserable to want to change that, and I am not. I am content with life as it is today, so I try to live here, in that today, in this moment, without regret, or over the shoulder gazes into the past. We will celebrate our third anniversary on July 11th. Together for nearly five years now, my contentment stems, in large part, from our relationship.
His answer: I stood in front of our home/publishing company looking up at the stars of the Nashville sky. A battle stirred in my soul. I had to make a decision, stay and be a star or leave with stars in my tears. I remember looking at the living room light which was directly across from the publishing office where the lights were out. In the living room where the light was on, was my beautiful wife and our three wonderful children. In the publishing office was hundreds of my songs along with others that my sister Ann/partner and I had signed.
I believed that I could have become one of Nashville's great songwriters but the very political environment of the music business seemed to always clash with my creativity and the kind of person I am. Having severe back problems for two years had put us in dire straits financially. Surgery had repaired my condition but I was working two jobs and spinning my wheels of effort down the hill. I believed I was on the edge of fame having written songs with famous writers and working on a development deal with a major publishing company. My decision that night came like lightning. I looked up at the stars, then to the light of our living room. I whispered out loud,"Go home Tom....just go home."
I went back in the house to prepare my family. The kids had just started school but were OK with the move. My wife, being the treasure of a soul she is...took my hand and said,"I came here with you....I'll go home with you." The next evening we were headed north to Ohio. I look back now with no regrets. We made wonderful friends in Nashville and met so many special people. It was a six year long experience that I will always cherish.
A few years ago, a friend of mine called and told me he had recorded a song we wrote together in Nashville. He had put it on his album titled,"Broken, by Lawren Patrick Lelko. The name of the song is,"Sailing." It is a spiritual song about our final journey home. Lawren told me that he had given a copy of the album to his friend. He said that his friend would listen to, "Sailing" on his way home from work every night because it relieved his tremendous stress of the day. His friend was an Army Colonel who was in charge of handling incoming wounded soldiers from Iraq.
That was the moment I learned the real meaning of success. I had written something that calmed a horrible storm within a fellow human being. My recordings and writings may die in the winds of time but they will live in the hearts of my children and grandchildren for as long as they are passed down.
I chose the right fork in the road that night. I chose home.
Her answer: The times were turbulent and restless in the '60s and '70s. Traditions were broken, ideals were elevated to cult status, and one chose sides with the establishment or with the counter-culture. My important fork-in-the-road occurred at that point. I had the opportunity to go to the Sorbonne to study fine art but had to meet and maintain certain conditions that felt more like restrictions during a time when many of us were busy throwing such things out the window. Instead, I chose to strike out into the unknown and take my chances with the Hotel California. Would I make the same choice again? Absolutely not. Assuming that I am standing at the fork with this wisdom and have no memories of a yet unchosen life, I would go to Paris. I would paint like a woman possessed by beauty and yearning, play music, and dance with abandon. I would stroll with a lover through the narrow streets at dawn, knock on the window of a boulangerie for croissants fresh from the oven and stop for a freshly brewed café. However, if I took this accumulated wisdom with me down this new road, I would also be the most boring young woman in Paris. There is a time for wisdom and it is not when we are young. Think of all the midnight swims we would miss! So if I can leave the wisdom at the fork in the road, I will be in Paris. Perhaps decades later I'll be reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and dreaming of a life on the prairies. Or perhaps not.
His answer: My "Fork-in-the-road" moment was in February 2004 when I was diagnosed with Accelerated Fibromyalgia and Neurothopy in my body, bones and nerves. These are incurable. I realized then, and with much depressed-emotions, that my life would forever be changed and that I would be bound to sit around my home and watch life pass me by. Now on June 15, 2012, I was right.
“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Her answer: My most important fork-in-the-road moment was the decision my husband and I made about our careers when he retired from the Army. If I could relive one night in my life, it would be that one when we were sitting at our kitchen table and discussing him going into his
family’s business. I had absolutely no experience to give me the wisdom to understand the repercussions of that choice. I could have saved our family from a decade of financial ruin and personal anguish. All I had to say was I don’t think this is a good idea, and my husband would have taken us down a different road. But instead I said if this is what you think you want to do . . .
I can’t say no good came from that choice. Our children have an understanding of how hard it is to come by a dollar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They saw their parents love for each other tried almost to the breaking point – but endure. If I had it to do over again – I would not have made the same choice. But we survived. God protected us and led us out of that wilderness and on to a promised land we would have never imagined.
His answer: I came from a hostile home and was a latch-key kid throughout my informative years in Chicago. I got into a lot of trouble and did many things I am not proud of. Fear, hate, and violence were the tools that I sharpened my teeth on as a child. If I had not met Christ and taken Him by the hand, I would have become a most dangerous, malevolent, and violent hatemonger of the first order.
So, without saying too much, my most important fork-in-the-road moment is when I decided to follow Christ Jesus and accept His love and forgiveness, instead of continuing down the road of selfishness, hatred, bitterness, and violence.
For me, the love of God was the key to my recovery and it was this key that set me free. So, yes, I would make the same choice ten trillion times over if given the chance, because it is only through Christ that I was freed and redeemed.
Her answer: Having completed two years of college, I got married, worked two years, and had three baby boys. Ten years later, I returned to school for a history degree. After graduation I planned to raise my sons, serve in my church, write an occasional article for the county magazine. One afternoon Dr. Keene (history professor) asked me what I would do after graduating? I told him. He said that wouldn’t do and offered to write a letter of recommendation for me. I said I had no money; he said Emory University had plenty of money. I wasn’t sure; he was very sure. Emory offered me a full scholarship; it required an eighty hour a week commitment for five years; my children were ten, twelve, and fourteen and involved in ROTC, theater, choir, basketball, and soccer. Church friends were negative. I went to Emory and graduated seven years later. My husband left in year six; that was hard for my sons, but eventually our life became more peaceful and better. For eighteen years I have been blessed to earn my living doing what I love and what I happen to be good at. J I would do it all again. J
His answer: Of course not and I definitely would are my answers. My fork in the road moment occurred in the seventh grade. I chose to drink alcohol – a lot of alcohol. I got in a fight, vomited blood and took an ambulance ride to the hospital. Of course I would not repeat that decision, but I did, over and over and over again.
Once I took that first drink, I was powerless to resist the next drink. I was caught in a cycle of compulsion and obsession which possessed me for most of my life.
There were many forks in the road where I sought help with my addiction and yet another fork where I chose to resume my drinking.
Twelve years ago, I put the “plug in the jug”. One day at a time, I have taken the necessary steps to avoid returning to a life of active addiction.
I am sober today but may reach another fork in the road tomorrow.
His answer: If that fork in the road punctured my tire, I would be ticked. But enough of that. I need to answer your question.
I've always been a structured, steadfast person who just plodded ahead in a straight line and is uncomfortable with change. So, any time a change seemed the best course of action, I agonized over it. I've never felt very self confident even though others thought I was (That comes with the serious look). Anyway, it was easy to slip into a secure clerical job with the State of California after High School. At an early age, I met an attractive young woman who seemed to like me. We were married quite young and we settled into a comfortable existence and began raising children. That was surely and important fork in the road. Would I take that fork again? I don't know, but I would not change the choices that created my family for the world. I later worked for 4 years with the State Department of Justice as a Fingerprint Examiner beginning in in 1957
A move to Eureka, California in August 1961 was certainly an important fork in the road. I was to begin a career with the State Department of Employment. Having little money and no savings, we managed to rent a truck and move all of our belongings to a rental house some 300 miles away. We were away from friends and family and on our own in a new environment with three small children. It turned out well as I was warmly accepted by the Eureka Employment office staff and we met some nice neighbors. But, I had a lot to learn on the new job and felt unsecure for quite a while.
A few years ago, I might have answered your question differently, but today, looking back, I think I made some good choices. With the wisdom, I've gained from experience, I think the most important fork in the road was deciding to have children. They are a true blessing.
His answer: 7:40 P.M. 1975, somewhere, north bound on the San Diego Freeway. My car was packed with personals, seven years of marriage and a five year old daughter fading in my rear view mirror. Whether I was running from or running too, is irrelevant, I was simply running. I remember pulling over to some inconspicuous place on the shoulder of a road going nowhere. I remember the words I spoke , even today, some 37 years later. “ God if your there, I need to know that your there and I need to know what to do.” We spoke for about three or four minutes and I turned my sad excuse for a car and my sadder excuse for a life around and headed home. I met God that day, I met my wife that day and I met my daughter that day. At twenty seven years old, I can remember the very moment in which I grew up. Ironically, it only took three minutes. Would I make the same choice again? Emphatically! Why? Because she let me!
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost
“We are our choices.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
A couple of decades ago, I moved with my wife to Santa Rosa, California - a chance to leave the city in which I grew up, and plant ourselves into a new town tucked in the midst of wine country. Almost every night, we either went to the coast and watched the sunset with a bottle of wine, bread, cheese, or we walked into town to play pool, or just explore our neighborhood. During the year we lived there, I was in my early 30s and was exploring life and career options, so I signed up for law school, shortly after which my wife became pregnant with our first child. After some heart-wrenching decision-making, I decided to quit law school, take a promotion back in Sacramento, sell our house in Santa Rosa, and raise our children here. Four years later, we divorced. As a result, I missed out on creating some of the family bonding experiences I had hoped to with my children. Looking back, I can't really say it was the wrong decision. I can speculate that life would have taken a completely different direction had we stayed in Santa Rosa - but would it have been better, worse, or substantially the same?
Several years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow starred in a movie called Sliding Doors, which postulated this, actually through a circumstance of non-decision. In one scenario, she misses the train; in the other, she catches it. As a result, her life takes a different trajectory because of that one fateful circumstance. Interestingly, at the very end, it appears that what was true destiny may occur regardless.
I believe life is full of choices like this. I know I struggled with it at the time, but now see it as the only rational path. I could have just as easily been sitting here nearly two decades later and wondering what would have happened if I made the other choice. I can't help but think we're drawn to the party we didn't attend or to the person we didn't meet, all of which is a vapor. I know for certain there have been many blessings that have come to me that would not have happened had I chosen differently.
Even though I posed the question, I did so more from a sense of curiosity about people and how they see their choices through the passage of time, not because I wished for something different. I accept and celebrate life, with the amalgamation of choices I did make, both the good and bad ones. That is one correct choice I know I can make right now - in this moment.
As for my collaborators, I sit in quiet admiration for your courage, wit and seasoned perspective. Thank you all so much for sharing your warmth and humanity with all of us.
"When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change. At such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back." ~ Paulo Coelho
~~~~~~ A Table of Contents ~~~~~~~~
THE JOURNEY ~ A Look At Aging
- The Journey - Chapter 1
- The Journey - Chapter 2
- The Journey - Chapter 3
- The Journey - Chapter 4
- The Journey - Chapter 5
- The Journey - Chapter 6
- The Journey - Chapter 7
- The Journey - Chapter 8
- The Journey - Chapter 9
- The Journey - Chapter 10
- The Journey - Chapter 11
- The Journey - Chapter 12
Revisit PREVIOUS Chapter
THE JOURNEY-CHAPTER 12 of 16. “Growing older involves diminishment or compromise in physical abilities or eventually will. We must consider that our lives won't stretch out endlessly. How do these realities affect how you live yours?" + 16 answers.
Coming NEXT on JULY 20th
Follow THE JOURNEY to CHAPTER 14 of 16 Chapters. Asks: “Does your belief system include an afterlife or reincarnation which provides you hope that your spirit will survive the passing of your body?“, answered by our 16 authors. See it on JULY 20!