To Be . . .

. . . or not to be. 

Should I stay or should I go? 

These two roads diverging in the woods . . . which one should I take? 

It often seems that life is just a series of choices and their consequences.  In retrospect, a choice can seem destined and profound, the initiating event of what came next.  Or perhaps it is married to regret and remorse.  Ideally, whether seen in the rearview mirror as positive bellwethers of future good or as negative gatekeepers to coming pain, our choices set the stage for everything else to come. 

Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” about those roads diverging in the woods, is often used to demonstrate the beauty of not following the crowd.  The final lines of the poem say, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”   But, these are perhaps the most misinterpreted lines in all of American poetry.  We think they’re saying “Ah, what a glorious rebel I have been, and it paid off.” 

But, you see, the two roads described aren’t that different from each other.  The poem says “the passing there had worn them really about the same” and that the roads “both that morning equally lay.” Frost’s final stanza starts “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence,” and that “with a sigh” is important. He’s actually writing about our tendency to romanticize the past, to look back at younger selves as courageous and daring rather than just . . . human, making human choices, and having no more idea than anybody else how it might all turn out. 

The rightness or wrongness, goodness or badness of our choices is often determined by the way we move through the results of our choice rather than the choice itself. 

But while we’re still on the front side of the choice, still standing at the fork in the road, is there any way to get a sense of direction? 

I was once faced with a big decision and unclear how to make it. My sister gave me some good advice.  She said, “Get off by yourself where you won’t be interrupted. Spend a few moments in meditation. Quiet your mind. When you feel completely settled within yourself, take your mind to the place where you have already decided on option A, and see how you feel.  Then clear your mind again and take it to the place where you have already decided on option B, and see how you feel.” 

So, I did it.  I followed her advice.  And you know what? I knew exactly what to do. My intuition, my inner guidance, my emotional self did not let me down. It sent me a clear message. 

Ultimately, though, whichever choice I made was mine. My choices are a primary way in which I co-create my life.  Should I stay or should I go? No one can tell me . . . but me. And by “me,” I mean the higher version of me that lives in the quiet places. 

This, Too

A friend posted a meme on 
Facebook that directed us scrollers
to choose one from a grid of twelve.  
Options included items like:
          Being Able to Travel Anywhere Instantly
          Having the Largest Social Media Following in the World
          Being the Reigning Monarch of a Medium-Sized But Wealthy Country
          Winning a Five Hundred Million Dollar PowerBall. 
The option I chose was near the top of the list, 
and I knew it was my choice 
before I even read the others.  
          Pick Any Age to Be Forever. 
The age part wasn’t so important.  
          Twenty-five had been nice.
          Forty had redeeming moments.
          This age I am now, I have no quarrel with. 
No, the part that was important was
If I could be immortal 
and still a decent human being, 
like a
          fasting vampire 
then I could make all the choices.  
I could go back to school at
          87 to study architecture and then again at 
          142 to become a classical musician and
          309 to finally master quadratic equations. 
I could watch nations rise and fall and rise again.  
I could live in every country 
for a year or ten or as long as I want.
I could actually read every book on my shelf. 
I could 
          tango in Buenos Aires,
          can can in Paris,
          flamenco in Barcelona. 
Vampires live such interesting lives. 
I would take a version of that, 
          less tartare.
But it was just a meme,
and selecting one wish from a list
doesn’t make it come true,
so my options are limited.
My fresh starts aren’t infinite. 
The choices I’ve already made
came with consequences. 
I can’t live long enough to 
ease the remorse of poor decisions
learn to avoid them altogether 
(a lesson obviously requiring 
a longer curriculum than 
one human 
If I could live forever, 
I might learn how
          to love you, 
          clear and clean,
          an endless supply
          without condition
          or renewal fees
          to not ever 
          leave you behind
         or alone
         or aghast
          to hold on
          as if this
          was our 
as it is, 
my choices have
sometimes driven a stake 
through your heart. 
          And mine.  
I won’t live 
long enough to learn how 
to make them right.  
I may not even
I needed to try.  
The immortal hope - 
living through to perfection. 
The only mortal one -  
faulty, messy, 
honest love. 

© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved