One of my childhood friends asked me to write on the what if’s in life. “You know, when you let your friends guide you instead of going after what you really want,” he explained. You have to follow your heart in this life, I think. But, my friend also wisely said that it’s not always that simple. I would add that it’s NEVER that simple.
I love the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s journey through the Land of Oz is riddled with what if’s. What if Dorothy hadn’t run away? What if the scarecrow had a brain? How would his life be different? What if the cowardly lion had developed courage somewhere along the way? How might he feel different or be perceived differently? The desires of their hearts were not being fulfilled so they set off on a journey to get them granted by the Wizard. Unbeknownst to them, they already had the power to realize the desires of their hearts within them. It was all smoke and mirrors in the end.
Every choice I’ve ever made in my life has been a stepping stone to the spacious life I have right now. Had I made a different choice, I’d be somewhere else. My life would look different. What if I’d had children? What if I’d married my high school sweetheart? What if I’d followed my initial career path and became a journalist? I made those choices. Some I made with intention. Others I made by doing nothing, and the choice made itself for me. But, they are all what ifs. They each opened doors to today, but they also closed the door on the life I could have had. There is joy in that. There is also loss and grief. What if there were a little curly-haired freckle-faced girl that looked like me in the world? What might she bring to the table? I’ll never know, and that’s a loss. And, I can’t help but think of it every now and then.
I know that if I had channeled the maternal desires of my heart toward a child, I might not have the time or the energy to work with the women I work with today to overcome addiction and codependency. I know I’d be a different person because of the experience. I also know that the fantasy of the what if probably looks nothing like it would in real life. I’ll never know what it would have been like had I pursued being a journalist. I might have been successful. I might have made a big difference in the world with a bigger audience and more influence. Or, I may have done nothing stellar at all. All of these are lost opportunities. Neither right nor wrong choices – they are just what ifs.
I have learned that the desires of my heart will manifest regardless of the choices I make. I’ve ended up writing even though I wasn’t a journalist. The writing found me. I always wanted to be a counselor or a minister but could never let go of the corporate salary I’ve become dependent upon. But, helping others crept into my life in recovery. I hope that I inspire others, but it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is the action of doing it, and, in the doing, my heart’s desire is realized.
I don’t know what my friend was thinking of when he talked of the particular what ifs in his life. Maybe it was a particular woman. Maybe it was a career choice. Maybe it was an ending that never should have happened. But, whatever it is, his heart has not let go of the core of that desire. When I work with women who are grieving losses or have made a choice that they regret, I ask them what they really long for in that loss. Somewhere in their answer is something that they can bring into their life in another way….today. They just have to figure it out. Maybe I can’t go back and be a journalist. But, I can write for a small audience and express myself creatively. My heart’s desire is the writing. It’s the connection with others. It’s the turn of a phrase. It’s my creative expression. It’s not the job.
Dorothy finally realized that she didn’t have to leave Kansas to find her heart’s desire after all. I don’t have to change my whole life to find mine. It’s been right here….all along….. the answer is in the”what ifs” that keep tugging at my heart. And, who knows, maybe I’ll also find a cool pair of ruby slippers along the way. 🙂