The Road Not Taken (excerpt)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both ...
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
By: Robert Frost (1874-1963)
While I am content with my life and have no regrets, I always wonder about the times when there was a major fork in the road of my life. All those "what-ifs" ...
What if the boy I had a huge crush on all through grade school had actually noticed me and we got married like my girlhood fantasies? Last I heard he's a smart, handsome doctor living in a swanky part of Green Bay, WI. Would I be happier? That swanky house is appealing, and a more comfortable lifestyle certainly, as well as a reputation in the community, etc. But does that equate to being happier?
What if I had stayed in Green Bay instead of following my deep desire to move to Minneapolis for college? I wouldn't have met my loving husband nor had my wonderful boys. Although I have not specifically used my B.A. in Theatre, I definitely had fun in the process of getting the degree (I'll spare you the debauchery of cast parties). Plus, it's nice to have some kind of degree on my resume.
On a more morbid note, what if I hadn't been wearing the seat belt in that car accident 20+ years ago? My face would have been through the windshield. As it was I had a bruised rib cage from where the seat belt held me fast - and thank goodness for that.
What if I wasn't laid off from Pillsbury 10 years ago? That was the best job I ever had - nice pay, great people, generous benefits and stimulating work. But the long-distance commute to downtown, high stress and the excess 40 lbs left me an unhappy camper at home. Nowadays money is a constant struggle, but I'm a happier person now with a low stress job 1.5 miles from home.
Some of the metaphysical stuff I've read makes the assertion that every decision, every minute of every day, has a separate timeline. Imagine infinite possibilities branching out from every moment of our lives, and each of those moments intersecting with other people whose lives we touch -- millions of parallel universes. It's just mind-boggling. Don't know about you, but I like to boggle my mind, push the envelope, and upset the apple cart of my belief systems. I'm not a risk-taker, but I enjoy skating the intellectual edge of new and innovative ideas or thought systems.
Can you imagine what your life would have been like if you had taken the "other path"?
wow, Joanne - thanks for the beautifully phrased piece and for making us think so early in the morning!
if you had followed me thru my life you'd see nothing leading to where we are now - on the farm with the goats. i've made some really stupid choices and some excellent ones but mostly i think i've been lucky. but somewhere in my 20s i woke up and knew it was up to me and that i had to stop looking to everyone else for direction. my Mom was very controlling (and i struggle with not being) so i didn't learn to make decisions when i was young. it must be a terribly scary thing to teach your young child, guide them while not exactly telling them what to do but keeping them from decisions that would hurt them or others. it's still a hard thing for me to see all of the roads and to decide carefully and not agonize over the decision once it is made.
that's why i have goats instead of children.
what if.....i had become that lawyer i so seriously contemplated as an adolescebnt and gone on to save the world from the tyranny and outrage we all encounter on an everyday basis,
what if.....i had married one of those first girlfriends or held out for the right one instead of getting locked in on first one and then the next wife. neither is the perfect match but they make pretty children and do their part in assuring that the true meanoing of dysfunctional is carried on in the universe.
what if.....i had continued as an art student and traveled the world with the eyes of an artist , paint brush in hand, putting down my thoughts in layers of paint rather than blogging before i go to the world of commerce and enterprise on my daily quest.
what if.....i had stayed in my comfortable old house instead of moving to the river bluff retreat i live in now with payments i nake but realize i could have avoided but an enviornment that i and my kids love and my wife is clear that she never wants to leave (i had figured on moving downtown to the new urban center of minneapolis in another fistfull of years when the kids are done with their suburban experioence.
what if....i excersized, ate well, read what i put on my reading list, set a goal and then another, lived life like i had another 20 or 30 years left and had better take note or they will be gone without getting the maximum possible out of this journey
what if.... i had slept in this morning and not started my day out without all these realazations of how much these choices effect the future by realizing how different the current world could be with past choices made differently.
6:15 and all cranked up
Hi Joanne...I have to say that as I've gotten older, I have similar thoughts...what if, indeed. A couple years ago while sitting around during the holidays and a snow storm, I started looking online for old boyfriends. I found three of them...the one in Marseilles France asked me to go away. Another one is living a boring retirement in Michigan after many years in Wyoming. The third was settled in Arizona after years of living alternately on a sail boat and as a ranger in Teton National Park.
No regrets on my part for where I am instead. In fact, I often think: "Dodged that bullet" All the reasons we didn't stay together in the first place are still there.
Yup...good to be here.
Good question thanks.
Good Morning All,
Good topic and well presented, Joanne. It is interesting to think about what might of happen if we made different choices. You just don't know if even the smallest change might lead to something different and change many things.
My thinking is similar to yours, Joanne, on choices that might have lead to more money and better jobs, while being happy with what I have.. Job hunting was always dificult for me and things would have been different if that had gone better.
On the other hand I always wanted to have a life style like the Nearings described in their book Living the Good Life. They were the inspiration for many people who were interested in going back to the land in the 60s and also were very active in work for social change.
Well I didn't end up going back to the land and I didn't end up with much in the way of well paying jobs, but I've done some things that I liked doing and I have ended up with a good family life, which is a big thing for me. So I've had my own version of the good life..
Morning all. Thanks Joanne, for a great start to the morning. Usually when I think about the "what if's", I don't follow the thread all the way -- I end up deciding that I like where I am too much and any of those "what ifs" would have de-railed the now. But like Cynthia and Barb, I feel that I've dodged some bullets that I'm very glad about!
I was just thinking of that poem the other day but was thinking that in a snow storm I would adopt the reverse attitude with regards to traffic on the road.
Good morning, all.
Mostly I regret taking the WRONG pill at bedtime last night, resulting in very little sleep, and most of the night here at the office so I did not disturb my wife. Otherwise, with apologies:
It’s the Middle Road I Regret
Regrets do come with advancing age,
You often wish you could turn back the page,
To the time when you had to choose,
Not that this life you would willing lose.
But how many branches in my way
Were very obvious on that day?
How many were subtle and small,
And I did not see them clearly, if at all.
Frost says that some time in the past
He chose one way, the die was cast.
But I think the big choices are often three,
That has been all the difference to ME.
For I chose the middle road, the safe one,
Not that I regret much of what I have done.
But what if my choices had been bolder,
If I had chosen more of life to shoulder.
If I had been more saint or sinner,
If I had eaten more or less at dinner,
Meaning not the meal to feed the beast,
But life’s big banquet, God’s big feast.
If I chose to be really rich or intentionally poor,
And not fight the bills falling at my door.
That is the one I wonder about the most,
Would I have had more time to serve the Host?
Too often my life has been driven by others,
This is another of my larger drothers.
To left or right might have been better,
Than to take the way of the middle-class debter.
When I chose to teach I wrote in sand.
What finally results is not of my hand.
My students will succeed or they will fail,
Who knows what part I played in their tale.
On any branch there would have been strife,
Only would THINGS claimed so much of my time,
If I had lived by reason and rhyme,
Not by hearing the modern American chime?
But I got to here with children and wife,
That has been the best of this life.
God, they say, will take me to rest,
He may tell me this was mostly a jest.
Thanks JoAnn and thanks Anna for yesterday, which I read in the middle of the night. I wasn't on yesterday; some day I may tell you about that day, yesterday, a day spent on the evils of technology and the human heart.
Something I have noticed before, which seems relevant today: if you go to the top of this blog, you find a link to yesterday's post. If you then click on the link but want to come back to TODAY from YESTERDAY, you can then go to your broswer and click the BACK button to come FORWARD to today. That may only seem wierdly metaphysical to those who have not slept, those on the edge of time, those lost in the bloggospehre and the early sphere, etc.
tim, we are in sync again today.
barb, my parents were hands off parents. Let them make all of their own choices, let them fall and get bruised. So that was my instinct. Every English teacher has a half-written lousy novel hidden away. Mine is about that, mothering versus fathering in the symbolism of the story. But my mother was all father on that one.
Cly de Missing - glad you're back today. I worried a little when I didn't see you on the blog yesterday.
I have thought about what ifs a lot too - mostly about work: would I be making more money now if I had made different choices, would I be as content in my work, could I have had a shorter path to work that makes me happy? The biggest what if, that I'm pretty sure was a dodged bullet, is what if I had married that boy I was *so* in love with in my 20s...pretty sure I would now have a divorce in my history, so I think I'm glad I missed that one and married who I did when I did.
Thanks for the thought-provoking morning.
Greetings! Clyde, thank you for that poem -- that is lovely. In your first sentence when you said you took the wrong pill, my first thought was the Red or Blue Pill from "The Matrix." Are we in reality or have we gone down the "rabbit hole?" And ... which is which?
Thank you all for your wonderful stories and insights. Maybe someday we'll have a BACK and FORWARD button for our lives. Sometimes, it seems like a handy thing to have.
Just to echo the other guest bloggers, it is a privilege to have been edited by Dale Connelly. He definitely tightened up my piece.
I have given this sermon many times--I wish I had an Undo button for my life.
Anna--I did blend your topic into the poem, but you have to look fir it, but don't waste your time.
Cly de Fatigue
how you can knock off a (long and great!) poem in an hour on no sleep amazes me.
the paths open to me today: make a decision about the rats. to do nothing and possibly find a baby goat gnawed on some day or to put out the peanut butter smeared pop cans suspended over a deep pail filled with water and RV antifreeze. i checked out the Critter Out and it sounds like that would be a good idea to KEEP them out once i've controlled the burgeoning population . i'm agonizing . i'll re-read the rat-killing poem Clyde wrote the other day. and think about the one that ran across my foot last night while i was milking Dream ......
It seems that most things I initially regret as lost opportunities turn out to be events I am grateful for missing out on. I find myself happier being thankful for what I have rather than yearning for what could have been. Goodness, I sound sanctimonious, don't I! Enjoy the day and take joy in your lives right now Heartlanders!
Barb in Blackhoof: I finally resorted to the poison blocks from the feed store. It does get to a point where you don't need to care whether the buggers suffer or not.
Time to take action...! with no regrets.
well, gosh, am i the only one on the blog with a lack of current contentment? with some doubts about the choices i've made?
times i could have married again, could have chosen to have children, could have been bolder about following dreams--different choices would certainly have led to different roads...don't know if they would have been better ones.
metaphysically, i'm not sure the choices matter all that much in the larger scheme of things, but i wonder about the twists and turns some...
i reckon it's cuz i'm on a less-traveled road right now--at least, less-traveled by me....left behind the house, the long-time job, the family, and ventured out here, where there is little certainty at present---there are lots of surprises, that's for sure!
okay, enough soul--searching and angst--off to take my meds and get the day going and see where the road leads today. :-)
Kay-it seems to me that your choice to change your life is a good example of making sure you live with as few regrets as possible. That's really admirable.
Ever heard of "autonomic writing?"
Children through the Ages
Little girls hop and boys meander.
Older girls pout and boys slouch.
Teen girls pose and teen boys bluster.
Young women run and men chase after.
Old women slump and old men lean.
But both in the end to atoms return.
Technology, Junkology, Time-Consuming Idolology
Computers, printers. copiers, and faxes.
All of these give me attackses
Of anger and pain and time lost in battle
Using these things I’m one of the cattle.
But after all it will not matter
If in my frustration I continue to natter.
Kay - what Renee said so well!
Ah yes... what if I'd stayed in California with the teaching gig and that Mike guy? What if I'd kept gotten my masters in SOMETHING and had a "real" career like my sister? What if I'd had more children? What if I'd managed to stay thin? What if I didn't spend my time blogging? You're right, Joanne, the possibilities are infinite, and I do believe every decision changes the trajectory somewhat.
And that decision making capacity - interesting, as Barb and Clyde mentioned, how whether one's parents were controlling or hands off does have an effect. Another factor, I think, is birth order - Husband is one of eight children. The youngest has the hardest time making even the simplest decision, probably because everything was done FOR her by the older sibs...
"Cause we've all made mistakes that seemed to lead us astray
But every time they've helped to get us where we are today
And that's as good a place as any
And it's probably where we're best off anyway."
- Heaven When We're Home, by Ruth Moody (The Wailin Jennys)
This seems to sum it up as well as anything. It's probably a good thing that we don't recognize the consequences of our decisions when we make them, or we'd be completely paralyzed. I had a tough choice between grad schools. I chose the U. of M., which led to me coming to Minnesota for the first time, which led to me meeting my wife, which led to our son and my career path. And yes, I sometimes find myself wondering what if I'd made the other choice? But as the song says, that's ultimately not a healthy place to be.
thanks, gals--it is true that i felt pretty sure i would regret it if i didn't take this chance to try something completely new---i just forgot how unsettling all that newness can feel, and how easy it is to undermine one's self-confidence with second thoughts! any other wisdom welcome today!
clyde, i get you--i also can toss off couplets like nobody's business, once i get going!
note to self: dig rhyming dictionary out of moving boxes!
off to school--lots of work on spelling today, using "the Spalding method," which is completely different from the way i learned spelling--
Kay - I frequently read your posts and am slightly envious, as I sometimes think I want a complete change of scene, and fantasize about that. Warmer clime, or closer to family who need my help, or environs that require less work... It occurs to me that if we keep doing this blog long enough, we'll follow each other along through many life changes, easy and hard. Joanne, you've got us thinking philosopically today. :) Thanks for a great topic.
"The burned hand learns best." Gandalf
If you really want to see the impact of birth order, consider it in abusive families.
First born--avoid all limelight and attention possible for they only equal abuse. Placate, develop high people skills, sooth people before the attack, become friends with everyone you can so they are not your hurter, never risk, never dare. Take secondary roles. My wife
Second born--notice that does not work so become the opposite like my wife's sister. Stick your thumb in their eye, lie, cheat, steal, have it now before it is taken from you.
Third child--well, neither of those worked so split the difference. Become a lump and hope no one notices.
All will have health problems.
Obviously I too slightly regret I did not risk a little more. I applaud all who do, whether they succeed or fail, whatever those words mean.
Don--great quote. I am chastised for me feeble efforts.
I am going to nap now, if I can without the chemical aid. Then I will take my wife to the doctor and we will all battle for a handicap sticker for her, but battle is probably lost.
I spent part of my younger days-- after I took over the family farm, wondering 'Is this what Dad would do?' Took me a looonnnngggg time to learn to trust myself and stop asking that and just do. And I believe that has carried over into not looking back very much... Well, I mean it's fun to look back at a time and think 'geez; did I really have that much hair?!' but no regrets. Mostly cause I probably can't remember them.... mind like a steel sieve. A guy told me the other day "I have a good memory it's just short..."
I know how lucky I am to be in a good place in my life. Great family, great wife, great kids, great job, great place to live... I feel like I'm showing off-- sorry.
Everything happens for a reason... if I hadn't done that stupid thing at 14 and hurt my leg maybe I would have joined the Army. And then I wouldn't be here but somewhere else...
Or if I really had gone to work as a steward on a cruise ship... then I'd be ______ but not here.
Perhaps that's just blindly following a path?
Forgot to add I'm the youngest of 5... maybe that makes a difference cause Clyde you sure got the first three right in my family. Although sister #3 and I are the best of friends. Closer than the rest of the family... I'm sure big sister #1 has regrets about that. ;-)
Clyde - on re-reading your poem (with a little more time, and not while I'm multi-tasking), I do see a little from yesterday's topic in there. :) Hope all goes well with the nap and your wife's appt.
Thinking further on today's topic - awhile ago I was talking about the "might have beens" with a friend and she pointed out something out that has stuck with me. She said, "Anna, you may not always be completely happy with the here and now, but you are always content, and not everyone has that." She's right, of course - happy may not be there every day, but I am satisfied with ongoing contentment - and send that wish to you all (even if it does sound like I'm writing a Hallmark card.)
Kay - if you're still on... when you first talked to us about making changes in your life and moving out to Utah, I was incredibly jealous. It seems like such a fabulous thing, to take action and make changes in your life.
I think all of us have discontentments... while I don't want to change my life in any big way, I would certainly welcome a little more income these days, and a less-lippy teen-ager. But you seem brave beyond words to me!
Notice that the happy, contented, peaceful are apologetic and those who are rueful are not. Isn't tha backwards?
Good day--and life--all.
Chinese proverb I saw somewhere:
There is no happiness - only moments of happiness.
Ben, you remind me of this passage from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, of "a wise man who won an expensive car in a lottery. His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. 'Isn't it great!' they said. 'You are so lucky.' The man smiled and said, 'Maybe.' For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car... and he ended up in the hospital with multiple injuries. His family and friend came to see him and said, "That was really unfortunate.' Again the man smiled and said 'Maybe.' While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Aagin his friends came the next day and said, 'Weren't you lucky to have been here in the hospital!' Again he said, 'Maybe.' "
I feel so lucky to be part of this community of thoughtful and creative thinkers. Thank you all for some GREAT reading today!
I've recently been struggling with the issue of regrets in my life...the "what ifs" and the paths I chose to ignore. Today's blog musings were perfect.
Time for a different slant:
Frost composed this most often commented upon of all his poems (save perhaps "Stopping by a Woods" IN PART, to make fun of his British poet/friend Edward Thomas. They used to hike separately looking at (maybe gathering) wildflowers and when they got back, Thomas was always saying he wished he'd gone the other way, envious of Frost and what he'd seen.
The whole first twelve lines emphasize that the two paths, as line eleven says, "equally lay." It's not the path you choose that makes the difference, it's how you walk it. They ARE equal. But, humans that we are, it's very easy, at the end, to talk about it with a sigh, saying one has taken the more unique one; it's human nature. And funny. But that is not what happened; it's the self-praising glow one casts over one's choices, in retrospect
So I read the poem as very Buddhist, actually, and comedic. Buddhist because that point of view knows it's the here and now of the travelling that matters, how one does it, not some self-serving re-interpretation of the path at the end.
Or, to quote another funny poem on the subject by Gary Snyder, alluding to The Dao, "The Way is not a Way."
Finally, a friend of mine long ago said to me, as I was groping for a path: "It's not a path, it's a meadow."
jimck (playing in the meadow)
Good food for thought, jimck.
From your viewpoint, though, I'm wondering how you interpret the last two lines:
"I chose the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference"?
This seems to imply that there's more than just how you walk it. The choice matters.
To regret the past is to forfeit the future.
Suppose I had not spent more time on the blog than I should have Monday morning and gotten myself out the door early enough to realize the snowplow had gone through and left its hard packed ridge at the end of the drive? Suppose I had not gambled and decided to gun it and try to back through the mass and not gotten hung up? Suppose that my neighbor who’s a church secretary hadn’t been outside at the time and hadn't brought her husband over to help, even though she heard me say the naughtiest of all words when I first got out and saw what a pickle I was in? What if I hadn’t experienced the feelings of foolishness, embarrassment, and gratitude as these kind and thoughtful people helped shovel and chop away at the chunks until I could be on my way? What if I hadn’t been 10 minutes late for work and not seen my coworkers pretend to be shoveling every time they caught my eye every chance they got? (Such comedians!) Would my character and judgment be as developed as it is today? I think not, dear Heartlanders. Some mistakes make the best teachers and also the best memories.
(I'll be taking my neighbors a plate of cookies and a handwritten thankyou.)
Suppose Jim Ed hadn’t retired…….
We wouldn’t be here now!
Like many of you, I think of that morning when the anouncement was made that the Morning Show would end and I thought my world would be forever changed...and so it has been but not in the way I imagined on that day.
Clyde...thank you for the birth order in abusive families description. I certainly fit the eldest description, but since there were only two of us girls and we were 7 years apart, my sister skipped right to the third description: Become a lump and hope no one notices.
She still hides when stressed.
Mike Pengra, thank you for your part in making this space possible. It is a true gift you and Dale have given your audience.
Wow -- we are a thoughtful and philosophical bunch. Lots of great stuff to ponder and know that we are always a work in progress.
My important takeaway is this: Love what Is, and find joy wherever you are. My husband just lost his job, so that last bit is a real challenge at the moment.
I agree with Big Lake Joan, and want to respond to West Saint Paul Don's excellent question that the "sigh" heaved when the speaker makes that comment, saying what he does ages and ages hence, is the moment we encounter the poem's comedy. It is a self important sigh, the kind a person (I am 69) might make reinterpreting his (or her) history in the most favorable possible light. What makes it comic is that the poem goes to great trouble to say that the paths were equal. He (or she) did not take the less traveled path.
Which is not to say that choices are not important. Rather, sometimes we stew and ponder over two possible paths, both of which are good. (Isn't that what adult life is: choosing between unclear options?). The humor is the self-importance that MIGHT make one later forget that they were about equal
Sometimes it is crystal clear; there are some really bad choices out there, and I've made some of them, though later came to see how mistaken I was. In that case, the paths were by no means equal, and what I sighed and said was "I really screwed up, and I regret it."
But this poem is about a different moment, the moment when they are about equal. And how many of us have stewed, pondered, painfully tried to make distinctions where there really may be few, or none
Kate, I changed the spelling of my name to honor your good point about the loss of Jim Ed.
Sorry Joanne, sorry indeed.
Related to nothing here, but what I learned reading a magazine while waiting for my wife
1) children cry in the language of their mother--example easy to distinguish French from German children when you know how. French--all melody and no stress. German all stress and no melody. Children of mixed parentage of the two cry in the language of the mother.
2) Another things are not what they seem--the winning sprinter does not move legs more times in a 100 yard dash. She/he generates more thrust off the ground with each stride.
It does not surprise me that children cry in the language of their mothers - you often can even here the tonality of the language in the traditional music of a country/region, so hearing it the sorrow of a child makes some sense. Wouldn't have thought of it on my own though.
Joanne - so sorry to hear that your husband has been placed onto a new path not of his own design. Hopefully the journey on that path will fruitful (and the distance to new employment short).
add my good wishes, Joanne; and thanks for the good reading today.
i remember being in Peds Intensive care unit one christmas, working and reading charts (screening for kids who might need our services). there was a small child off in the corner of the unit crying "i want my Mommy!" over and over and over. it was breaking my heart that no one went over to talk to him. then he got smart. he cried "i have to go potty!" ONCE ONLY - and someone went over to see to him immediately. he was lonely.
nothing to do with what we're talking about, except children crying.......
A thought - some day we should have a networking blog, where everyone looking for a job posts the details of that, just in case one of us might know a word of mouth connection that might help!
Best wishes with that, Joanne and Jim (is that right?) in Big Lake.
One more comment on this; I am most unhappy when I have to wait to make a decision. Not enough information or waiting on something before I can choose-- THAT'S what makes me unhappy.
It's why I play so much solitaire online; I get to make decisions left and right!
what a day of blog entries
clyde nice adaptations. you may not feel too good after a night of insomnia but your brain works well. excellent work, wonderful thoughts and observations.
jimck...where the heck did you come from? the new sage . love your stuff.
joanne sorry about the twist of fate. will hope it works out for the best.
don good additions,
kay. good for you for acting. not acting makes me so depressed. right ben?
great observations on lifes magic all. what a great blog group. thanks
clyde you remind me of the other preacher i enjoy reading the snippets of writing by, robert fulgham. i think there is something marvelous about going through life with eyes that observe the truisms that occur to be brought to the attention of the congrigation. i hadn't realized it before but the blog works the same way. you do it very well and i enjoy it sincerely.