One of my favorite films is Sliding Doors so I’ve seen it a number of times; admittedly I was lost the first time because of the simultaneous parallel life thing but I stuck with it and on the second viewing I understood what was happening within a minute or two. It fascinates me to ponder things like this–parallel lives–those what-ifs we all carry with us. I am sure everyone I know has made last minute or split second decisions which seem random at the time but carry us in a completely opposite direction. I think these decisions take us to places we are supposed to go and for lack of a more original metaphor they represent the hand of God working in our lives. Much like the guiding hand on the back of a toddler about to walk into an obstacle: sometimes we are yanked out of the oncoming traffic and sometimes we are gently pointed in another direction.
When I was younger, I would often spend time harboring secret regrets for the way my life could have gone. I often wondered what would have happened if I taken a much desired trip to Europe in June of 1979, despite my parents telling me I couldn‘t go. Or what if I had plowed my way through an Art History degree without their financial support and saddled myself with big student loans. My parents felt I was too young to make such a trip alone; and they worried I would never find employment with such a degree. A few years ago, I discovered they were right on both accounts. At 18, I was making terrible decisions at home in our Texas bedroom community so it stood to reason I probably would be making equally bad decisions five thousand miles from home where it was harder for them to help me out of whatever scrape I had lodged myself into. Over the years I’ve met a few nurses with random degrees in the liberal arts. I was forty before I could applaud their disapproval and my own sensible obedience. When I was in my 30’s I was pretty sure the dogged following had ruined my chances for having the life I was intended to live and I wasted more than a few hours angry and frustrated at both myself and God for moving me along a path to a relationship where I felt utterly estranged from my genuine self. I was so busy listening to the roaring of the frustration in my ears I couldn’t hear God telling me to “wait”.
It’s hard to wait when you are that young. It’s especially hard to be told to wait. Hindsight shows me what the waiting provided for me: If I had gone on the trip I would have never gone on to art school that summer; wouldn’t have flunked out which necessitated taking crap jobs for a year or so and finally ending up at the community college where I took a test and which told me I would be good in the caring professions which led me to enroll in nursing school because hey! Always have a job! Um no…the economy changed and nurses flocked to the sunbelt and no one wanted to hire a kid with one years experience when someone with 20 years was looking the same job. So I moved out of the big city into a shit hole college town where I started hanging out with an old friend and we went skiing with a bunch of other old friends where I ended up meeting a guy in a bar and one thing led to another and a year later I’m moving to Colorado and we part ways. But then, given my interest in art history, I meet Ward at the art museum and we fall in love and get married, have children; but I feel this nagging horrible sensation of complete and absolute dejection and alienation so I leave him and one thing leads to another until I reach the point I am sitting and typing these words. Living a completely unexpected life I could have never imagined or mapped for myself.
It’s a good thing I didn’t bother with the plane in 1979.
In the film, Sliding Doors the two Helen’s catch a glimpse of one another and I wonder if I’ve ever glimpsed at that woman who leaves her Texas home at 18 and gets an art history degree. Is she a good person with a big heart or an insecure hateful cow? Maybe she’s a part-time housewife living in a Parisian suburb completely and utterly burned out on her graphic design job and contemplating a career in nursing.
If this is the case, God is winking at me. Hard.