A couple of months ago, I escaped from my life for the weekend. Room service, cocktails and people watching in the lobby bar, sleeping in, general solo hedonism...a perfect weekend for the closet introvert. But can you ever really escape?
I ran into an old friend (OF) from college days, and we settled in to chat over some yummy Chilean Merlot. Amid the usual catch up talk, a few BlackBerries to offices and such, some veritas bubbled up in the vino; OF posed a question about an incident that, while never entirely out of my consciousness, had certainly not been in the forefront for a good long while. Though caught off guard, I answered it frankly. We weathered a moment of awkwardness and plowed ahead, parting pleasantly.
Later that evening, after I’d returned to my room, I realized that I wanted to answer OF more fully. After all, OF was apparently curious, even after all these years. But did OF want to know or did I just want to tell? And that, my reader, is always what it comes down to, isn’t it? Those among you who wonder why I stopped writing need look no further than that question and the anxiety lurking behind it. But I’m tossing that anxiety a cyber-Xanax and forging ahead.
Long story short, I spent several February days swimming in a big old pool of introspection, and the water was very murky. It was one of those periods when I found myself wishing I were less self-aware, and maybe even a little less sturdy.
The details of the incident are unimportant to anyone but those involved (and, perhaps, only to me) but the question involved a letter. After the conversation I was, as we say around here, whopped upside the head by the memory of writing the missive to which OF referred. I was weighing graduate study options at the time, and layered into the text – woven around the sentences about the matter in question - were hesitant feelers toward some kind of relationship. I think it is telling that I can't remember much about OF’s reply other than its tenor. In fact, the other day I looked through a box of old letters and found none from OF. Perhaps there wasn't one. Perhaps it is elsewhere. Perhaps I’ve repressed much of the episode. But I did make an important decision in my life based, in part, on the correspondence. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the whole thing was fairly complicated. I'd forgotten what a pivotal point that interlude was, how clean and rational the decisions seemed at the time, and how emotional repercussions can still be felt when someone decides to ask a simple question.
We live with the decisions we make, live in the decisions we make. Sometimes we make new ones, if we’re brave enough. Sometimes the courage lies in stasis. I alternately marvel at and disdain those who proclaim certainty at the wisdom of their decisions. What I can say I’ve learned since those angst-filled days, long ago, is that we waste so much energy in fear and worry that we forget (cliche’ alert) to live in the moment. We feel intense pressure to decide at a given point in time and, yes, much can rest on such decisions. But unless you’re deciding to kill yourself (and let’s hope that’s not the case), the Big Decision before you is only one of the innumerable ones ahead. Just do the best you can.
And save your letters.