Monday, November 15, 2004

Three-Alarm Decisions

Disclaimer: The thoughts below are just that: thoughts. I have no intention of acting on these thoughts; I have no intentions of ever speaking them to anyone who has been in my life in the past. In no way would I want these thoughts to be interpreted as a signal that I am predatory or have designs on anyone who is off limits. OK? So don't even start with me. Don't ask me for details. These are, simply, thoughts. The end.

Sometimes there are critical points in our lives when we make decisions that have lifelong consequences. And some of those critical points come at times when we don't have a damned clue about how to make those choices.

We can be impulsive and jump into situations that are no good for us and wind up in a world of hurt. This includes getting drunk and trying to drive home from a party, and hurting or killing people. At best, we may realize we have no idea how we got from point A to point B, which is 50 miles from our intended destination of point C. If we're smart after being this stupid, we wind up being so scared that we learn not to do this again. Peeing in your pants when you wake up driving 65 mph on a strange road is still preferable to crashing into another car and killing someone else's friend, mother, or lover.

Six times in my life I've had to bury people who were close to me after someone got into a car in that state. That's too many people to lose to Jose Cuervo, my friends.

We can also over -think decisions to the point we make "safe" choices that are no good for us. And just like losing someone in a drunken driving accident, we can pass up the chance for the great love of our lives.

I was 18 years old – a freshman in college living in the dorm. In 1973, it was a big deal to have “co-ed” dorms; pretty tame by today’s standards considering the guys and girls were separated by an elevator lobby.

He had come to see my roommate, one of his high-school classmates. She was on her way to some sorority party so we got the briefest of introductions. We discovered we had other mutual friends, and soon we were wrapped up in a conversation that lasted for hours. He lived on the other side of my dorm floor, so we ran into each other often and got caught up talking.

At some point he caught my gaze with the darkest brown eyes I’d ever seen, and wouldn’t let go. The kiss that followed was repeated, often, during the next four years.

Passion was kept in check by ambition. We both had strong drives to do well in school and lay the groundwork for our futures. I’d been taught by my parents, especially by my dad, that it was ultimately important that I be able to support myself without needing to rely on a man to take care of me. Absolutely nothing was to get in the way of my becoming a modern, independent woman in their eyes.

And so I remained both obedient and rebellious.

My parents didn’t discourage me from drinking. They did teach me to be responsible about it and said they’d rather have me drink a fifth at home than a beer somewhere on the road. So I remained sober until that fall freshman year, when one fateful night I drank a pint of Bacardi rum mixed with Coke. Every drop. While keeping a diary.

Like I’ve said, I don’t believe in drinking and driving. So I walked that night – from one side of the room to the other, on top of the furniture to avoid touching the floor. My roommates caught me walking on top of a desk when they came home that night and tried to put me to bed. I didn’t understand the physiology of what I was doing – it made no sense – but as soon as they would put me into my bed, I was springing up and walking again. I thought the bed was launching me like a catapult.

They almost had me down in bed again before they realized I was getting sick. They kind of guided me to the bathroom where I spent the rest of the night, locked in.

Mr. Brown Eyes came the next day to visit and heard part of the story from the roommates. The rest he deciphered from the diary. He kindly pointed out that by the end of the notebook, I was writing one letter per page.

It was an awakening moment, after I sobered up. I realized I could have died of alcohol poisoning. And I realized I would be like the alcoholics on both sides of my family if I didn’t put a stop to this right now. That fateful pint pretty well sealed my decision not to drink as an adult.

So with renewed vision, my resolve was strengthened and I remained committed to my goals during the remainder of my college career. I drew the line with alcohol, as well as sex.

As tempted as I was by those brown eyes, we never crossed a certain line. And I was tempted, powerfully tempted. But we had each said there was too much at stake to take the chances of being derailed by the byproducts of lust. OK, I said that more than he did. His fear was being thrown off his career path by love.

Countless times I can remember telling him that I had no intention of getting married and starting a family until I was established in my career. Countless times he vocalized his fears that I was born to be the soccer mom with the wood-paneled station wagon (this was pre-mini-van days). I scoffed at the “domestic” label, even when I baked him a birthday cake from scratch and made a fancy swirled pattern in the frosting.

I realized the depth of his fear when I saw his face blanch at the sight of that cake. On one hand, he was touched by the gesture, but his male eyes (those beautiful, dark brown male eyes) must have seen shackles reaching out from that cake.

We continued our push-me-pull-you entanglement through our senior year, and even the summer after graduation. The bittersweet end came when he had to leave the state to go to graduate school.

Even to the end, we played the game. Completely drawn to each other, fighting to resist the powerful, unexplainable magnetism, we continued to spout all the reasons why we couldn’t, we just couldn’t, there are good reasons why we can’t, we can’t, we can’t.

And we didn’t. We couldn’t.

We couldn’t let go of reason long enough to listen to love. In the 30 years since then, I’ve often wondered if he would have changed his mind if I had changed mine and simply admitted what I felt for him.

It’s only now, this minute, that I’m able to cry about it. How different would our lives have been? I dare not think of it too much. Everything would have been different. But we did what we did and life is what it became.

So many friends fought this same battle and lost the fight. Many started their families in a moment of passion mixed with abandon and an open, loving heart that allowed them to set reason aside. Several of my girlfriends had to drop out of high school because of pregnancies. Every one of them is still married to the same man. The ones betrayed by biology in college are together as well, and now are grandparents.


I scarce can believe it because I never did become the soccer mom. I got so good at avoiding love – seeing it as a weakness -- that I didn’t marry until I was 32. It was a disaster that ended a mere three years later, with no children born.

The rest of my family is gone now, so I remain alone.

My brown-eyed sweetheart has been very successful in his career, I've learned. He
found the love of his life in grad school and they’ve remained married all these years. They have three children, the youngest in high school, probably fighting her own battles now.

I hope every minute of their time together has been happy beyond words.


FrenziedFeline said...

It brings to mind my own regrets and wonderings about how life might have been different if I'd followed one path over another.

The one that comes at least once a week is that I wonder if we should have tried harder to have at least one other child. I can only hope that he marries someone from a large family with at least one brother that he can be friends with. (Good thing we're Mormon--betters the chances of a larger family than the usual. :)

It's gotten better over time to accept life as it is, but it's still always there. As in most things, there are pros and cons on both sides of decisions.

TECH said...

And who's to say what decision is best? A friend of mine broke up with his high school girlfriend and eventually married someone else as did she. After a few years they both got divorced and then fell into each other's arms. Everyone thought they were together at last. They married and then went on to totally wreck their lives. The divorce was messy beyond belief, leaving both of them hurt and broken. Sometimes the road not taken was not taken for a reason. We might not see the reason, but maybe it's there. Mind you, I eat and drink regret a lot, but I try to remind myself that I can't go back. I can only go forward.

Trixie said...

Good points, Tech, very good points. You are right, we do make those decisions for a reason. Sometimes we forget what they were and time can put a rosy glow on a lot of things.

I guess I'm just thinking that there have been a LOT of times in my life when I have chosen "reason" over "happiness." It's a bad trade.

Gloria Williams said...

I have done the same thing many times, Trixie. I think I have learned that you should always choose your head over your heart when you're working with money, but maybe not when you're talking of relationships. It's hard for me to know. After my husband passed away, I greatly regretted the things we didn't do. I wish we could have traveled more. I wish we could have had more time. I learned my lesson. Before my daughter passed away, we spent many hours together. Not as many as I wish we could have, but she left this world knowing I loved her and I know she loved me. But I really do believe my life isn't over yet. I believe God still has many joys for me to experience. I believe He has them for you, too. I pray we both find them soon!

jeannie diane said...

I too, as all that have posted a comment.
Wonder about what might have been. It seemed
I would ponder way to long on one decison.
Then jump on another so fast I would not
have a clue what I must have been thinking.
Some days are better than others. But I can't
imagine anyone that does not wonder what if..
It keeps me up at nights more than I would
care to admit..