The Road … Taken …

Do you remember being a child and in those days when you might get ill, your parent would rub Vicks on your chest, or turn on the vaporizer, so you could breathe better? I love that. I love remembering those moments. I wanted to stay in bed forever, drink soup, have my hair stroked, and my forehead rubbed, and have songs sung to me, or books read to me, to go to sleep… that was when I was a small child, and then we have to grow up…. ugh!

For the past 15 years I have been on a see saw of demeaning and disturbing episodes in life, enough to make me want to regress, roll myself into a ball like a baby in her mother’s womb, and just suck my thumb. I didn’t do it, of course, but I may as well have, I did other things that were comparable.

I drank too much, ate too much, cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit, and I had ups and downs that would make any person afraid to be near me, for fear I might end their life in a roller coaster ride they would fall out of from the passenger’s side, and all from the static places I met them at or in–without ever even leaving a room, or ever standing away from a cafe, less so, at a table for a drink, a cup of tea, coffee, or just a chat in the patio.

After twenty years of being free of cigarettes, I started to smoke for a good six months, and nearly killed myself doing so. I hacked so badly, I could hardly breathe. And why all this within a short span of time? Because I could not make up my mind about what I FELT I wanted to do, and what I did. I think I was going through a mid-life crisis; the kind they say MEN go through, only I think women go through just as much, but not as openly.

There is an old saying, from the Bible, that says (and I am not quoting, but paraphrasing): do not think a double-minded [person] will ever go very far, do not think as a double minded person you will ever find anything or get anywere you want to go, for it is because you are a double-minded person (or a person of indecision) that you will be thwarted no matter what you do.

And that was true, actually even before the last 15 years, but it was the worse the last 15 years–like a storm before the calm; the calm being my acceptance of and a decision from that grand episode of a turmoil of emotional grappling.

I wanted to run away, leave my husband, go back to a different road of choice I had thought about when I was a young girl. I wanted to do some artistic ventures I was always too afraid to do while my children were very young, and now that I was older, and they were gone and on their own, I wanted to make a new road, leave the one I chose (with my husband) and find a new way, choose a different kind of man, do everything differently. But I didn’t do it. I may have wanted to, but I didn’t do it.

Instead, I complained and whined, and cried, and angered: I drank, I ate too much, I started smoking again, I had an affair, I …. what? Yes, what? Yes, I admit it. It’s not like you think. I left my husband first, then had a relationship, but in thinking back, even THAT little episode was another way of distracting me, to put me BACK in the same place I was, with my husband. And it turned out the guy was even WORSE than I complained about, in my husband, so I made a horrendous move, and had to take 12 steps back, just to find my way through the brush, and get back on the road to somewhere, ANYwhere!

So then, my husband came back, and I started all over again. I blamed my husband for making me this way. I vowed … my wedding vows … to remain true to the marriage, for God’s sake you understand… but really it was because I was afraid to stand on my own two feet. You see, I was taught to be crippled, mentally, you understand. I was taught that if I acted independent, and free spirited, I would get punished, so the only way I could be safe was getting married and having a MAN – take – care – of – me… It hurts to even say that, but I have to tell the truth to myself. It is what it is.

I realized very quickly after that, yet ever so slowly, when you consider all of my life, that I was afraid to be caught on my own, like some sort of floozy or wild heart. I was afraid my people would turn from me, and whisper whenever they saw me, with long drawn faces, sighing about my psychological loss, as if I’d be sent to hell any moment…or an insane asylum…

This is what happens when people think they are protecting a child from harm. My mother was raised the same way. She was afraid of her own shadow, so she taught me to be afraid of mine as well. God bless her soul, I love her, but she did me wrong without ever realizing it.

No one will ever admit it to your face, why should they? It is their own demons with which they wrestle.

People hear these voices within them, and they cannot help it; they can become torturous voices at times…those tapes are called parent tapes. We all have them. Some of us can smile and ignore them–unless of course, they are really good ones–but for the most part, we ignore them, because we really have to experience things for ourselves. My parents read God all wrong: they didn’t mean to, but they taught me that I was a rebellious little girl, and girls were supposed to be quiet and sweet and go wherever they were led…but I wanted to find out things for myself.

“You will pay for that rebellious attitude, little lady, and God will punish you for not listening to your parents and just being happy as a good wife and mother, and staying home…”

WHAT  a travesty, to say such things to a child, especially because the child was the wrong gender, and then make that child fear everything and everyone, and walk with hesitation, and keep turning their head at every corner, expecting a lightening bolt to come down and kill  or maim her, or ruin her life, or take her children, or… in short: I was taught–without direct words–that God was a MEAN MAN, and I would suffer if I took a happy road, opposite to my sad parents, especially one on my own, without a man to protect me. I would surely be raped and murdered, or my children would be stolen, or some such horrendous acts of retribution…

Do you remember in high school, (or college), the poem that was taught to us, by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken?” Well, that road… I never took it… and as the poet said,

“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.”

Yes. That road–the one I DIDN’T take–has made all the difference. But, after a long bout of mourning and bitterness, I finally came to terms with the road I took. For God’s sake: I’m in the autumn of my life, and it’s time I own up to my choices, and find the good in them.

After all, I couldn’t blame my mother, or father, or circumstances after I began to grow up, especially once I had children. It was not anyone else’s fault. I chose, and I came to this road, and there it is. It’s done, and it is sooner that I can accept it, I will find peace, and I will stop being afraid. And what is more, is this: I find the road itself is not the thing that makes all the difference, but the choices I made, for the reasons I made them, that made me choose the road I took.

This road was less traveled, sure. It was not the one that could have made me famous, no. But I chose it, and I’ve already gone this far down this road to bother turning back now. And anyway, who’s to say, if I took the other, I would have STILL complained and wondered about THIS road… Oh sure, I could try and go back, but why? Why can’t I just accept where I’ve gone, there has been so much I learned here.

It is time I accept the road I chose, no matter how whimsical I may find myself stirred by the thought of “the road not taken.” It is time that I should make this road a joyous place to roam and walk briskly down its path, and smell the lovely gardens of existence on its destination; why don’t I just make it the best place I can be? Because, and after all, I chose it. This road is the one that has made me who I am today, and I like who I am–yes: it has made all the difference.

But every now and then, (I cannot lie) I think about it: the road I could have taken, what the outcome might have been, and the person I might have become instead of the one I am…and I sigh… I wonder: what would have happened or what might have I been like, had I taken the other road? Oh well, no matter, it is a fine day, in this fine place, on this fine road here…

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. 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.