And then I realized that I had the opportunity to make all the choices of adulthood anew. To begin again.
In some ways this has been incredibly frightening. When I made these decisions the first time, I had only myself to think about. Now, I am responsible for children and pets and debt and an estate. Now, I have lost my sense of invincibility.
The privilege of being the spouse who lived carries with it a burden to get things right, an irrational sense that choosing wrong dishonors the dead. (Reader, I can hear the platitude you're thinking. Just stop. Do not type it in the comments.) The irrationality does not make the burden any less real.
In a post in January Mike at Internet Monk meditated on a brief passage from Thomas Merton that has been rolling around in my head since then:
Our vocation is not a sphinx’s riddle, which we must solve in one guess or else perish. Some people find, in the end, that they have made many wrong guesses and that their paradoxical vocation is to go through life guessing wrong. It takes them a long time to find out that they are happier that way.As I make decisions for my second life, the roads not taken in my first life have loomed large. Should I have chosen them then? Are they still available to me? Should I choose them now? What if I choose wrong again?
And yet, the vaporizing of my old life that came with widowhood, the instantaneous disappearance of my marriage, the release of the moorings that held me at Rambling Farmhouse showed me that any decision I make can be unmade by circumstance. Even decisions that felt permanent when I made them have been undone, and that undoing did not ruin me.
As I make decisions now, I might guess wrong.
I might choose wrong, and that's okay.
Even decisions that are wrong, even decisions that are right and then are undone, are worthwhile.
I can go through life guessing wrong, and knowing that even permanent decisions are not actually, and still be happy.