I saw a meme today that got me thinking. It said, “You’re always a decision away from a totally different life.” It struck a chord because I believe it’s true.
This week it was my birthday. I turned 37. While my day was mostly positive there was a dark cloud over it because of the chronic pain I’ve been suffering. First I lay in bed, trying to make the most of my luxurious extra hour under the duvet but since I had twinges of pain, I couldn’t fall back asleep. So, I lay there listening to the radio. I like the Christian O’Connell show, so it was nice to hear more of it than I usually do.
Then I wanted to go to Paisley and pick up an order I’d placed online using a click and collect service three weeks ago. Except, I still can’t drive for any longer than a few minutes and would have to get a train and then a bus. That wouldn’t be a problem but the rain was coming down in sheets. So, I stayed home and baked myself a birthday cake instead. Everyone needs a cake on their birthday, right?
In the early evening, we went to the cinema as a family to see Cars 3. It was perhaps my lowest point of the day. Every single chair in the theatre reclined meaning that the pain shot all the way from my pubic area to my belly button. There was no way I could stay and watch the movie, but I also couldn’t let my son be disappointed. So, I left and I sat outside by myself for two hours while Alex and Luke watched the movie. I admit, I cried a little. It seemed like such a sad thing, to be sitting on your own in a cinema on your birthday, unable to watch a movie while everyone else can because my stupid body has let me down again. I didn’t want to let it ruin my day, but yes, it stung.
I spoke to some of the cinema staff and told them what was happening. One of them refunded all our tickets and gave me some free passes to come back and sit in a different theatre with seats that don’t recline whenever I want. Then he explained the situation to the staff in the on-site Coffee Republic who plied me with bottomless cups of tea and free Oreos. For some inexplicable reason, I had a pen in my bag – I don’t remember putting it in there – and I spent my evening writing notes for a new novella series on napkins.
I started to think about that meme, about how we’re all always one decision away from a totally different life. I thought about the movie Sliding Doors and I remembered that when I watched it back in 1998, I wondered what my life would have been like if I hadn’t choked on a pizza one rainy Thursday afternoon in October 1995. That sparked a phobia, which led me to leave school early and threw me into the path of people I should never have met. It knocked me off course. That was my turning point back in my teens and at this point in my life, I now wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t picked up my son one grey Sunday afternoon in November 2014 and hurt my back.
I imagined that I would never have acquired that injury. I would never have spent so much money visiting osteopaths, acupuncturists, physiotherapists and counsellors in an attempt to rid myself of the pain. I might never have fallen into depression. I would never have undertaken any voluntary work for Barnardos trying to make myself feel worthy of a pain-free life because I somehow felt like I didn’t deserve it. I might never have given up on writing Leger as I did for a while. I certainly wouldn’t have written my Cherry Fairy Tales series. Maybe I’d be working in a 9 to 5 job again. Who would I have met or not met? Would I still have been alone in a cinema on my birthday, making notes for a new book?
Whenever such a phrase catches my eye, I tend to think of the things that went wrong rather than seeing the possibilities that many decisions have been made that brought me to a happier life. As time has passed, and I found happiness in my 20s, that Thursday afternoon in 1995 didn’t seem so catastrophic and I felt like perhaps it was the best path for me after all. Perhaps one day, when I’m stronger both physically and emotionally, I’ll find that Sunday afternoon when I hurt my back was not the disaster I imagined it to be last night. I won’t curse that day. I’ll be thankful that it knocked me off my intended course.
Today, my blogging Yoda said something to me that made me smile. He said that it seems like the universe is aligned in my favour right now and in many ways, he’s right. Things are improving. Things are changing. Perhaps the decision that brings me to a better life is just around the corner. And I hope that next year, if I find myself alone in a sad cafe on my birthday, it’s for the right reasons.
Special thanks to Trevor Ubdegrove who I met on Twitter for the cartoon he drew of me riding a unicorn. It’s basically the most awesome thing ever and really cheered me up that night.