March 20, 2010

The choices we make.

Life is a series of changes. Each decision we make takes us down a different path. We marry or we don't. We have children or we don't. We take one job over another. We stay with our decision or leave our mate/job/city and do something else. Each time we make a decision our life changes. Even not making a decision is a decision. The story of our life can be dramatically different, depending on each and every decision we make. We are the artists of our own lives.

I'm at a place in my life where I am reaping the rewards of those many decisions I've made throughout my life. And I'm thinking about where different choices would have taken me. I'm stayed in a job I treasured for decades and now my work has been difficult and sometimes unbearable, and I'm realizing the toll it has taken on my life and emotions. It makes me wonder about where I'd be if I'd changed jobs years ago, gone to college earlier in life, choosen a different career, or lived in another state.

So I'm rethinking where I am now. I could retire. I could change jobs. I could sell my house and downsize or move away. I could travel the world, spending time in different countries, as long as I please, and move on whenever I feel like it. I think about the book and now the movie, Eat...Pray...Love and wonder if that should have been the story of my own life, coming through a divorce and taking one year to see the world, living in different countries, making friends of other nations, finding myself along the way.

I was a hippie in the sixties, long hair and beads and dancing outdoors to psychedelic music at Griffith Park, surrounded by crowds of similarly dressed and drugged revelers. I was invited by a guy I barely knew to live in the center of this movement in Haight Ashbury and I chose not to go. I stayed in my parents' home, married a sailor, moved to Hawaii, had a child, and got divorced, and then it seemed like most of my choices were then made for me. I had to work, take care of a child by myself, and survive. Living in an ashram in India was no longer an option, and I settled into a life of surburbia, my hippie days long gone.

Sometimes I feel sad when I think about those outer things that would have made people see me as still free-spirited. My house is classically middle class and average, notably free of beaded curtains and bean bag furniture. I dress in jeans and sweaters and have short hair, not long dresses made of tie-dye, and haven't had long hair since my early twenties. Have I lost myself? Have I sold-out? Do clothes and furniture and hair styles determine who we are?

Maybe those trappings can be just costumes, a way to make the world think we're really hip, like we think dressing and looking a certain way makes others, and ourselves, think we really are free-spirited when we might not be. I remember a recommendation letter written for me in my twenties, describing my silly humor, my multi-religiousness, my quirky demeanor, and I realize that my "Ellen-ness" was there then and is still within me.

I may work a traditional job and live in an average-looking home and have a poodle, but I'm still me. I'm spunky, I'm creative, and I make people laugh. I'd still like to travel the world, going wherever the wind takes me and moving on whenever I want. I'd like to work for the Peace Corps, bringing schools or water or education to those less fortunate. I'd like to live in Topanga Canyon and have a funky house, full of mis-matched furniture that looks really cool, but really I'd worry about the fire danger there. If I traveled, I'd miss seeing the joy in my daughter's eyes when she is happy. I'd miss seeing my grandchildren grow and change and giggle. I'd miss my friends and the safety and comfort of my home. I still can retire and travel and see the world whenever I please, I really could. But I really think I like my life, just the way it is, right here in the Valley, close to those I love.