Sliding Doors: An exercise in “What If”

“Pieces” self portrait

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve slipped into an alternate dimension. Like there’s another version of me living simultaneously while I live my own life. She’s the same age. Her appearance is relatively the same. But somewhere along my lifeline, she and I took different paths. I am living out this fate, and she is living out another. 

I’ve always tried to steer clear of asking what if. It never seems to serve any purpose other than cause unneeded longing and regret. But, after the last few years, and all of the sudden changes, my mind is sputtering to catch up. I’m left with the feeling of… displacement. This what if exercise is definitely risk to me emotionally. If played out fully, I hope it will help me sweep the shattered bits back over into my dustpan. 

This past year, I can’t help but feel as though I’m in the wrong life. I can’t shake it. 

imagine what another version of life might be now. I dive into the best and worst of my soul twin, and play out her footsteps. 

I sort through the details of her life. There is hurt, longing, and regret of unfulfilled dreams that come along with playing out these fantasies. I’m afraid of going through the looking glass. How deeply will this cut me? But in the end, I hope the exercise will help in some way. 

It’s like the movie Sliding Doors; I imagine myself making one different choice and living out my life in a parallel universe. 

In one reality, I’m still married. I never fell down those stairs in 2004, we had 2 amazing children, and I have the career in psychology I once hoped for. In this reality, I’m just as outgoing, adventurous and fun-loving as I was at 20. This version of me loves her work, she loves helping people in new and experimental ways, and if she ever finds time, she hopes to write a book about her work some day. I imagine her life busily driving her children to baseball and soccer, standing back stage smiling at ballet recitals, and taking pictures at music festivals with her beautiful family. She loves her children and husband unconditionally, they have a house filled with laughter, and they show her love and affection in return. Every couple months she sells handmade jewelry at an art fair- this is when she feels most like herself. Even though she counsels others effectively, she never had time to resolve the issues from her own childhood, and it shows now in her behavior with her/my parents. She empathizes well with her patients, but she doesn’t understand their suffering, and is frustrated when she can’t fix their problems. Her family stopped going to church and volunteering together- she deeply regrets that for her kids. 

Maybe I chose differently after high school graduation, and followed my dream of aid and mission work. Another Mary has been living in a far-off village building wells and working with abused young women for several years. She has collected a different language for every country she has lived in, and always looks forward to her next project. She never married, and rarely regrets the decision to stay single and forgo becoming a mother. She is strong and healthy, but tired, and isn’t quite sure where home is anymore. She wishes she could fly back to the states each time a friend or family member asks her to come to their wedding, birthday…or hospital bedside. She lives a life most can’t understand, but she wouldn’t trade her life of service for anyone else’s. 

There’s yet another version of me who never moved away from New York City. She stayed on the path to pursue an art career. This version of me has short, messy bleach blonde hair, and wears an old motorcycle jacket she stole from an ex boyfriend. She works at her friend’s bakery so she can pay her bills. This Mary struggles with depression, but the angst feeds her art so she doesn’t get help. The mental illness ruins her romantic relationships, so she’s lonely in a big city. She has a modest art following online, and has a large network of colorful friends who keep her very busy. She sings in an indie band for fun, writes art reviews for a small magazine, and volunteers teaching sewing classes to inner city youth on the weekends. In her heart, she hoped she would have found more success by now, but tries to remind herself, art isn’t about accolades. 

I imagined my existence if I had been born into one of the many communities of the world where healthcare is nearly non-existent. Like most of the world, I wouldn’t have been born into priveledge, with affordable doctors nearby. I wouldn’t have had wholesome food to eat daily, and may have been exposed to the elements, civil war, and sexual acts of violence against girls. If I had developed the very same condition at 22, I wouldn’t be alive at 35. That version of me wouldn’t exist. I would have died a slow, painful death, like so many others with the same diseases that we in the US call “chronic,” and manage day to day, other parts of the world calls them “terminal”. 

The door slides again. I step back through the wormhole. 
I’m here in my life. In my own body. In my own bed. In my own reality. There is no other fate than mine. There is no other Mary.

This was a challenging, yet powerful exercise- but it did hurt. There were others I didn’t write about here. In the end, it was a success, I did shake off that alternate dimension feeling. 

This is the life that was set aside for me. In all of the realities I could imagine, this is the only one where I’ve been molded, strengthened, and shaped to conquer my specific challenges. I am the person whose eyes are prepared to see unique beauty only I might see. I’ll leave only one set of footprints behind when I’m gone. 

There is no wormhole I’ll ever slip into. No sliding door waiting for me to step through and merge into my rightful life. 

I’m not entitled to any other existence. 

This is my one and only life, with all of its shortcomings, pains, privileges, hopes, and unknown future. 

It’s not over yet.

About abodyofhope

I do not know why it is that we must wade through tragic circumstances to find truth. We nearly drown! But under the water, there are pearls. I hope in writing this blog, more will come to the surface. Over the past 15 years living with chronic pain, patient advocacy has had a powerful effect on my life through meeting so many remarkable teens, women and men: SURVIVORS. These individuals are HOPE personified. I wish to honor them in the same spirit they have encouraged me to press on. Eight years ago, I became bed-bound from a variety of secondary chronic illnesses. A procedure meant to help the pain condition I had been managing for several years- went bust #BIGTIME. Over the years, my entire life has changed. I have changed, but I am still striving to live my best life possible. Along with sharing inspiring pieces about spiritual wellness and finding quality of life inside of ongoing illness, I also share health research, awareness information, poetry, memes, art, and this blog is also an attempt to put my own pieces back together. Welcome to A Body of Hope, and thank you for visiting. [Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/ RSD, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Dysautonomia, Chronic Intractable Migraine, Cluster headache, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Occipital Neuralgia, Hypersensitivity to Sound & Light, Fibro, CFS/ME, Cerebrospinal Fluid Imbalance......blah, blah, blah] >>> P.S. My headgear is protective for pain. I just rock it hard ;)

Posted on August 14, 2017, in Being Myself, Growing, Spiritual Journey, Transformation, Uncategorized, Vizualization and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Wow, that was quite a (non-existent) wormhole Mary dear. Sure took me for a ride. You are not alone in your wormholing. I find it very interesting that we end up with the same conclusion: only this life/reality has shaped us to withstand it and made us able to still be standing here to tell the tale (ok, maybe lying down here to tell the tale :P)

    As weird as that sounds, there are not a lot of detours I would have taken after all. Even the fact that my career was cut much shorter than I thought at 33, we had to move to the countryside now at age 36 instead of age 65 like we thought we’d do for retirement. But we found out that there is no way we would have been able to move to the countryside later in life, it would have been too risky, too much of a shock on older sicker people on reduced income. So as much as it sucked, we’re happy we moved here now 20 years earlier. 20 years in the big city might have been hard on me psychologically, who knows. I think it is when we are confident in who we are that we can appreciate more how strong we are, even when we have moments when we feel like giving up or that we won’t make it.
    And we tend to forget in alternate universes that if we had had a family and kids, cancer might have stroke because we would have moved to a neighbourhood with a different environmental exposure or one could have been hit from just the extra transit to make it home to our suburb family home each night. The butterfly effect is real. Yet would we be as strong in those realities? Would we be happier? Would the fall be harsher? I try to measure these things when going down the wormhole and I usually end up feeling better. Yes, sure there is that version of us with kids if we had both not have handicaps but I doubt my hubby would have been free if he had wanted kids in the first place. Another woman would have snatched him before I moved to this province. Hubby often wonders how he’d keep up with me if I wasn’t sick! So many factors to influence life. Yet I know you can take every single thing away from me except him.

    I also appreciate how you acknowledge the fact that having been born elsewhere, there would be no 35-year old Mary. I often mention it when people ask me how I ended up with such conditions and why it seems to be such a ‘recent’ phenomena. In most countries and before the 1970’s approximately, I too would not have made it this far. I would be the Claudia that died at 4 years old from meningitis or from an unknown high fever no prayers could heal if they had not had any medical diagnosis yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so sad to imagine a world without you in it, Claudia. And yet, I understand what you mean. I had also forgotten I could have died from Scarlet Fever as a child, or developed a heart condition at 5 yrs old from rheumatic fever. Having modern medicine has afforded us many blessings and priveledges we all take for granted. You are absolutely right that there’s no guarantee that having any of the many lives we might fantasize about would necessarily make us “happy” or feel fulfilled. It’s up to each of us to find peace and gratitude in whatever lives we have.
      I’m so glad to hear you are feeling a sense of belonging where you are, and that the timing is right, too xxo


  2. wow that was incredible, you had me from the beginning.. I wish your life had turned out like the first life because I believe you would have loved it. I am so sorry it didn’t, you deserve so much better. You still amaze me with your spirit through all you deal with. I will always love you to the moon and back. Hope today is a low pain day sweet friend..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie! I know it pains my mom also. But I remind her when I was a girl, I played business, and sewing while my friends played mom and house. I must believe God has always had other plans. I’ll be an awesome Aunt Mary 😉
      You have remained an amazing mother even after so much has been taken from you. You have continued giving to your family and anyone you see who needs extra gentle care.
      I also wish all of your dreams had been fulfilled, sweet friend ❤ I pray all your heart’s desires going forward are.
      Love you to the (eclipsed) moon and back 😉


  3. i often wonder “what if” as well. i know it doesn’t do any good, i know we aren’t guaranteed any life at all, especially the one we dreamed of, but i still wonder. i don’t know if we’re “meant” to be anyone or anything, but if we are, this isn’t who i’m meant to be. there is another life inside me that i’m not living.

    but that doesn’t take away from the life that i get to live, where i’m loved, and get to love.

    great post. thanks for taking me for a trip down the wormhole this evening 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your comment. I thought about it for a long time.
      You inspired me to create an image for the post after reading what you said.
      I hope there’s a day you have the opportunity to live out the person who you feel waiting to break free.


  4. I love the creativity and imagination in this post. I especially enjoyed the visual of the Mary in NYC with the bleached blonde hair. She came to life through your writing. I too experience this feeling of being isolated from human existence. I often find myself imagining prior versions of myself that I liked better than the one I experience now. This was never supposed to be my life, this “chronic illness” part. I feel as if I live in a corridor outside of everyone else’s existence. I feel invisible to them. I watch in wonder and envy as they do things like go to work, engage in activities after 4pm, or even remain standing after 6 pm. The space between them and me seems like a chasm, as big as the grand canyon. “How do I get back to living amongst them? Do I even want to? Will I ever again?” These are the questions I ask myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel you on that. The corridor outside the rest of the world is exactly right. Perfect words for something we often only have one word for (isolation). Sometimes I want to take a time machine back to age 21. I’ve allowed there to exist this halo around that time. I’d like to cross the time/space continuum to watch myself for one day. Was I really that happy? Was I really that active? Was I really that healthy? Was I so surrounded by loved ones?
      Or do I just put that time on a pedestal?
      I try not to look back anymore, and when I do- convince myself she wasn’t all she was cracked up to be 🙂
      Gentle hugs to you. I hope you are doing ok during all the stormy weather.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I wonder all the same things about my so-called prior “well” self. I know it isn’t helpful to look back, but I find myself doing it, especially when I’m feeling sorry for myself, like now. Hugs back

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You write so beautifully from your heart. I empathized with you and your what ifs. I’m sending you a gentle hug. I wish you weren’t suffering in pain. I am glad though that I found you through your blog. You helped me to realize I’m not alone, and my life still has meaning. So thank you for being who you are meant to be right now in this moment. Love you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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