Occasionally, at the end of a long day, especially when I have been trying to be all analytical and sciency like I was yesterday, my right brain will rebel against the repression, paint itself blue and attempt to take over my mind. At these times, my thoughts tend to puddle into a loose collection of images, semi-random associations and fragments of stories, some real and some imagined. Sometimes there is music.
When I left my lab last evening the sky was on the move. Low and heavy overcast slid eastward as a solid block, accompanied by occasional thunder. Random gusts and a few sprinkles warned those of us walking to or from our cars to quicken our pace or risk being deluged.
I walked past a three car gridlock, caused by one person attempting to turn around and two more pulling up right behind them. I overtook a young woman with multi-colored hair and a Yankee's jacket on her way to the bus stop. I felt the set of my Land's End raincoat, and the New England life it promised, as clearly as if it had spoken to me.
I was suddenly overwhelmed with the vastness of possibility. The ocean of lives I could have lived -- that we all could live -- filled my mind and rolled away like the clouds. A different decision on one day as a child, or a different flip of a coin could have sent any of us in radically different directions. A Maine writer. A show business douchebag in L.A. A crocodile hunter down under. All were probably within my reach at some point.
It seems unfair how puny our lives are, when our imaginations can hold so much. How can it be that we only get to live one life, and that we don't even get to choose which one in advance? I'm not sure whether it's more frustrating that so much of our life is out of our control, or that it takes most of us so long to realize it, and to begin to enjoy what we've been given.
This caused me no end of anguish in earlier years, and on occasion I medicated heavily against the pain. Eventually I really came to understand and accept what my father meant when he used to say, "There's a long way between what we've got and what's fair." I chose years ago to focus what a treasure this single life is, and what a sweet one I drew.
I have got to spend more time out of the lab.