January 11, 2017

How One Question Altered my Course.


Time is a human construct, yet we often wear it like a noose.

We put it on each morning, tightening it firmly, and then we go out to live our lives as we’ve been told.

We listen to pre-recorded voices that answer our questions and give us directions on how to get where we should go; the routes we take are often mapped by the flow of the traffic around us, our speed matching others’ as we rush to get nowhere at all.

Sometimes we stay in the same lane of our journey because it seems easiest. Perhaps we’ve been told this is the fast lane or that this route will lead us quickly to our desired destination.

No one told us this destination would keep moving with the changes in our desires.

I’ve lived that life. I’ve watched myself wake and sleep at the direction of a clock, and I structured my time within it following all the careful plans I had made.

And then something changed in me—or perhaps what was locked within me grew too big to be contained. Because one day I chose to stop doing what I thought I should, or even what I thought I could.

I dared instead to consider the answer to one simple question:

What kind of life do I want to live?

I asked the great what if, but I didn’t ask, what if I fail? I asked instead what my life would look like if it could be anything I wanted.

I didn’t put limits on those dreams. I gave myself full freedom to explore how my life might look in every aspect, and then I stopped. I put everything in park to consider the implications—and after, I began to go in a new direction.

Even now I know that my life could go in a number of directions, but I also keep firmly in mind all that I want from the life that I’m leading. I can always earn money, but there’s no way to earn back our time once lost.

Let us seize the day before it’s gone and ask ourselves this:

What if…

…you and I leave the GPS behind this once? What if we venture down a road that we’ve only seen in passing, just to find out where it’s going?

When we’ve passed the same old house three times in succession, we can stop to ask for directions from the next person we meet. But we don’t ask how to get to a specific somewhere, predetermined. We ask, instead, to be pointed in an interesting direction—a scenic view, an interesting stretch of road, a bit of history hidden away from the world.

What if we stop to chat for a while with this stranger and make the stranger a friend before we go? What if we ask for pieces of his or her history and leave a bit of our own story behind?

What if we park the car a while and walk, even if it’s raining, because we found the perfect picnic spot?

What if…

…we take a day to leave aside the noose? We wake when our bodies tell us to and stretch in the light of the sun peeking in through the windows.

We make an extravagant breakfast and eat it outside in the sun or by a window where we can watch the changing colors of the sky or the brightness of the day unfolding. We hold each other close, along with hot cups of coffee or tea, and we read good books. And later we trace our hands over now-familiar maps, exploring the terrain to see where we might linger.

We find remembrances of the past with this old scar and these faded marks, a personal history mapped out in lines. We create a new map of the world where the world is only the two of us.

Later, we’ll sleep naked with the fan making lazy circles around the room, covered only with a sheet, curled into each other while the sun shines brightly through the open curtains, fluttering now in the breeze. We’ll sleep until we wake, hungry again and ready for new adventures.

What if…

…you and I weren’t you and I? What if there is only ever me in this time, in this life?

What if I leave behind the GPS this once? I’ll venture down the road I’ve seen only in passing, just to find out where it leads.

When I’ve passed the same old house three times in succession, I’ll stop to ask for directions from the next person I meet, but I won’t ask how to get a specific somewhere. Instead, I’ll ask to be pointed in the direction of a scenic view, an interesting drive or a bit of history.

I’ll search out those hidden treasures, stopping along the way to collect other treasures in the stories of those I meet. I’ll leave pieces of my own story scattered along the road in the people that I encounter, and I’ll park the car and walk awhile, even if it’s raining, because I found the perfect picnic spot.

What if…

…I take a day to leave aside the noose? I wake when my body is ready and stretch in the light of the sun.

I  make an extravagant breakfast to eat, then watch the changing colors of the sky or the brightness of the day unfolding. I cup between my hands a hot mug of coffee or tea, wrap myself in the softest of blankets, and read good books.

And later, I trace my hands over a now-familiar map, remembering this old scar and acknowledging these faded marks—each a testament to the full life I’ve lived. I’ll create a map of the world with the knowledge that I am perfect even in my imperfections and always enough.

Later, I’ll sleep naked with the fan making lazy circles around the room, covered only with a sheet while the sun shines brightly through the open curtains, fluttering now in the breeze. I’ll sleep until I wake, hungry again and ready for new adventures.


Of course, as a single parent, even the laziest of days is adjusted a bit from this.

Instead of sleeping until I want to wake up, I sleep until I am awakened by the cherub face and auburn curls of my son, who starts each day with enough energy to power the planet. Or the trilling laughter and bright happy eyes of my daughter, who sees every day as an adventure.

They’ll let me sleep just a few minutes longer while they play their version of quiet on the floor with their toys before informing me I’ve slept enough. Then we’ll make our way downstairs and have a pile of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. We’ll watch cartoons in our pajamas, and I’ll sneak close and tickle them.

It doesn’t matter how those days look. What matters is living inside of them fully present, embracing them as gifts. What matters is choosing the kind of lives we want to live, rather than living the lives we think we should.

It took asking the question to see the answers, but I had to stop letting my fears speak out of my own personal darkness. I had to listen to my hopes instead, which are so much more difficult to hear when we’ve been conditioned to deny, to repress and to fight against the things that we feel.

But what if we could live the lives we are capable of—lives made up of those hopes?

And what if we stopped limiting ourselves by what we think is possible and what we’ve been told is best for us?

What if we trusted our intuition enough to understand that the path of our dreams is one we must honor—or always struggle against?

What if we accepted that our lives could be richer if only we would choose it?

Our lives are now, in this moment. Now, while I’m typing the words. Now, when my feet are cold so I tuck them inside the blanket I’ve wrapped around me to ward off the chill. I listen to the faint sound of lullabies coming from the nursery down the hall, and I can feel the night pressing darkly against the window panes as I watch the words form.

Our lives are now, in this moment. You, reading the words. Perhaps nodding that, yes, you’ve experienced this, too. Or perhaps shaking your head or rolling your eyes in dismissal. But this is the moment.

Now. Our lives. The journey. Now.

We can dare to ask what if or shrink away from it, not wanting to see what could be if we wanted it. Or perhaps fearing that what could be won’t be.

But the journey is this moment—and the next and the one after that—and our paths are stretching out into the night. We cannot see how far they’ll go or where they’ll lead, but we can choose, each moment, the steps we take.


Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: @walkthetalkshow on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel


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