Creativity Magazine

The What If Game

Posted on the 10 January 2013 by Abstractartbylt @artbylt

What if this and what if that? It is a silly, futile game bound to lead nowhere, yet somehow drags us into its machinations. 

Sometimes we use the what if game to count ourselves lucky:  What if I had parked my car in the driveway during that storm?  The tree that fell would have crushed it.  And if I’d been in the car at the time, I would have been crushed too.

Sometimes we use the what if game to beat up on ourselves:  What if I’d had Dad live with me instead of a nursing home?  Would he have lived longer or better?

But sometimes we just wonder what our lives would be like now if we’d taken that different path.  We create scenarios in our heads, trying to imagine this alternative reality. 

I play this game sometimes, but it always leads to a dead or unproductive end.  What if I had never suggested to my first husband, John, that we move to California in the winter of 1965?  Would our marriage have lasted?

We had a daughter together.  He was a good father.

I didn’t stop loving him.  I left him because I couldn’t support the three of us on my secretary’s salary.   After we moved to California, John never found a job. 

In New Jersey he had a good, well-paying job that he enjoyed.  We were happy.  And our families were nearby. 

When things were falling apart in LA, I tried to get John to come back with me to New Jersey.  But he refused, so I took our baby and left. 

I start to imagine the life we would have lived if we’d stayed in New Jersey.  But if we had done that, what were the chances of my daughter marrying her present husband and having these particular grandchildren of mine?

I wouldn’t want anything about them to be different.

My daughter met her husband when we lived in Ithaca in the 1970s, and I came to Ithaca because of Herb.  If I hadn’t left John, I wouldn’t have started dating Herb.  If Herb hadn’t lost his job in New Jersey, we’d never have known Ithaca even existed. 

Each piece was necessary to ensure the next step happened. 

I have never wanted to exchange my life with anyone else’s, or my problems for theirs.  Thus, if I want the life I have now, I guess I had to live it exactly the way I did.


Related articles THE WHAT IF GAMEWaiting for Something to Happen THE WHAT IF GAMEPlaces I Have Lived, Part 3 THE WHAT IF GAMEPlaces I Have Lived, Part 4

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