Monday, June 21, 2010

A Life of Endless Possibility

Anyone who knows me fairly well (or really, who has ridden in a car with me) knows that I'm a pretty big fan of NPR. I listen to it during my daily commute, and aside from "The Daily Show," it's really my main source of news. This afternoon's episode of "All Things Considered" featured an interview with a woman who spent several years working for professional gamblers and bookies. I'm pretty risk-averse, and gambling really doesn't hold much appeal for me. (My high school graduation party featured a "casino" where we could gamble with "chips" given to us. I abstained from playing rather than lose my literally worthless chips. Yeah, I know.) I'm definitely not someone who would ever wind up in a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. But the book's author, Beth Raymer, surprised me when she characterized these people's addiction in a way I'd never considered. She described them as having an "addiction to living a life of endless possibility."

On hearing this, my first thought was, "How can an addiction like that be a bad thing?" Of course, I realize that Raymer is referring to a gambler's belief that the next roll of the dice/hand he's dealt/day at the races really could be "the big one." He never believes he has no chance at winning big - he steadfastly believes that the possibility is always there, tomorrow, next week, and next year, even. 

Obviously, this sort of blind faith is what leads many gamblers down a slippery slope. But is this stubborn belief in possibilities necessarily a bad thing? To spend your life imagining possibilities and pursuing your dreams sounds so ideal to me. I imagine waking up and truly believing that I could do or be anything that day. I could learn to throw pottery and start my own business, or take up the guitar and discover I have real talent, or sell all my possessions and travel around the world for two years. It seems like believing that every day offers the possibility of being and experiencing anything would be so freeing.

And yet, if the possibilities are endless, even when you do attain something do you feel like you have anything at all? Or does it become a never-ending chase, where you reach one goal only to be reminded of the innumerable other things as yet undone? Is the belief freeing, or is it a straitjacket? 

I guess what I'm really asking is, how do you balance the need to see possibilities and seek out new experiences with the equally important need to recognize when you've finally found "enough"?

I worry that this sort of thinking is part of what undid my marriage. My ex is a good man who will be an excellent husband to an equally wonderful woman one day. But when we were together, the more I thought about our relationship, the more I fixated on the other possibilities that might be out there for me. Could I be happier/more satisfied/more excited? The potential options seemed so real and offered so much hope, I couldn't imagine that what I already had was quite enough.

Logically, I know that our marriage failed because we weren't the right fit. But I still have a nagging worry in the back of my mind: Will I ever know "enough" when I see it? What will it look like? What will it be that finally tells me that, yes, there are still possibilities out there, but that what I have is precious enough not to be lured away? Or am I actually just like one of those gamblers Beth Raymer writes about, someone who's addicted to endless possibility of a slightly different kind?


RachelintheOC said...

Great post.

For what it's worth: I dated one of those guys, the "will the grass be greener?" Only he cheated during our 4 years together. So I dumped him.

Now, having been married to a great guy for 18 years, who asked me to marry him 3 months after we met & I said "YES!" (& we tied the knot 5 mos after that), I can tell you that you will know when it's right. Sounds so trite, but it really is true.

Sure, there are ups & downs, but not once have I ever thought of bailing. The grass may get brown, but it's not like we eat it, ya know?

Caroline said...

Having a perfectly jaded view of these sorts of things, I'm not sure how to answer - but let's go with Rachel's comment, I am sure she is right. Having found 'the one' at the worst time ever, we had to let that moment pass. I think maybe there are 'the one''s out there for everyone, if you're open to it, I'm not. I kind of like the friend with benefits lifestyle, which is so horribly wrong, I shouldn't even being saying it. I think you will know when it is enough, when it is 'all that you want and more' and I hope for you it occurs at the best time, or a time, when you can take that leap.

Katherine said...

After breaking up with Shaun, I had a bout with the same issue banging around in my brain. You were around then. Lots of guilt, lots of second-guessing. After my breakup with Jackass, I wondered again - more about when/if he'd realize what he lost, but also about my judgement of people's characters. Again, you were there. It shakes you up, to say the least, because it is such a life-changing thing. It's gonna hurt, and it's gonna make you second-guess and wonder. But you know that isn't a bad thing. It can feel shitty for a while; then the reconstruction process gets kind of cool, and then it's pretty damn awesome. And necessary.

As far as finding "enough" . . . People say "When it's right, you just know." I don't necessarily believe that. But I do think, after a while, you begin to see little pieces of confirmation that you're with a right person. A very, very right person. I mean, hell - there's no one pair of shoes or one car or one anything that's the only-only-only right thing just for you forever and always. But there's a right set of elements that are just what you need and will always need that you can find in somebody. And I think when you find that, and when you are that right set of elements for them, and when it makes you both happy as a clam to be that for each other and take care of each other, then you know.

When you find it, your heart and your brain will be in agreement that you've found something worth hanging on to for dear life. The idea of letting it float away will be about as appealing to you as dying Juliette's fur hot pink.

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