One of the most helpful attributes I believe many of us are born with is the ability to congratulate ourselves on the choices we’ve made in our life that have worked out. We also have the talent for sweeping the ones that haven’t worked out so well under the carpet.
Developing this particular survival skill set is generally what keeps us from falling into a helpless paralysis when it comes to navigating our lives. I mean let’s face it, we live in America—the land of second chances.
Everyone seems to be enamored by the “Rocky” story; the downtrodden underdog who picks himself up, dusts himself off, and comes back to conquer the world. Whether it’s a celebrity who jumps the shark one year and comes back the next in a blaze of glory, or sex addicted comedians who have turned over new leaves, we seem to love it.
In fact, I believe we love it so much we can be utterly perplexed when we find ourselves in a situation where, lo and behold, there are no second chances. I know, speaking for myself, the idea seemed completely foreign. There are times I look into my ex-wife’s eyes and feel such a longing and pang in my chest that I start to obsess about whether or not I made a terrible and irreversible mistake by leaving.
I mostly keep these misgivings to myself because I’d be crossing some clear boundaries by telling her the way I feel. I’ve been on the receiving end of that sort of confession and I can say, first hand, it is not even a little bit fun.
Fifteen years ago when my first wife took our daughter and moved back to the city where her family resided, she turned my life into a state of messy upheaval. I will never forget when I had to give up the apartment we all shared and return to my mother’s couch as a 30-something. It was mortifying.
So a month later when she called me drunk and crying, saying that she may have made a mistake, I didn’t want to hear it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.
This is a hard reality and I will admit that growing up as an artful manipulator of lovers and girlfriends, this was not a predicament I was used to. All through my school years, I had been able to sweet talk my way into rekindling any relationship I wanted. It’s interesting to note, however, that almost every time it resulted in a short-lived and disastrous train wreck.
But, I guess wisdom and experience are priceless and so now I finally understand what it feels like on both sides of the fence. I guess that is worth something at the very least.
When we think about the whole process of a thing like substance abuse and alcohol recovery, an arena I enjoy first-hand familiarity with, we realize the whole premise of it is predicated entirely on the idea of second chances. The sobering variable of that quotient is that the unfortunate few that do not get the opportunity at a second chance are the ones who are dead or serving long prison terms.
What separates me from them is pure dumb luck. The fact that I was given the gift of a second chance at life is pretty miraculous—even if it’s difficult to reconcile how miraculous in the dead of a New York winter.
But, even in winter, with its frozen and barren soil, life is preparing to pour forth as the springtime nears.
I was just driving home last night, licking my wounds and thinking about these exact things when it occurred to me that I may not have actually made any mistake by leaving. It may have been the only sane thing for me to do. That gave me the ultimate choice as to whether I want to concentrate my thoughts on the dead winter earth or the life that is burgeoning underneath: the second chance we all long for.
Author: Billy Manas
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron