Alternate Realities

Let’s ponder the notion of alternate realities. It’s a heady idea. Alternate realities are speculated upon by physicists, and they make marvelous fodder for stories, whether books, television, or film. I’d venture to guess that a significant percentage of the popular old Twilight Zone episodes related to alternate realities.

Who hasn’t wondered, in looking back on the twists and turns making up her life path so far, what things might have been like if she had taken, at a crossroads long ago, the right path instead of the left? The middle path instead of the right? The path whose sides were sprinkled with wildflowers instead of the path whose sides were piled up with rocks?

thomma lyn grindstaff, heart's chalice, alternate realities, magical realism, women's fiction

When you combine the lure of alternate realities with the regret of love lost, it’s strong stuff indeed. Many people experience that poignant tug from the past: the One Who Got Away. Maybe the tug comes up in dreams, or even in waking thoughts.

If you feel the tug, it doesn’t mean that the paths you’ve chosen are wrong. Perhaps your path suits you fine, and you feel you’re exactly where you need to be. Truly, it’s my belief that wherever you are is where you need to be. If it’s a difficult place, then it’s possible to learn from the hardships and move farther down to a point on that path where there are as many wildflowers as rocks.

No matter how your life has turned out and continues to turn out, though, there’s a powerful urge to wonder, “What if?” and to contemplate how different life might be if you had said yes to that man you loved years in the distant past, and perhaps to contemplate how much of your life might even be pretty much the same. It’s human nature, I suppose, to speculate whether or not the grass in the field of another choice would have been greener.

A wonderful outlet for those speculations is fiction. In fiction, anything can happen, and it often does. In fiction, a woman can be shaken to the core of her heart and soul by the possibilities of a crossroads which she has regretted for many years opening up to her in the now and presenting her, again, with a choice. And the question would be, as it would be for any of us if such a thing happened in our real lives, what would we do? Would be choose to leave the “nows” that we know in favor of new “nows” that reflect the different direction we might have taken?

If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s this: things change, and the ripples from our choices perpetrate themselves in unexpected ways. What we think was the right choice often doesn’t turn out so well, and what we think was the wrong choice might actually be one of the best things we could have done in order to learn and grow and get better at loving and caring for ourselves and other people.

So… right path, wrong path. Wildflowers or rocks. It’s a good thing to know when to stop and admire beauty, but climbing over obstacles can be a handy skill, too. The world needs it all, so perhaps the ultimate answer is, “Who knows?”

7 Responses

  1. Leah J. Utas December 31, 2011 / 9:25 pm

    Very thought-provoking. I often wonder what if, but I believe as you do, that we are where we are supposed to be.

    Happy 2012.

  2. thommalyn December 31, 2011 / 10:47 pm

    Thanks, Leah! The way I look at it, we can always learn something from wherever we are, whether our current place on our life’s path is peaceful, a bit rocky, or in the middle of a hailstorm. 😉

    Happy 2012 to you, too, my friend!

  3. jannie funster January 11, 2012 / 1:41 pm

    Yes, my dear I do believe we are at at all times where we need to be,and sometimes even where we want to be, like me here chatting you up and swilling library coffee.

    And yes, all is a lesson. whoooohooooo.

    And YOU a blessing.


  4. thommalyn January 14, 2012 / 1:34 am

    So sweet of you, Jannie! I am glad you are here, and here I am, happily chatting with you, swilling green tea, and my lap warmed by a purring cat. You’re such a wonderful, talented, incredible person, and you always make me smile.



  5. The Querulous Squirrel January 22, 2012 / 7:58 am

    Religion has always offered up notions of alternate realities for the very reasons you mention: to sooth people’s sense of loss of a loved one in the hope they will be eventually reunited in Heaven, the Ultimate Alternate Reality. Well, along with Hell, meant to discourage evil. All religions have their versions of Heaven and Hell that are very real to the people who believe. I can’t tell you how many depressed Catholics I’ve treated whose only reason not to commit suicide is that they will end up in a worse situation in Hell. Dreams, too, are alternate realities. I’ve had my forays into alternate worlds.

  6. thommalyn January 26, 2012 / 9:06 pm

    Hi, Squirrel! I’m so sorry for the delay in my reply. It’s been a wild couple of weeks. And I’m so glad I inspired a post. I plan to get back to regular blogging here, so I’m excited about that, too. 🙂

    Very fascinating and astute commentary about conceptions of alternate realities that have their origins in religions. It’s funny, because I love writing metaphysical, speculative, funky fiction, but for day-to-day life, that’s one of the aspects of many religions I’ve long found problematic. Lots of pie in the sky, to be sure, in religions that encourage / mandate belief in their versions of alternate realities, but I like my pie in front of me, where I can eat it. 😉

    Gonna go check out your blog now!

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