A Simple Question for Difficult Choices

Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
~ Hector and the Search for Happiness

Cause if I were here and you were there, 
I’d meet you in between…
~ Phish, The Horse

In the midst of a few tumultuous times during my previous nine-year relationship, my then-boyfriend posed to me this simple question:

Are you happier with me or without me?

The last time he asked this, when we were finally breaking apart, I couldn’t answer with any certainty. I scoffed at the simplicity of it.

  • Life and love and relationships are too messy and complicated to be summed up this way!
  • Emotions aren’t stable decision-makers!
  • How could I possibly know the unknown?

While I continued clearing my living space last week, purging the no-longer-house-bound extraneous possessions from my life, I remembered that question and realized the brilliance of its simplicity. Now I need to ask it to someone who I want in my life at least for a little while longer. 

In our eternal quest for happiness, it can be easy to get lost in a plethora of what-if questions, sometimes to the point of being unable to make a decision for fear of choosing unwisely.

  • What if I don’t buy this house and, thus, have no idea where or when my next move will be? 
  • What if I quit this job that is making me unhappy but Plan B doesn’t work out?
  • What if I go to grad school and end up with more student loan debt than it’s worth?
  • What if I spend a little too much money and time on travel than is practical for me?
  • What if I follow my newfound soulmate to the middle of nowhere-everywhere and we find that our lifestyles aren’t compatible?
  • What if I reveal one of my deepest insecurities and am met with rejection, or worse, silence?  
  • What if… fill in the blank

These are big decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Go ahead and weigh the pros and cons. Create a cost-benefit analysis. Use spreadsheets and diagrams, even flowcharts, if you must. Take your time. I’ll wait. And if it’s all still too complex for a clear answer, step back and ask yourself that simple question, as I did with each of these.

Would I be happier doing xyz or not doing xyz?

I understand the beast of regret all too well. All the would-haves, should-haves, could-haves of our lives…. While living alone and away from home in Ithaca, I was able to tap into my extreme inner joy,  experiencing high levels of clarity, and having one epiphany after another. Many of them helped to reconcile my regrets with my present reality. This led to a realization that, phrased simply, life is too short and fragile to leave things important to me undone or unsaid, even if uncomfortable. Especially if uncomfortable. I will not leave my consciousness wondering if I had something more to say. (Insert the sticky note that binds all my insecurities together here.) In that spirit, the simple happiness question can also be phrased as: 

Might I regret not taking a chance on xyz? 

Choosing a path toward happiness really is this simple. 

I saw that former boyfriend at a reggae show this past weekend. A year ago, I never wanted to see him again and avoided shows because of it. But I’ve been able to answer his question now for quite some time. The (ir)Reconcilable Contradiction in this situation is that because I know that I’m happier without him, I was genuinely happy to see him. We had a couple good conversations and shared a friendly hug. Then he went back to his date (who was a super good sport through it all), and I went back to dancing with my friends. It seemed that all the sacred complexity of our time together was wrapped up neatly and simply in that single encounter.

A year later, I’m 180 degrees from where I had planned to be. Despite (or because of) the precariousness and ambiguity that persists in my life and because I’ve regretted too many untaken chances, I have more clarity than ever about what I need for sustained happiness and personal balance.

The most significant of these needs is something I’ve craved my entire life – a companion with whom I share a soul connection, someone who also wants deeper conversations, who can handle open and honest communication, whose wit, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and playfulness contribute to an ongoing discovery in an atmosphere of authentic uninhibited love and mutual growth – and all the other wonderful things… I thought the idea of a soulmate like this was impossible., but the evidence that one does exist for me is 4ever encased in a mystical time machine scroll that I’ve been slowly and magically writing with him since last June 11. A simple taste no longer satisfies my craving. I need more, so the possibility of letting go is not just more heartbreaking than the last but absolutely soul-wrenching.  

I know my simple happiness answers. And I can finally say that I know that the decisions I make, whatever they are, will be the right choices. 

So… are you happier with me or without me? I’ll wait. …for a little while. 

<3,C – 20180527 

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