Back in the day, I used to watch Let's Make a Deal.
My little sister and I would sit side by side in a big armchair facing the black-and-white TV that had to warm up when you turned it on. I was already horse-crazy, and I didn't understand why it was a sad joke when someone turned down the new car behind Door #1 for Door #2 and found a couple of donkeys or an old plug. Back then I would have sold my soul for a donkey.
But maybe that wasn't really Door #2 for me.
Recently I explained to my twelve-year-old daughter about Door #2, about making a choice to live with the unknown rather go with the familiar. She wanted to drop out of chorus: the new teacher was ineffective and couldn't keep the very large (eighty kids) class on task. The Dean of Students was repeatedly called in to discipline the students. My daughter was furious both at classmates for being distracted and the teacher for being so inept.
I agreed. The class was even worse than last year, bigger, out of control. But if she dropped out, I warned, she would be put into another unknown class. Door #2. Her best friend had quit and wound up in...Kinesthetics. I said, "OK, but you realize you could be placed in a class with a teacher you like even less."
She waved that possibility away. "It can't be worse."
"It can. I promise you. It can always get worse."
"OK. But I want to anyway."
I wrote the letter; she switched out of chorus and ended up in...Ecology.
Then she swapped with her best friend: Ecology for Kinesthetics--with her favorite teacher.
I was impressed.
All the while, I was thinking about the Door #2 of relationships. Leaving in favor of the known, or (sometime) the known. Or rather, the sort-of known. I've been divorced more than once. I've felt I was throwing myself into a relationship abyss. I was a late starter to dating, and it was an education.
The very first time, after leaving my one-and-only at the age of thirty-one, my Door #2 was both the idea that there could never be such a thing as True Love--and also the desperate belief that there had to be something better, that a truer love existed.
Another time it looked as though I'd thrown my lot in with Door #2 prematurely, inappropriately, without a solid future in the works. Actually, I was very aware of that Door #2. It was myself, finally free (at forty) to figure out who the hell I was when I was alone. What I learned was priceless and grounded me enough to start writing about my childhood and eventually to choose to have my inoperable left leg amputated. At this time I had no partner to hold my hand. It taught me to lean on friends and relations. And to depend on myself.
More recently, I faded out of one relationship in favor of another that was enticing. It seemed to promise a future. Instead it became untenable. Over several years, it did not work. And when it ended I was prepared to be single, independent, solitary for the rest of my life.
But the surprise was waiting. This time, Door #2 was a previous relationship. It caught me by surprise. It's familiar but different, this time around. It's fresh, deeper, soulful. It's a humbling, sobering lesson. It's made me rethink what I know about relationships: that maybe I still know very little. Door #2 has kicked me in the butt in a way that's wonderful and still makes me feel stupid for overlooking it.
And here I am. Glad to be here.
And because I've been listening to this song nonstop for hours, who knows why, I'm posting this link to a song called "I Think I'll Get My Hair Cut" by an unknown-to-you singer named Jona Lewie with whom I fell in love in 1980 when I was in England...something about the piano chords in this particular song relaxes me.
Be well. : )