Monday, February 4, 2013

I May Have Given Myself a Headache Writing This...

The Post-Birthday World:  A woman in a ten-year relationship finds herself helplessly and unexpectedly attracted to another man.  Her story is told twice – once from a universe in which she resists temptation, and once from a universe in which she does not.

I’ve been a little heavy on the book reviews lately, so I’m going to eschew a formal review of this one (fascinating in premise, somewhat tedious in execution) and instead just flat-out admit that I more than once woke up in the middle of the night while reading it to ponder which path I might take if put in the protagonist’s position.  Nothing is clear cut in the book; there is no “right” choice any more than there is a “wrong” choice, and what a mind-fuck that is to anyone (i.e., everyone) out there who has ever felt the tug of “what if.”

There’s another book that I want to read, which was excerpted in Newsweek a couple of weeks ago. It’s called Missing Out, and is something of a defense of frustration – an open acknowledgment that for each and every one of us, life really does play out in the two-fold way of The Post-Birthday World. We have the lives we live, and we have the parallel lives in our heads filled with the possibilities of what might have been: a “lived” life and an “unlived” life, which coexist and feed off of each other. Missing Out argues that our lived lives are as shaped by our unlived lives as vice versa, and I’m looking forward to slogging through an attempt to wrap my head around that.

Coincidentally enough, these two books (one fiction, one non-fiction; one I've now read, one I haven't) entered my consciousness on the exact same day, and, in striking duality, presented me with two equally appealing ideas:  In a world devoid of perfection, no one choice can ever be the “correct” one. AND YET the choices we make deeply define us, and thus are critically important.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Post-Birthday World was that in both universes, the main character frequently wondered what her life would be like had she made the opposite decision.  From our vantage point as readers, we saw what no one in real life ever could:  the answer to her question.

In the grand scheme of things, though, it seems like maybe it wasn't the decision itself that was important, but the fact that she'd had a choice in the first place.

Which lends itself handily to the Missing Out argument that our self-inflicted "what ifs" are as valid to our definition of self as our real lives, and thus cumulatively as meaningful to us as the experiences that actually happen...

Talk about a mind-fuck…

(A little heavy for a Monday, I know.  On Saturday, I was invited to a party, but I didn't go, which left plenty of time this weekend to finish The Post-Birthday World.  I'm not all that interested in speculating on some alternate version of me that went to the party instead...but you might be, because she probably had a more fun blog entry for you today.)

Image yanked from HERE.


  1. oh yeah ... especially at the point where I am now I wonder a lot about the "what if"s of my life ... tho it doesn't help - neither with a solution nor the mood

    I try to find peace in the idea that I might not always have taken the "wrong" path.

    but hey that is just me ... and I have always been the "what if"-kind of person - before and after every decision

    Annie Sasha

    1. I've never been a huge "what if" person in terms of looking at the past. It's a rare thing for me to think, "If I had [whatever] to do over again..."

      But I *do* think a lot about "what ifs" with regard to the future. Like, "If I could only do this one thing then that means this other thing will happen..."

      I think there is a lot of comfort in thinking that no one path through life is the "right" one, and yet I also think there's comfort in knowing that it's okay to wonder from time to time how things might be different. And that maybe it's even *healthy* to wonder about things, because if you're always 100% content in the present, how can you ever grow as a person??

      For me, what I have a hard time reconciling is pushing myself to grow and change BUT not beating myself up all the time in the present when things don't seem to be going my way. It's a fine balance! :)

    2. ok, there we have something in common again ... the "if that one thing happens/I could do that one thing"- part of our personality. :D

      Annie Sasha

  2. This isn't 100% related, but close enough. I found it on Quora today and enjoyed it:


  3. Still waiting for you to join Goodreads. *grumble*

    1. (Every time I write about a book, I feel guilty for not doing it yet, Leslie!! At least you know it's on my mind... :D)