Perhaps out of pandemic boredom and meaninglessness, my husband and I watched a movie Christmas eve called Holiday Switch (one of many unremarkable holiday movies featured on streaming mediums). But this one caught my attention because of the message it so blatantly offered.
In the movie, a woman with two young girls and a husband are struggling during the holidays. The husband has a construction business, isn’t making enough to pay the bills. The girls are fighting and the woman is mired down in homemaking duties and warding off creditors.
When she was in high school, she had a choice of going to the prom with this down-to-earth, positive-attitude, funny, unsophisticated guy who grew up to have a construction business or a handsome, accomplished rich kid who grew up to have a very lucrative business. She chose the funny guy and later married him. Two kids and many creditors later, she is living in this average two-story house, with plumbing problems when she runs into her former flame with his classy girlfriend in an expensive boutique. It got her to wondering how different her life would have been if she had made the other choice.
Well, as fantasies go, she got what she wished. Yes, her life would have been very different. She discovers a portal to this other life through her clothes dryer (like the portal in the armoire in Narnia). She finds herself in this amazing mansion with unlimited money. She also discovers she has filed for divorce from the rich guy. He is having an affair with the classy girlfriend. The construction guy is putting up Christmas lights on her mansion. She goes to her (old) house and discovers he married a classmate of hers. This woman (who she knows in her real life) is the mother of her two girls.
She tells her housekeeper, “I have all this money and I’m so unhappy.” Her great life turns out to be a nightmare.
Yes, the movie is cliched but the message is home-run clear. We often wonder about what our lives would be like if we had made other choices. Yes, our life is the sum of all of our choices but those choices were perfect. We made them with the best information we had at the time. We find our present life lacking and we become dissatisfied with what we have. So, we can fantasize that our life would be better had we made different choices.
This is a trap. You cannot predict the outcome of choices not taken. You cannot compare yourself to someone who made those choices from which you derived life-envy. The reason you have life-envy is that you don’t see the gifts your present life is delivering. It is all a perception. All choices are good choices if we learn from them. Our failures are only feedback. They often lead us to the very successes we experience.
The woman in the movie was extraordinarily lucky to have lived the other life for a few days and learned how wonderful her present life is. We don’t get to do that unless we focus on what we have and not what is missing. Imagining the past is a waste of time. The only thing you can change is the future.
We are never happy focusing on unmet expectations. This year has delivered a lot of them. Or so it seems.
“If you look at your mistakes in relation to each other, they look like failure. If you look at your mistakes in relation to your goals or other successes, they are feedback.”
“Memories are just content. What you learn from them is based on how you compare them and what you are looking for.”
Regardless of what 2021 brings, have a creative and an extraordinary fulfilling year. It is up to you!