Jenny: We Were Always Going To Be Here

I’ve been having really disconcerting dreams that I couldn’t remember.  I knew they were disconcerting because I woke up disoriented, distressed.  Then last night, I finally broke through.  I’ve been time-traveling.  Every night for the past month or so, I’ve been dreaming that I’ve been going back in time and changing something I’ve regretted and then playing out the new future that would have resulted from that.  I only have pieces of some of them, but in the end, I always end up back here, not just because I wake up but also in the dream.  Because I was always going to be here.

I do not believe in predestination, I believe in free will.  I believe we make choices and then cope with the consequences.  But I also believe that there are larger patterns in our lives that we are irrevocably drawn to, waves that ebb and flow, and that part of figuring out life is figuring out our own patterns, riding those waves.  For example, I believe that a lot of our personalties are with us at birth.  Any mother who has ever looked into the eyes of her newborn knows this.  They’re not blank slates, those babies.  They’re even more decided as they turn into toddlers.  I have three grandchildren right now.  The newest is still only a few weeks old, and I haven’t met him yet, but the two girls at one and three are completely different people.  Callie is sunny and smart and loving and trusting.  Emmy has a smile that can light up a room, but she’s here to change the stuff she doesn’t like and she’s not taking any crap from anybody so do not cross her.  Their parents treat them exactly the same, but they’re entirely different people, and based on my experience raising their mother, they’re always going to be that way.

So given that we’re born with such strong personalities, and given that there are those huge patterns in our lives (just for the sake of argument), I think it’s not a violation of free will to say that some outcomes are inevitable.  Lani and I were talking one day a couple of years ago about what an amazing thing it was that she moved in and it worked so well for both of us.  “Imagine our lives if you hadn’t come to stay, ” I said.  “We were always going to be here,” she said.

I find a great deal of comfort in that.  When I think about the added expense of the cottage and how I’m going to find the money to finish it, I remember what it felt like the first time I walked inside: I was always going to be there.  When I start to freak about how my writing is changing, how I’m not sure how the new books will work, how I can’t go back to the way I used to write even though I’ve tried, I look back at the evolution of my storytelling and think, “It doesn’t matter what’s smart or right, I was always going to be here.”  And when I wonder at the marvel that is the Krissie-Lani-Jenny sisterhood, and think about how it might never have been if we hadn’t all agreed to write Dogs and Goddesses, I realize that if it hadn’t been Dogs and Goddesses, it would have been something else: We were always going to be here.

I do believe in free will.  I believe my choices matter.  I believe I can change my life.  But I also believe in accepting that somes things are inevitable–I will always choose to live in the middle of nowhere,  I will always have to make something no matter what the cost, I will always have Krissie and Lani in my life, I will always love my daughter before anyone and anything in this world, I will always have dogs.   So when I end up in a cottage that’s close to my daughter with rooms for Krissie and Lani to come stay, a big yard for the dogs, and a whole basement to make things in, it was always going to happen.  I feel the same way now, after those dreams, about the mistakes I’ve made in my life.  I made some of those mistakes over and over again, and it seems so futile looking back–why couldn’t I have seen what I was doing?–but looked at as part of a larger pattern, like some kind of awful dream-a-night-for-a-month calendar, those mistakes had to happen, they were part of my learning curve, they made me who I am today, and I’m pretty sure I’m who I’m supposed to be now, so they were always going to happen.

It would have been nice not to have had a whole month of those weird dreams in order to see this, but maybe I was always going to be there, too.  Getting here is as important as being here.  So I’m going to (try to) relax, stop worrying about where I should be, pay attention to my patterns, ride the wave, and enjoy the journey because wherever I end up, I was always going to be here.

44 thoughts on “Jenny: We Were Always Going To Be Here

  1. I can certainly attest to the fact that children arrive in this world with fully formed personalities. I’ve tried to mold them–some more than others (I’m looking at you, Three)–until I finally realized I had to stop fighting, and go with the quirks.

    I think this idea of surrender, or acceptance, works across the board. Fighting the past, fighting change, fighting against the imagined future–it’s all pretty exhausting and yields no great return. There are many things I would theoretically change about my past, but in reality I know it all led me here. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

    I’m excited for your future. I think you can do anything. I’m pretty astonished at your creativity in all areas ( I think you have a future in “Angry Birds” hats alone), so I can’t wait to see what you do next!

  2. When I started reading this I wondered if you had seen the tv series Being Erica, about a young woman who travels back to “fix” regrets and how things do not seem to improve, just become different.
    When you discussed personalities I had to smile. My experience is also that even when raised exactly the same children grow up to be their own people. Nature vs nurture? Or something deeper and more mysterious.

    I am beginning to believe more and more that we each choose some challenges before we are born and spend our lives working through those obstacles. As I get older I spend more time asking “what was I thinking” when I chose some challenges.
    However I am not ready to give up yet.

  3. Librarian Betty says:

    I can really identify with what you are saying. It seems that the last five years of my life have been tumultuous to the nth degree; yet, at the same time, there’s a feeling that it’s less about my life falling apart and becoming total chaos but more about it realigning to where it was meant to be. There are many days where my less-than-literate thought is a resounding WTF?! but that is more a comment on the moment rather than an observaion on the path I’m on. However, I will admit that the last month or so has been one less-than-literate comment after another but January seems to be an improvement so far (given that it’s only the 4th mayhaps I speak too soon but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt).

    Jenny, thank you so much for writing this post because it was a good reminder for me. I was always going to be here. I find it comforting and a relief to think that way.

    • There’s a line Tony uses in Bet Me that I’ve always loved. He’s talking about chaos theory and about the moment of change, and he says it’s when people move from being into becoming. The copy editor said, “Isn’t that backward?” but it’s right: the moment when you move from what you’ve been to the beginning of something else. I think that’s exhilarating.

  4. Kelly S. Bishop says:

    I’m just curious. How do you see your writing changing & what might have sparked that change? If you don’t mind talking about it here or on your Argh Ink site. I am here to learn.

    • Well, the plan was that I was going to write a four-book mystery series, and they’d be short and fast-paced like my first romances were. 60000 words maybe. Except I’m past sixty thousand words already and the first book is only about half done, and it’s not snappy, so I can’t do short and fast any more. I’m not sure what sparked the change, I think it was just an evolution to more detailed work, larger communities, more complex plot-and-subplot structures. But evidently, I can’t go back to simple.

  5. Gin says:

    This reminds me of a scene in Pratchett’s Night Watch, where one of the time monks is talking to Sam Vimes about alternate realities, and how infinite they are, but that there could be no alternate reality in which Vimes killed Sybil (his wife). Just couldn’t happen, because of who Vimes is, no matter what different experiences he’d been through before meeting Sybil.

  6. After I read WTT, I had “destiny” tattooed on my left forearm and “free will” on my right, in recognition that what we’re given at birth (what palmists say is written on our non-dominant hand) and what we do with it can be very different things. The tats are my everyday reminder, but thank you so much for this post!

  7. i’m in a bad, bad mood, so bare with me.

    it is inevitable that one day i will die, free will has a part in how that happens. if the pattern requires that i live a long time, then my free will i exercise in taking care of myself hopefully results in me lying on my deathbed dying of nothing. see? free will within the pattern!

    that deathbed comment is one i make to anyone who says “but you’re so skinny, what do you go to the gym for?” it usually shuts ’em up.

    lowercase again because i feel taciturn.

  8. stephanie says:

    And those kids will certainly beat the control freak out of ya every time, won’t they. Whew. That was a hard less for me to learn.

    Life is all about process, but it took this year of going to yoga for me to begin to learn about letting go. [Oh and it’s done some nice sculpting of my arms, too.] I hate it, which sorta defeats the point, but I’m beginning to figure out that if you ease into it and work with it then you turn it into a strength because you stop fighting yourself. I know there’s a clever turn of phrase for this but I don’t have it. I’m just trying to capture it as it arrives so I can do it and do it again until it’s a habit.

  9. may says:

    What a lovely post. I like the idea of despite of what you could change you were always going to be where you are, whatever choices you made.

    I like the idea of riding the wave not trying to swim against it, so enjoy it!

  10. Marcia in OK says:

    Hugs to you Sure Thing.

    If I could map out the waves of my life, they wouldn’t be really circular, more like oblongs? ellipticals? They’d be like those oval Spirograph shapes that as a kid, I’d draw with the multi colored pens. I’ve spent most of my time in the curved but long highs and lows. Not as much on the fast ups and downs.

    I have this theory about babies. If you study them closely when they are tiny, I think you can see the Old Soul version of themselves that they’ll be at 80+. I think their come with some pretty firmly set personality pieces. But, they also have free will and will be molded and shaped by their experiences and choices/consequences.

    I love watching my own daughters – 11 and 14. Some of me, and some of their dad, and a whole lot of just themselves.

    Dream cycles – I think they help us work through some of the stuff we won’t let ourselves ponder when we’re awake. It is there, and we know we need to deal with it or think on it, so we do it in our sleep if we push it away or ignore it when awake.

    I love this blog! Glad to know I was always going to be here.

  11. Yesterday was my 10 year anniversary of working at Dolphin Research Center. I love my job, the work, the people, the dolphins. I first walked on these grounds long before it was DRC. I was six years old and on vacation with my family. I didn’t know then that 36 years later I would volunteer here and that would lead to me pursuing a staff position when I was 44. I worked in radio, advertising, and public relations for many years prior to this. Maybe it was all just preparation for what the Universe already knew — that I was always going to be here.

  12. In looking back over my life I’m aware of each step, each building block that got me from A to…my guess is I’m at about P at this point. If I hadn’t made the dumb choice of A, then B could never have happened, and I would not be enjoying my life at point P. I love that.

    I think there is something to be said for trusting in the universe, and getting the hell out of the way of it’s work, so you can achieve whatever it is that you are predestined to achieve. The only reason we might not make progress is that we hold too tight of a reign. We question, fret, worry, and control. Our journey has to be one of trust. I’m now a free flyer, but for years was a controller. It’s great to feel the air fluffing my tail feathers. ; )

  13. Ylva Hedin says:

    This post is why I love to read what you write. Your text give me goosebumbs becouse you write so real…

    And well I agree with you in a big way. But not in one other. If you feel your in the wrong place you can do something about it.

    You are always the guide in your own life. I am and always will be responseble for my own happiness. I and only I have the strength to get my life to the place I want to be.

    And for all the things Ive done wrong. I do not belive in regrets. It do not help me or anyone else if I walk around regretting all the stupid things Ive done.

    In fact its all this stupid things that made me who I am… and thats not something I want to have undone!

  14. my problem with the waves is that I get lulled into forgetting to paddle when I get into the duldrums. Then I look up and it’s been almost twenty years and I should have been paddling hard in the other direction the entire time.

    For some reason this conversation makes me sad. Or rather I feel sad as I’m reading it. I wouldn’t change most things because there is lots of stuff I like about my life, and mostly I like who I am. But still there is that feeling of having done “it” wrong. I failed marriage, and getting out of a bad marriage has been an epic fail.

    And yet I do believe that I was meant to be here. However I think I should have moved on by now. I can’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be somewhere else by now.

    I told you I was an expert meeper. poor, poor pitiful me!

    • Oh sweet Kate, meep away! It’s not a fail if you’re still breathing and above ground when the ashes stop falling. You survived. We all have. Yes, we have patterns. They’re opportunities for growth, individuality, and our expressions of free will. Dreamwork can be an amazing thing to show us ourselves and how we dance through those patterns. They’re a blessing, and a curse 😉 (Points for which movie that’s from.)

      It’s ok. You’re ok. There’s medicine in everything. Even in grungy divorces that are not obeying the Imperatrix’s declaration of, “BORED NOW!” No matter what, we’re where we are because we could be no other place. I take comfort in that, and love being surprised by it.

      Hugs!

    • Meep all you want. Everyone has the right. If you feel you should have moved on by now, then lean on us — here or at the Betties — and we will support. I know that for sure. And you can always come to Houston and be my housemate (yeah, we’d have to find a house, but it’s pretty cheap here): It would be interesting to live with a bunch of kids and a dog! If you ask, we will help you find what you need. I say that to everyone here.

  15. I feel the opposite, most of the time. I feel like I’m not supposed to be here, like I’m not the person I was meant to be and I’m not living the life I was meant to have. I look back on choices I could have made differently and feel nothing but regret, though I know I probably wasn’t capable of choosing to do differenly than I did, given who I was at the time.

    I’m stronger now. I’ve finally lost the instinct I had as a girl and young woman to apologize for my existence. I used to apologize even if someone bumped into me, like my size exerted a gravitational pull and so the collision was my fault. I was like that with my ideas and my opinions, too, hesitant and conciliatory if I was contracidicting what someone else said or thought. I was the person who was willing to go to whatever movie or restuarant my companions wanted to go to; I didn’t care as long as they wanted to go with me, like they were doing me a favor. Not realizing, as I do now, that my company is valuable.

    I wish I’d lost that sense of shame sooner, and could have done things differently. I was never supposed to be here, but I can only make a course correction now, 180 degrees if I need to, so I can get where I should be as soon as possible.

    • Jennifer says:

      Good point. I don’t really feel like “this was supposed to happen” so much as yet. More like “this is what happened when you settled ’cause you couldn’t come up with anything else to do and you couldn’t drive to live elsewhere.”

      I think I am supposed to be far more fabulous and public than I already am. I just don’t know how to get there or what to do about it, since my attempts at developing performing skills never worked out.

      • Bonnie C says:

        Jennifer, think of “now” as a stepping stone to “where you’re supposed to be.” It helps, trust me! At some point in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later ;p) you’ll get your ah-ha and realize you could only have gotten there because you were here. Too confusing? That’s typical for me – lol.

        For me I can trace those paths through the people in my life, keepers and dumpers both. If it weren’t for a dumper, I’d never have made the necessary decisions that led to meeting my husband and therefore birthing the Collective. 95% of the time that’s a very good thing. ;p

    • Oh Rose, I was the same way. FGBVs Baby, things do get better. I still slip up sometimes and say “sorry” when someone bumps into me (old habits die hard), but I have much more sense of my own value now than I used to.

      Remember that you may never know how your struggles affect someone else’s life. You may be, or have, inspiring or mentoring others without even knowing it. Granted it’s time for a change, but don’t look at your past with regret. Give yourself a little love and realise that you fought and learned and struggled to be where you are. Be proud of yourself.

      And I will try to take my own advice as well.

  16. Kim Cz says:

    I find so much comfort in this post. I have had a series of detours in my life. Some detours were good, some not so much, an evil ex-boyfriend in my 20s, laid off, new great job where I met my husband, got married, pregnancy, family medical problems are the headliners but there were other things too. In the past three years, give or take a few weeks, I feel like I have been finding my way back to who I am. I spent a lot of time thinking about the past and the many would’ve, could’ve, should’ve scenarios. More recently I have turned my focus from the past. I realized, and accepted that it’s already done, I can’t change any of it. I let it go and I feel better for it. It’s clear that Jenny is right, I was always going to be here. I am ready to focus on now and plot my course for the future. I might be heading to a specific place but it doesn’t mean I can’t pick the path along the beach instead of the rocky trail up the cliff, right? 🙂

  17. I lost my husband, sole mate of 33 years in 2010, so this was the 2nd new years with out him. as i did last year, when midnight hit, i cried. blubbered actually and shocked my daughter who at 32 has moved back home.
    i have made all kinds of bargins with God, to give me do overs….from the start, with full knowledge so i will know what to watch for to keep him longer, then asked for only 15 years, with a hint….. tried for 2 years with no clue just to have him back for a bit but, it didn’t work….as time did not magically turn back and you all are not 15 years younger. you all would have loved me for that one.

    so it is go on from here and make do, learn to adjust cause if i don’t no one else will do it for me. i ca do this…with out watching mama mia 3 times a day. actually now it is Burlesque. wish i could move loke that and all those flat tummys..dang.

  18. Jill says:

    I watched The Adjustment Bureau (a movie, starring Matt Damon) a couple of weeks ago and it deals with this very subject – free will vs. predestination. It was fascinating.

  19. Atomic Betty says:

    It’s like the movie Sliding Doors. There are some things that are just going to happen, but maybe if I’m not there yet, it’s just because it’s still on its way.

  20. I’ve spent so much time and energy beating myself up for the mistakes (and repeated mistakes) that I’ve made, but it never occurred to me to look for good patterns that might lead me to the path I’m supposed to be on. So thank you for a thought-provoking, graceful post.

  21. I’ve been torn about posting this comment. I finally realized it’s because I feel I’m nobody and who am I to talk to a best-selling author about writing? But then I realized that actually, I’m somebody, I’m a reader. who better? So here’s the thing: Bet Me is one of my favorite books of all time, it rocks, its awesome, it’s wonderful, it’s the book I tell people who have never read a romance to read in order to understand why the romance genre can be great. I’m quite fond of some of your other books, too — many of them even survived my mass book purge when I moved from California to Florida and believe me, that’s means they’re beloved. But as far as I’m concerned, you don’t ever need to write a romance or genre book again. Be done with romance. Write a book about sisterhood. Write a book about life going wrong and finding a way out of the ashes. Write a book where no hero shows up to save the day. Hey, maybe even write a book where the day doesn’t get saved, where at the end there’s a funeral instead of a wedding. Maybe it won’t hit the bestseller list. Maybe thousands of disappointed readers will write you unhappy letters. But you’re such a good writer. And if it’s a honest book, if it’s written in your voice and from your heart, it will do what great writing does and move people and touch people in a way that a book that you’re trying to force is never going to do. Of course, this is easy for me to say — I don’t have contracts and commitments to publishers and customers that have expectations. But truly, I think that you have earned the right to throw away the genre boxes and to write what pleases you and that instead of trying to write what you’re supposed to write, you should just try to have fun writing. And then sell the end result. You might be surprised. But giving yourself the freedom to not be a best-seller, to just have fun would probably make your life a lot more pleasant and less stressful. (Yeah, I know, easy for me to say, I’m not trying to earn a living writing. But I do have a lot of fun writing and I think fun is a really good goal.)

  22. “So when I end up in a cottage that’s close to my daughter with rooms for Krissie and Lani to come stay, a big yard for the dogs, and a whole basement to make things in, it was always going to happen.”

    I read that and I wanted to cry happy tears because it’s so you & I can see you there so clearly!

    I can’t wait to read the new way you write. I don’t say that to apply pressure just as affirmation that I know I’ll like the change.

  23. First, I have to say, I want your cottage, with “a whole basement to make things in.” Sigh.

    Second, I’ve been trying and trying and trying to get to the spot of believing that there’s no way I wouldn’t be here. But so far, it hasn’t worked. Ever. Sure, I live a lot in the regrets and what I wanted vs. what I got (and Sylvia Boorstein, another favorite writer, would chide me, gently, I’m sure). But I never got what I wanted: a husband and children. Instead I got singlehood that has lasted (I’ll be 51 in a couple of weeks), no kids (I’d have been a dreadful single parent), and no family anymore. I know this isn’t how I’m supposed to think; it’s just how I do think, unfortunately. I like things about where I’m at, but it’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a grandma by now! And a great-aunt!

    I applaud you for where your mind is and for how you have come to be able to view your life and the changes that have come, especially recently in your writing and in where and to what you are moving. Yay! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to see how to do the same as this story unfolds ….

  24. ruthie says:

    Funny you should post this now-ish, and as a result of dreams. Last night I had a dream that was so jam-packed with my recurring dream symbols that it was absolutely textbook.

    I’m not one to panic over things or try madly to change things, I just go along, concentrating on getting through whatever it is, until…one day…a ray of light, and I jump the rails and make a huge change.

    I can’t say those changes are planned — they’re pretty much just jumping on some opportunity with both feet, but no one who knows me is surprised by them, at least after the initial shock of me moving three thousand miles on the spur of the moment, or completely changing career paths. So, for me it’s more like I had as good a chance of getting “here” as anywhere.

    Fatalism.

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