The Road Not Taken - What's the Difference?
It was an essay question: do you believe the speaker regrets his choice?
I was stumped. The poem doesn't really say. The way the last stanza reads one sees that he could regret his choice, or not, "somewhere ages and ages hence." But right now, at this moment, was it a poem of regret?
My father, seeing my confusion offered his opinion: "I don't think Robert Frost regretted a thing in his life."
Impossible, I thought, to make choices without regrets. But I swore right there and then I would try to life that life too.
Or maybe it all started with ice-cream. As a child, we made a weekly trip to the ice-cream parlour. The choices were overwhelming and I would become paralysed with indecision. "Choose quickly or you're getting a plain vanilla cone," my father would say.
But how could one choose? A favourite I knew or a new flavour to taste? A cone, or a cup? They seem to put more ice cream in a cup, but if I got a cone perhaps my father would allow a sugar cone, my favourite. What were my brothers getting? Would I want to trade licks with them? Was I picking an ice-cream they would trade for? Could I talk my father into two scoops if I got a plain cone?
Eventually the choice would be made, in order to avoid the threat of vanilla. Sometimes there would be short-lived regrets, but there's only so long one can regret an ice-cream choice.
I make two kinds of decisions. There are those that are instictual, visceral, a tug of the heart and I am gone. I have never regretted those choices. Have I thought about how things might be different if I had decided another way? Yes. But regrets? No.
And then there are the cerebral decisions - the ones that are thought out. Pros and cons are weighed. Minutae are intellectualised. These are the decisions that haunt me. The ones wherein I feel no matter what I choose it will be wrong.
It's more than choosing a road, or even a destination. Sometimes they mean choosing a world in which to live.
My son is struggling in school. He comes home from Kindergarten proclaiming himself stupid. He comes home from Kindergarten angry. He comes home from Kindergarten crazed with outside influences of violence and sexuality that we aren't ready to accept.
So we decided he'd come home from Kindergarten no more. Instead he would stay home from Kindergarten and I would homeschool him for the remainder of the term. By the time Grade One was ready to start, we'd know if homeschooling was for us. He'd know if he'd prefer school. We'd know if we had made the right choice.
But the demons whispered in our ears. Had we made the wrong choice? Shouldn't we let him continue the semester? Were we being too judgmental, too quick to protect our child? Or should we protect him? What's wrong with wanting to keep him home?
My husband and I confessed to each other: no matter which decision we make it feels wrong.
His school practically begged to have him back. They agreed to try to make some changes, to be more vigilant of what was happening. And we sent him back to school.
The demons are whispering in my ear again. Is that where he belongs? Can I force him to go when he doesn't want? Do I want my five year old to be a man, to have to accept such responsibilities already? Is he happy? Will this destroy his self-esteem forever?
Perhaps we'll change our minds again. And the demons will return. And this time they will chide me for not knowing my mind, for not taking the reins and making a decision. The demons will offer only threats of future sighs and vanilla, plain cones and I will freeze, like the confections in that ice-cream parlour, unable to pick a road or see my way through.
This post was inspired by the Writing Workshop at Sleep is for The Weak. It is a response to prompt #2: "What demon(s) are you battling with right now?"