What would it be like to have all our life choices to make over again?
Would we choose a completely different path?
Would we stick with what we’ve got?
That was the premise of the book we read last for book club: The Midnight Library.
And although it gathered mixed reviews from my book club friends, I really liked that premise.
Nora, the main character, finds herself stuck between life and death and is given the unlimited opportunity to undo any of her regrets (there are many).
“Between life and death there is a library.” She said. “And within that library the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices. Would you have done anything different? If you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experiences possible in my life.Sylvia Plath
I thought it was interesting to think about all the decisions we make in life, and how each one takes us down a different path.
But in reality, isn’t “the only way to learn [that] to live”? We can’t understand (or appreciate) the good without the bad, or visa versa. Sometimes we have to go down the “wrong” path to figure out the right one, and in my opinion it does something for our character to learn the hard way in some instances.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia…it takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do the people we didn’t do and the people we didn’t marry and the children we didn’t have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out.
But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.
We can’t tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”
“We only know what we perceive. Everything we experience is ultimately just our perception of it. “It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.” (Thoreau)
There is one point in the book where Nora comes in contact with someone else who is “sliding” between various life possibilities as she is, and he tells her, “This is an opportunity. And it is rare. We can undo any mistake we make and have any life we want.”
I thought to myself, isn’t that really how life is? We really do have the opportunity to undo our mistakes (repentance) and learn from them. And we can strive for the kind of life we want. Oh sure, not everything, of course, but hear me out. If we strive to be educated we can figure out a way (one of my favorite examples of this is Katy, the mom in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of my fav. books I wrote about back HERE). If we strive to make a new habit, we can do it (lots of examples of this HERE). If we strive to work learn something new, and really put our heart into it, we can.
It was interesting to follow along on Nora’s journey. It just gave me a lot to think about. And a lot to be grateful for. The highs of life as well as the lows all mixed in together.
But my favorite part is what she realizes in the end: “Everything is meaningless without love.”
Because I believe that with my whole heart.
Just a few thoughts for a Tuesday morning.
We also just read it in my little book club round over here in Germany, and I really, really liked it.
This book was one of my favorites from last year…but not a first. What I find is that the premise of the book keeps coming back to me over and over and that is the sign of a really great book for me. My husband and I discussed the premise even though he had not read it. One of our beliefs is regrets often stem from an unhappiness in one of the foundational elements of your life: your family, your marriage, your education level and that those who are looking to make changes want to do so because those foundations are weak. We always say we would never change anything because what if it changed everything??
Amen to all of this.
Hadn’t heard of it before but the premise sounds interesting, enticing even