birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Path to left of path to the right

Do we spend more time thinking about the paths not taken or the ones we did? Which one was it that made all the difference? There are a thousand wounds, small and large, that I’ve inflicted that I would heal, if I could, with a turn back of time and the chance to draw back the knife before it sliced. But can you heal what never happened? Invitations I never issued and thus caused a slight would be delivered with hearts and flowers and the wings of delivery doves.

The men whose kisses I stole and squandered would have them returned with no need to refund the deposit. I wouldn’t strike my beloved, neither with the flat of my hand or my ill chosen, savage words. I wouldn’t twist the knife of the proof of failing in the wound of my mother’s aging. I would go back and stop the fight with my father only three years from dying before it ever began.

I would do a dramatic makeover of my past to paint a face of kindness over the cruelty I have inflicted. I would be beautiful in that kindness. That’s what I’d do over, again, in a new way, for the sake of others. For my own sake, I’d lay out the cards of unwise choices and flip them over one by one to make the world a safer place for who I was and who I became. I’d choose one drink instead of four, five, six at all those college parties. When I dropped that acid tab on my tongue those sunny Dandelion Days and tripped through sunny afternoons and unending evenings, instead I’d reach for some pizza and maybe play croquet with the wholesome drug refusing set. I’d make sure we really did use those condoms during sex.

That snowy night I ended up in the hospital because I thought I was the one who should pick my kid brother up from work? Do that all over. Tell him to get a cot at the back of the mall and sleep there with the rest of the help. You know, instead of hopping on my bike that morning to go to the farmer’s market, I think I’ll do it all over and take a nice walk. Because I hadn’t really intended to make my way to a coma that morning – just pick up some asparagus. Path to the right, not the left, my smarter self tells me. She’s walking hand in hand with that kind self I created. They’re a good pair. Maybe they need some company. Maybe a braver self should join them.

That’s a lot of doing to undo, to start all over. Those times when I faced fear, but it faced me down, so I didn’t get in the boat or cross the path or apply for the job or stand up to a stranger. Do them all over. But, and here’s the thing. I don’t want to do over this present self, this present life, the one that’s the accumulation of all the wrong choices miraculously coalescing into a state of wonder. I got lucky somewhere along the path. Or those paths taken turn out to be the right ones after all.

Born in the Year of the Tiger

Testing Intimacy