It is often said happiness springs from being satisfied with the choices we've made and the paths we've chosen in life.
I'm now reading an interesting book that claims the roads we take in life are vitally important but are not the only factor that influences how happy we are in life.
The road not taken also influences happiness, experts claim.
In a way, it's the same thing but I think I know what the author is trying to say.
Experts believe the most important decision we make in life is our choice of a spouse. I agree.
It doesn't matter how successful we are at work. If our home life isn't happy, we're not happy.
I have a few friends who have everything. Everything except happiness. They have plenty of material possessions and have traveled to more places than I can spell. But they don't have the simple happiness that comes from contentment in just being together.
I'm sure you know plenty of people like that.
When you think back on your life, can you recall things you ALMOST did? But now, from the viewpoint of time, are you ever so grateful you didn't do it?
When I was 18 and fresh out of high school, I was infatuated with a guy who worked in an independent mine. All I saw was his blonde hair and blue eyes. I didn't see how we had nothing in common, including life's goals.
He broke up with me because he said I was "too smart" for him. Ha. that just proves he was smarter than I was at the time.
When he came back from Germany and his stint in the military, he brought home a German bride. They came to visit my husband and me.
I listened in horror as he told me what he does to his wife if he doesn't like the way a closet looks. "I throw everything on the floor and tell her to do it over again," he said.
There I was, happy with a gentle, loving husband and ever, ever so grateful for the road not taken.
My friend Kathy, on the other hand, says she has spent decades regretting the road not taken. She and Pete knew each other since kindergarten. They were certain they were meant to be together forever.
When Pete was leaving for the service, he wanted Kathy to marry him and come along.
Her parents understandably said she was too young at 17 to think of marriage.
Kathy never married but Pete married someone else then divorced. The high school sweethearts didn't get together again until their 50th high school reunion.
"That's a lot of years we wasted because of the road not taken," Kathy says.
Sometimes, when we do make a decision, we look back on it and keep wondering if we did the right thing.
My husband insists that once he makes a decision, he never looks back. I don't quite believe him because of "the house," the perfect house we almost bought.
Right before we were married three years ago, we went house hunting. The plan was for us to sell our individual homes and buy a house together.
After a lot of looking, we found a home on deep water that inspired our awe. As we walked through the rooms, we could see ourselves happily living there. The outside with its pool, big entertainment area and 250' of waterfront was even better than inside.
We put money down on the house and started planning the rooms in our head. The night before the real estate closing, David called me to say he couldn't go through with it.
"If we can't sell our homes right away, we would have ended up owning three houses. I can't do that," he said.
So we backed out of the sale, much to my regret. With what happened in the collapsed housing market, David probably made the right decision.
But we'll never know for sure and we still debate "the road not taken."
For all David's claim of "never looking back," I notice when we are biking he goes out of his way to pass the house we wanted to buy. And the wistful look on his face probably matches mine.
I saw a plaque that read: "It's not where you live that counts. It's who you live with." (The English teacher in me would say it should read, "It's with whom you live.")
I remind myself of that premise when I get regrets about not buying the house.
"Tell the truth," I recently said to David. "Do you wish we would have bought that house?"
"Probably," he admitted.
But we traveled onto a different path and the road not taken to the new house will remain closed.
It's a minor thing, not earthshaking and not essential to our happiness.
I figure if I reach the end of life and all I have to regret is a dumb boat decision and a house that never came about, I'm one lucky woman.
We're all lucky if we can croon along with Frank Sinatra:
"Regrets, I've had a few, But then again, Too few to mention."