In My Other Life
In my other life, I never used to listen to audiobooks. From a practical standpoint, my commute wasn’t much more than a mile each way so I wasn’t in the car long enough to tire of the radio. There was another reason, as well. I am a visual learner. Big time. If I see it, I remember it. However, I have always struggled with auditory input that is passive in nature, such as lectures or, yes, audiobooks. When I tried to listen, even to a familiar story, I would get lost and frustrated with my inability to keep the characters and narrative straight.
But that was my former life. I turned to audiobooks from the library first out of desperation. I know spend about an hour in the car each day and the antennae on my 14-year-old car chooses to rise only occasionally. In my old life, I used to say that I can’t comprehend audiobooks. In my new life, I was willing to learn. My commute is now one of the highlights of my day as I work my way through my library’s selection of books on CD. I use the time to explore genres and non fiction topics that I would usually pass by (inspired by the necessity of a limited collection) and I “reread” favorites from my past.
I am currently on a Stephen King kick. I’ve read everything that man has published, much of many years earlier. The high quality of the narration on his audiobooks makes it a distinct pleasure. I find myself completely pulled into his world as I travel to and from work each day. It’s interesting how his books resonate differently with me now than they did in my other life.
My current selection is Duma Key, a book primarily set on an island in Florida that follows Edgar, a man who took a “geographical” after a tragic accident cost him his health and his marriage. There, he meets Wireman, also drawn to island after catastrophe. I was drawn to a particular line, uttered repeatedly by both men throughout the book:
“In my other life…”
Both men suffered great losses. Edgar, formerly a contractor, lost his arm, his mobility after a hip was crushed and experienced head trauma after being crushed by a crane. While he was recovering, his wife filed for divorce. Wireman, a lawyer, lost both his daughter and his wife and, as a result, attempted suicide, the slug taking his vision as it traveled through his temple. Those losses were stark, a clear delineation between their past lives and their present.
I am drawn to the matter of fact way they accept their new worlds. They don’t spend time bemoaning their losses, although, especially in the case of Wireman’s wife and daughter, the pain is evident when they talk about it. They work within their new limitations to make the most of their new lives without trying to recreate the old.
That is what I have tried to achieve with my own life. I have had to accept that my other life is gone and is beyond reach. Rather than spending time nurturing the loss or trying fruitlessly to recreate what I had, I try to focus on building the best life possible now. I now talk matter of factly about my other life, as distantly as if I was discussing a character in a book.
Some of the changes between my former life and now have been dramatic. I never used to write. I was a private person. And, I always made decisions very conservatively, planning for an imagined future. I have a new name, a new city, a new beau, a new job, a new dog. A new life.
Some of the changes are slight, and strike me as funny.
In my other life, I never rolled the toothpaste tube. This drove my ex crazy, even though we didn’t share toothpaste and it was stored out of sight. Now, I am a dedicated roller.
In my other life, I never used to finish any beverage, always leaving a quarter inch of fluid in the bottom of any glass. I now enjoy every last sip.
In my other life, I hated asparagus. Now it is one of my favorite vegetables.
At a cellular level, our bodies are constantly renewing themselves, shedding the old cells as they die and replacing them with new. Sometimes we need to shed our other lives so that we have room for the new growth.
My other life was lived by an other me. And now I have a new life that fits the new me.