The lives we didn’t live.

Little girls in Pow Wow dresses

Little girls in Pow Wow dresses

Sometimes I mourn that I’m not living so many other lives.

Didn’t you want to be…a sailor on board a ship, sailing the world round, salty and carefree under tropical seas, watching whales dance, whispering to porpoises telling them secrets you’ve never shared with another living soul?

Didn’t you want to be…a nomad like the heroine in Eat, Pray, Love?  Eating your way around the world, your fingers drenched in secret sauces of Spain or Portugal or China or Timbuktu as you fall to your knees in Istanbul, India, infinite freedom?  Loving your very heart into brown faces, red faces, yellow faces, pink faces, black faces, every face on the planet, appreciating every being just for being?

Didn’t you want to be…a dancer?  Like the painted elfin creatures from Degas paintings that I glimpsed in our deep dark basement at age nine?  Didn’t you want to work so diligently, shaping thigh and calf into a dancer’s ensemble, a woman wearing pastel blue and twirling endlessly?



Didn’t you want to be…a woman captured by Indians in the 1700’s, OK, with nary a hair harmed, only yelled at to cooperate, to wake up from the dream of Puritanism?  Oh, and you would fall in love with the tall warrior named Deer Chaser, and you’d live happy-ever-after raising babes wearing buckskin, running through tall meadow grasses, never mind the deep winter hunger, the whites trading rum, the way your best friend died in childbirth.

Didn’t you want to be…a pirate?  C’mon, a bold pirate, a swash-buckling pirate, a fellow with black hair and piercing eyes scrabbling over the lines on deck, sword on hand…no, never mind, I did not really want to be a pirate, except maybe during that one book ten years ago.

Didn’t you want to be…your best friend?  The one with long straight brown hair?  The one admired by male and female both in junior high?  The one who didn’t seem afraid?  The one with confidence and tight-fitting jeans?  (Even though you learned much later she too was uncertain, not sure, wondering which way to turn.  She knew how to play the game, though, and how you wanted to steal a set of the rules.)



Didn’t you want to be…a college professor, all intelligent and sharp, witty with every idea under the sun?  Teaching rapt students with stars in their eyes, feeding them tidbits of knowledge, so delighted to be sharing gleaming possibilities, knowing they would some day write dissertations, novels, or maybe raise smart babies?

Didn’t you want to be… that writer, that one with silver tongue, sharing swooning metaphors to readers who awoke in another dream, a far-away place, forgetting for a second the whys and wherefores, so deeply embodied in a swirling cloak of tomorrow’s possibility?

Didn’t you want to be the President? An actor?  A psychologist, all swirling caped and healing deep injuries to the soul?  Didn’t you want to be a baseball player with that perfect pitch sailing from your hand into the hearts of your fans?  Didn’t you want to be…?


Walking a mile in another person's flip flops

Walking a mile in another person’s flip flops

Sometimes I think I want to be everyone in the world, just for six seconds or a day. Something aches inside at times that I seem to be one single person, in one single life.

(Although I do love being me, living in our Little House in the Big Woods, one quarter mile from Lake Superior’s shores.)

Thank goodness for books and movies and friends and family and dreams and even blogs.  We get to encompass lives other than our own.  We get to experience other feelings, thoughts, preferences.

If you weren’t the unique wonderful individual that you are~~who might you want to be? Or what book have you read recently that transported you into another life, if only for the weekend?



About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in August 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to The lives we didn’t live.

  1. Barbara Kass says:

    I am probably the only person who hated Eat, Pray, Love — I thought the heroine was lazy and whiny. My circumstances growing up were such that I did not have the time or energy to entertain ideas of growing up to be anything at all besides alive. However, since then, I have become a student, an instructor, a counselor, a researcher, a mother, an explorer, a business owner, a traveler, a writer, and a shaman. I am currently thinking of become a recluse.

  2. Elisa says:

    I do not recall wanting to be anything other than myself. I know of wanting not to be poor, or being molested, or beat upon, but I do not recall considering that I would be any other me, wearing a different exterior costume. That was a strange thing for me to realize this morning.

  3. Karma says:

    Ah, so many want to be’s! Me too. A veterinarian, a whale trainer at Sea World, an actress in a music video, a professor… even a teacher in my own classroom – another dream that is dying.

  4. Fountainpen says:

    The book I just finished: HUNGER MOUNTAIN.

  5. Susan D says:

    Yes, yes!! I have wanted to be many of these wonderful people you mention, Kathy. You started out with one of my favorites — a sailor. I was around 8 or 9 when my parents got me a book about the tall ships of yore. I was fascinated with the stories, and dipped and bobbed along on many adventures via the tales. Then I wanted to be Heidi, eating bread and cheese, drinking goat milk, and frolicking in the alps. Then, Nancy Drew. Then, a marine biologist. Then, a senator. Ha! — Yes, so many different folks, professions … It’s wonderful to dream, to become these people, to imagine life differently.

    I just LOVE this post today. Thank you, thank you for writing it. I wonder who we’ll want to be today?

  6. lisaspiral says:

    When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I wanted to grow up and be an African Pygmy. Of course at that point I would have had to be fully grown – they were just my size.

  7. Debbie M. says:

    Growing up, at one time or another, I wanted to be a veterinarian, a teacher, a physical therapist. I ended up being an engineer! Now I realize that I simply wanted to make a difference in someone else’s lives. I may only be doing that on a very small scale in my part of the bigger world. However, that’s what makes each of us wonderfully unique and necessary!

  8. Carol says:

    What would I want to be if I were not me? I don’t know – I suspect that many years ago in my youth there were those dreams of being – something. I think I am happy being me, although I would like to be me with a larger pocketbook so I could fulfill those dreams of travel. Those dreams that really have only recently formed.

  9. Ally Bean says:

    I always just wanted to be myself which seems difficult enough for me to do as is. But as for taking a glimpse into how other ppl live, there’s nothing like a good book. Recently read The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club and found myself entertained by the conversations among close [?] neighborhood friends. We are all not quite who we seem to be.

  10. Kathy – You ARE that writer, the one with silver tongue, sharing swooning metaphors to your blog readers.

    Since childhood I’ve wanted to be a mad scientist, an international spy, or a magnificent magician (like David Copperfield). Until any of those opportunities pan out, I’ll remain tickled pink being me.

    I just started reading “Secrets” by Kristen Heitzmann.

  11. Janet says:

    Wow, you get me. Yes! I’ve wanted to be many of those things you mentioned and more.

  12. Lori D says:

    This is a great blog post. I love the dreamy possibilities. Well, the life I expected to live but didn’t, was one of a mother. I wanted to live the life of a therapist, but didn’t. Another life I wanted to live was a writer’s life, and I didn’t, until I turned forty. So, I’m living a writer’s life now, but I’m not getting paid for it … at least not yet. I know my husband wanted to live the life of a baseball player. But, that wouldn’t have lasted forever, and he’s living the life he chose for after baseball. Except, he’s been briefly waylayed on that one. Update on my blog from Wednesday on him. Thanks for the fun post, and a place to share our lost dreams, and also our dreams realized.

  13. Brenda says:

    Kathy, Yes..I have mourned the lives I have not lived. In particular, the life in the north woods. And even though that dream is lost, I lose myself in books about other people who are blessed with that life. My favorite book, is by Helen Hoover “A Place in the Woods” about life along the Gunflint Trail. I’ve been reading others lately, about living in remote areas along the Boundary Waters and up in Alaska. And in between the stories, I treasure the life I am living and feel gratitude for the many blessings around me.

  14. P.j. grath says:

    I’m glad you got to books at the end, Kathy. Thanks to books, I’ve lived in many countries, lived many lives, and had many horses!

  15. I have lived the life of three you named and they were not what they seemed, at times. Other times the students all sat enthralled with my stories; marriages were “fixed” by my wise words but could not fix my own; …I never talk about being a performing ballroom dancer and all the hours spent in front of a mirror before an exhibition. Most of all I wanted to wear a white lab jacket and find that shot or drink that would cure all the diseases of the world and secondly, I wanted to write that one word…that one phrase that would change the world. Now I just want to be me.
    Marvelous post to have us think and dream again

  16. dorannrule says:

    As a child I wanted to be a hula dancer so my Mom got me a hula skirt and I was a hula dancer. Then I wanted to be Esther Williams, then a poet, a teacher, a writer, a travel agent, a wife, a mother. I am or have been in some way or fashion the people I wanted to be – just not the way I imagined them. What a lovely post this is – as always – and as always, you make me think.

  17. I think as our children go through the process of exploring college options, courses of study, etc. you relive in part that whole “what if” my whole life were ahead of me again …. And one is never too old to dream and reinvent onself again, even if only in part.

  18. Yes, that’s the joy of reading. We can experience so many other lives in the time span of just one.

  19. Don Voss says:

    Ah… but we are… just drop the false boundaries between us all and you can experience it all, all times all people. Consider Ken Wilber’s No Boundaries… Great Read… your article dovetails with my current re-reading of it.

  20. lucindalines says:

    Yes thank goodness for books and movies and blogs so we can see or be all things vicariously because I love who I am and where I am right now. Thanks so much for the thought, Kathy!

  21. me2013 says:

    I wanted to be, (and to a certain extent still do) every person I have read about. At the moment I am working my way through Diskworld novels so I want to be nanny Ogg with Susan Deaths hair. 😀

  22. Other lives in other times! I want to be transported to San Francisco in the 19th century (after reading Frog Music) or Vienna before the start of the Great War, or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer towns and prairies…Thanks, Kathy!

  23. bearyweather says:

    Kathy, I don’t think I ever decided what I wanted to be… everything sounded good (almost). Circumstances of life sort of guided me to where I am. However, I am still thinking about what I want to be .. there is time to be many things, yet. 😉

  24. Robin says:

    Books and movies are responsible for all my want-to-be’s in life. I wanted to be the children with a nanny like Mary Poppins, and then I wanted to be Mary Poppins (or at least have her magical abilities). I wanted to be a lot of the people you have listed, although I wanted to be a Pirate Queen rather than a pirate. I wanted to be a nun (don’t ask me why because I don’t remember now), a nurse, a high priestess of Avalon. Most of all, I wanted to be Cat Woman (from the Batman series) because I hated always have to play Robin :roll:, and all the girls wanted to be Cat Woman because she was pretty much the only good female role in the TV series until Bat Girl came along (and nobody thought she was as sexy as Cat Woman). Fun post, Kathy, that’s also thought-provoking.

  25. Satisfied with my life except I would have liked to have been known as an excellent pet photographer along with keeping my job as a nurse. Oh well, we do not always get what we want and have to settle for less but that is ok too.

  26. I’m enjoy escaping into the characters of the books I write and becoming another through them. It’s so much fun. I think that’s why I’m a writer. xo

  27. I always wanted to be a writer and I am one–now I want to be a rich writer, a dancer, a chef, an interior decorator, an accountant (seriously my number intelligence is so wanting but I can see the satisfaction in make numbers tell the right story), a restaurant and film critic—just finished the book Mating for Life–a really good book of women who make a number of realizations over their short and long lives–a mom and her three daughters all find what they want in life–but not too easily

  28. Yes! I’ve wanted to be almost all those things…and I’ve been working my way down the list. We can be so many different things in a single lifetime.

  29. Heather says:

    Oh don’t we all want to be so many things? I’m currently thinking of being a person who refinishes and reuses old furniture. I’ll try that for six seconds and see if I like it.
    And yes, thank goodness for books and movies that allow us to pretend!

  30. sybil says:

    Oh Kathy, your arrows achingly hit the target. I spend too much time not just pondering the past roads not taken or lives not lived, but the future that will not be. Selfish “first Worlder” that I am, I realize that I’ll never visit Hawaii, never ride a horse as it soars over impossibly high jumps, never have a hobby farm with rescued goats and pigs and donkeys … I waste too much time counting days: when I should be living them.

    I am such a lucky person. I have health. I am financially not too dodgy. I have no reason to waste one moment dwelling on the “not” when I should be grateful for the “am” or the “have”.

    You always get me thinking girl.

    You free for a coffee/tea on Wednesday ? I’ll start driving now. Meet you half way. 😉

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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