I think a lot, sometimes to the point of inducing panic or paralysis, about the razor-sharp edge that defines the barrier. You know, the space between seconds. That slice of time when something happens that irrevocably changes the trajectory of a life and forever alters one’s heart.

That split second when a doctor gives a dreaded diagnosis. When a beloved dog chases  a ball out into the street and is struck by a speeding car. When a soldier feels the concussive blow before the sound of a roadside bomb even registers.

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It’s the sliver of time that forms the border that separates, on one side, life as you’ve always known it and, perhaps, even planned it, and on the other side a version of yourself that you don’t even recognize and who you definitely don’t want to be. And you will travel from one side of the divide to the other knowing all the while, in the countless lifetimes spanning that split second, that once the barrier is crossed, things will never, ever, be the same.

Sometimes it’s a seismic shift, an earthquake under your feet, and you see those seconds sliding by, stretched between the before and the after. You can feel the expansion of time, the Doppler-shift in the sound of your own breath and the temporal tidal forces tugging every cell in your body into a new configuration. Other times it isn’t until later that you’re able to look back and pinpoint the moment that the person you were on your way to becoming suddenly was defined by a different and most unwelcome set of parameters.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve recognized those moments and the power they carry. For me, they’re associated with an almost unbearable sense of dread. Because in most cases the outcomes can’t be predicted, and there are no do-overs. The arrow of time continues its relentless march forward, dragging you mercilessly on your journey, and there’s no going back.

I wish I would’ve…

I wish I had…

I wish I could’ve…

But you can’t return and fix it. You can’t re-work it. You can’t change your path, or take back the events and decisions that brought you to where you are now.

And so there’s nothing to do but live with it. That decision. The words you said. The things you did or didn’t do. Live. With an underlying sadness and a suitcase full of regrets. Wondering for the rest of your life how things could’ve turned out if you had only…

Told him.

Put your heart first.

Stayed.

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