During a typical drive with my daughter, age 16, I found myself embroiled in a conversation with her about quantum physics, alternate realities, and Schrodinger's cat. She has long been obsessed with all these ideas (as well as One Direction and nature documentaries), and loves to engage in esoteric, philosophical conversation with me as we cruise through our small, bucolic town in my Ford Flex.
I found myself thinking quite a lot about Schrodinger and his cat - how the cat can be both alive and dead, but the reality isn't revealed until one opens the box. I'm particularly interested in the Uncertainly Principle, and often I ponder is what my reality would be like if I had opened different boxes along the way. What would life be like if I hadn't had the kids? If I hadn't moved back to Indiana a few years ago? If I'd followed a different career path? Do I even understand the Uncertainty Principle enough to be discussing it, or am I getting it all wrong? Can we be both particles and waves at the same time? Arrrgh.
One possible reality is pretty grim. I do spend time fantasizing about the ease of life with no husband or kids, how I'd wantonly stay up late on school nights and buy white silk furniture and blow all my money on books. But I also know that I have a tendency toward disorder, overconsumption of snack foods, and an irresistible draw to cats and kittens. When I really think about it, I realize that I'd be a top contender for (likely multiple) guest appearances on Hoarders, My 600 Pound Life, and My Strange Addiction. Having a husband and kids limits my cat ownership to ONE, allows me to delegate cleaning to multiple sources, and my teens eat all the snacks before I can get to them. So I'm grateful I have this reality in my personal life. I shudder to think of who would take care of my 600-pound body and all the cats in the alternate realm, especially if there is only one narrow path to my bedroom among all the detritus of my life.
The staying in New England reality is a little more difficult to find fault with. Except as a single mom (at that time), economic circumstances would've dictated that I live with three growing kids in a tiny apartment in a questionable area of town, not the beach house existence of my dreams. So I guess I'm grateful for midwestern home prices and lower cost of living.
Career-wise, I've always imagined myself as a brilliant, tortured artist selling millions of books that make little sense and are therefore regarded as masterpieces (ie: Finnegan's Wake) and afford the reality of white silk furniture and all the books I want, but that the kids (whom I've decided to keep - see above) would destroy. I also really like to sleep, and my research on brilliant, tortured artists reveals that they work for days on end without sleeping or eating (and we've already established my affinity for snacks). Also, they have to work in the summer, so in the end I'm grateful for my teaching job and relative non-brilliance (though PLEASE FEEL FREE TO BUY AND READ THE BOOKS I'VE WRITTEN. See: Cate in Flux page on this site, and look for my second book to be published in March - they sort of make sense and are full of dark humor, some mild gore, and romance).
At the end of the day, I'm glad for my reality, as chaotic and exhausting and unpredictable as it can be. For now, I'll just leave the cat in the box and choose to believe it's alive. And I'll watch a little reality TV to distract myself from smart stuff that I don't know if I understand or not.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.