Did you see the movie, “Sliding Doors?” It starred Gwyneth Paltrow and it came out in 1998, the same year as her Oscar-winning performance in “Shakespeare in Love.” I remember the movie not just because she played a character named, “Helen,” but because the movie depicted two parallel lives she could live, depending on the quirk of fate of whether she caught a particular train. I remember that slight off-balance feeling of seeing two lives played out simultaneously.
I get that same feeling these days.
I am old enough that I have lived many lives, in many places. I have been a different person in each, with the cast of characters to suit that particular life.
There is the slowed-down Charleston lifestyle I live now, with new friends and my husband. There was the competitive D.C. lifestyle I lived, chatting over Starbucks with fellow Beltway commuter warriors. There is the New Orleans family lifestyle where we eat, drink and laugh to excess and at high volume.
I become those people when I am in those places.
But sometimes, worlds collide.
Like the other night, when I was at my office holiday party. We were at a D.C. club listening to New Orleans music because my boss happens to love the music from my native city. I was enjoying being back in D.C. with my colleagues. And then I looked up and my ex-husband was there with his wife. Quick, which Helen should I be? The professional Helen, the New Orleans Helen who dances to Kermit Ruffins with abandon, or the friendly ex-wife?
Or, like the time I was at a professional development workshop and found out that the presenter went to college with my husband, and one of the fellow attendees was someone I hadn’t seen since high school. That may not sound like much for those of you who stayed in your hometown, but this was in D.C. And my husband had gone to college in L.A. And I had gone to high school in suburban Illinois.
I find that I need transition time as I get older, time to wrap my head around the different layers of Helen dancing in the same time zone.
Maybe you’re different. Maybe you’re the same you, no matter what. Old friends, new friends, you’ve never changed who you are or how you act. Bravo to you if so.
As for me? I just find I need to adjust my shuffle so I don’t get caught in those sliding doors.