Decisions

Is it decision time for you? 

Are you deciding on whether or not to take that new job, or if you’re going to move to a new city? Are you starting a new course of study in college? Are you getting into or out of a relationship? Are you agonizing over that new car? 

Are you, perhaps, voting for someone for President of the United States? 

How do you make those decisions? What is your process? What matters to you when you are faced with a choice, a dilemma, a crossroads? 

Some people wear little rubber bracelets. They look down at their wrist, think back to those hours in Bible school or Sunday school class or listening to a beloved minister, then ask themselves, “WWJD?” If they can get to a point that the decision is made based on Biblical principles, they’re good to go. 

If you’re a writer like me, you have to decide what to write. Sometimes it comes easily. Sometimes it is very hard to get anything to pop up behind that little blinking cursor on the screen. I will readily admit that I have written things that I thought were brilliant that were largely ignored. Humbling, that. I have written things off the cuff in a blur of fingers and keys that were read by hundreds of people, when I thought they were awful. I have written things that were hurtful to readers (some of them family members), painful even. I have learned lessons from those mistakes. I have never hurt anyone intentionally with my writing, but hurt them I did, and some of them continue to let me know about it. (I hear you. I really do.) Whenever you make the decision to write, to put things out there, you also make the decision to expose yourself to praise and embarrassment and ridicule and vitriol. 

Of course, the tried and true test is, would I write this and hand it straightaway to my mother and have her read it first?  What would she think? My mother does read some of my blog posts (Hi, Mom), and nowadays I do write with her in mind, even though she is not my “first reader” in my own mind. If I wore a rubber bracelet, which I do not, it would most likely have “WWMT” embossed in purple letters. 

Do you make decisions based on what your spouse, partner or significant other might think? They are no doubt very important to you, and if you care for them deeply, you care what they think about how you make decisions and do things that affect you both. My soon-to-be-wife and I have had several conversations about partnership, what is and how it plays out in a marriage. We care about each other very much, and we will make decisions that affect both of us, together. 

One question that has come up in the news the last week or two asks that if we accept certain things, endorse certain things and make decisions based on those, can we look our children in the eye and explain to them why we did what we did? Wil it make sense? Will it hold water? Will we be embarrassed or proud to teach our children, to be real world examples for them as they watch us move through the landscape that is our wild, wacky world? To be sure, they see what we do, they hear what we say, and they are remarkable imitators. 

Are you true to your own values when you are faced with major or important decisions? Do you evaluate things based on the knowledge you have acquired and the experience you have accumulated over the years? Do you follow the lemmings over Norwegian cliffs, do you run with the bulls of Pamplona, or are you a shark, restless and constantly swimming, afraid that if you pause, if you slow down or if you are still, you will surely drown? 

Do you make decisions based on how they will ostensibly affect others?  Is your sense of altruism the strongest when the time of reckoning comes? Or, do you take the path that is already beaten down with the feet of thousands before you, well marked and easy to traverse all the way to the gates of hell? The road less traveled is sometimes the one that will get you lost, but will teach you the most along the way. And when you arrive at your destination, what a story you have to tell. 

I know that we all come to conclusions differently, and that all of these things might go into the way our minds navigate the rocky shoals of indecision. There are many Sirens on Sirenum scopuli out there, but it only takes one gaping hole in our ship to sink us for all eternity. 

Oh, and please keep in mind that priorities and motivations change, sometimes profoundly, over time. The decisions one makes at fifteen are most definitely not the ones he or she is likely to make at seventy five. 

Lastly, need I remind any of us that the choice not to decide is in itself a decision that may have profound secondary and tertiary consequences not even considered by the poor soul who decides to sit out the hardest minutes of the game. 

How do you decide? 

Things

Things that can happen:

You can choose to be happy for the rest of your life. (Pick this one. Pick this one!)

You can  look for a soul mate, a kindred spirit to share your happy life with. ( I did not say that you were guaranteed to find them, but I can guarantee you won’t if you don’t get out there and look.)

You can share your happiness with others who are less fortunate than you. (Go read about Mother Teresa.)

You can live your life knowing you did the best you could with what you had. (Quit wanting what everybody else has. You don’t need it, and they probably don’t either.) 

You can leave this world a better place than it was when you got here. (That will not be a high bar, given the way the world is headed today…)

You can promise yourself that you will never feel guilty for a decision well-made. (Unless you are a good Catholic. Then, I give you a pass.)

You can make every effort to make good decisions. (You are reading this blog post. Great start!)

All of these you have direct control over. You can make them happen

Things that could happen:
You could fade into obscurity, and no one will even notice that you’re gone. (Are you kidding me? Have you heard of credit bureaus? The IRS?)

You could succumb to loneliness. (Not very likely that loneliness alone would kill you, but folks have tried…)

You could end up isolated like Howard Hughes, your Spruce Goose on the ground and your pee in a bottle. (Who wants that?)

You could become disconnected from every family member and every friend and every acquaintance you’ve ever had in this world and nobody would ever call you, ever. (Don’t you owe anybody money?) 

You could lose your ability to play the piano. (Oh? You never could play the piano? Skip this one, please.)

You could get depressed. Yes, this is a real one, folks. (I’m a shrink, remember?)

You could become completely and permanently disabled. (Do you know how many people come to my office trying to make me think that they are permanently disabled? Do you know how much work it takes to establish that you are truly disabled? See what I did there?)

You could fade into utter irrelevance, loved by few and remembered by none, a mere drop of ink on the rolled parchment of history. (Oh, good grief. Get over yourself, for Pete’s sake!)

Now, all of these you have very little control over, but really, how likely are any of these? If they happen, take action!


Things that will likely happen
You will have some kind of illness sometime in your life. It may be small. It may be metastatic cancer. You will go to the doctor, get that sucker diagnosed and treat the hell out it until you beat it or it beats you. Got it?

You will lose people that you love. We’ve all been there. A spouse. A sibling. A parent. A child. A favorite teacher. A mentor. 

You will be able to do the things at forty or fifty that you did at twenty, just a lot slower. (Thanks Marshall Rice, for that observation.)

You will not be able to do some of the things at seventy or eighty that you did at twenty. (I know, I know, my brain thinks it’s still twenty too, but one day my body will be way, way behind it.)

You will question who you are, why you are here, and if you are doing any good on this earth. (Go back up to the first group, read them again, and read about Mother Teresa like I told you to. You didn’t do it the first time, did you?)

You will have a crisis of faith. (What? You think you’re the only person who has ever had a deep thought, who questioned religion, life’s meaning and purpose and the existence of God? Again, after you read about Mother Teresa, please go get over yourself, then come back and finish this.)

Once again, all of these may not happen to you, but most of them will. No control here, just reaction and pushing ahead

Things that will happen to us all:
We will learn how very lucky we have been to be alive at this particular time, in this particular place, with our particular people. 

We will make our peace with God, as we have come to understand Him.

We will forgive, and we will pursue forgiveness. 

We will pass along the big and small things that we have learned to those that come after us. (They do listen and learn from us, even though sometimes we think they never hear a word we say.)

We will say our goodbyes, given the chance. 

We will be truly thankful.

We will die.

All of us, every one of us, will die. 

Now, I know that the world has been a very stressful place lately. I, like you, grieve for the loss of life, the loss of love and the chaos that is our modern world. I try to deal with it through writing and working and traveling and hiking and loving. 

Some of you deal with it in other ways. That’s okay. 

But I want to ask you just one thing, friends.

Given the things that can happen, could happen, will likely happen, and will happen, where do you suppose you ought to put your time, effort and attention today? 

Think about that, please, and live the best life you can with what you have. 

Peace.