When we start looking at our lives, we find that over the years, our existence consists of a steady stream of choices. Coffee or tea? Milk or cream? Orange, cranberry, or apple juice? Oatmeal or cereal? White, brown, or rye toast? Eggs over easy, fried, poached, or scrambled? Jeepers, still haven’t put breakfast on the table, and even more choices to be made! It sounds complicated when you start to write it all down and examine it, but, in reality, we make choices like those at light speed or faster, and in groups and multiples at the same time.
Consider this, you are born, some stranger takes you by the ankles and smacks you on the ass, welcome to the world! Every thing that happens from this point forward is a choice. People fall back on, “but, I HAVE to do it that way,” or “I HAVE to choose that option!” Nope. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that is mandatory from the moment of your arrival into this existence, is at some future point you will die, cease to exist in a physical form. That’s it. The only thing you HAVE to do in life. Every other thing is a choice that you will make.
You may recall in Bitter or Better, my conversation about the Already-Always method of thinking, when you just KNOW it will go a particular way because you already know that it always does. People have that same conversation around choice. I have to do it this way, I already know that it’s what I have to do, it always works out the same way, there is no choice available. Stuck in a rut much?
Let me give you a recent example from my world. I had to attend a community awards function last week. 400 guests attending, another sell-out year, as a former board member nothing makes me happier than to see a full house. Although the difference this year was that I was not attending as one of the presenters, I was a nominee. I had retired early from my directors’ role to take on a role with another organization where I was going to be able to really steer and move the conversation forward on multiple important issues.
Here come the choices. Will I have a guest? Yes, nominees received two tickets this year, I really want Nurse Sunshine to be there with me. Asked her, yes, she’s excited about it, will be coming into town for that weekend. People asked, are you going to get your hair and make-up done? The choice was no, a full make-up artist’s skills and talents take at least 90 minutes to make me look human, and, it being a lean budget month, a proper hairstyle was out of reach and I could never ask a friend who I would trust with that to work at a discount. Nope, dressed for comfort, runners instead of heels, hat versus hairstyle, and no make-up which means I am definitely just like my late mother who wore make-up twice a year, and that was eyebrow pencil and lipstick only for company dances and that was it as far as her interest in make-up.
Then, leading up to the awards night, Nurse Sunshine was extremely ill, a flu bug combined with an acute respiratory infection had knocked out the entire nursing staff of the facility she works at. She was disappointed, but I encouraged her to stay home and get back to 100% health rather than driving into the city to spend two nights and then drive back again. Choice, who to ask to use her ticket for the evening. Most people I knew were already going to the event, so I asked around the friends who I would want with me that night, but everybody was already booked. Figure something out on the night of, the President said, grab one of your friends that are already here and fill that seat beside you in the VIP section. Can do that, that’s an easy choice to make.
Next choice, how to get to the venue. One option would be three different buses and two transfers to get close to the facility but not to the door. Next option, streetcar, subway, bus. Not ideal either. Take a cab, door to door. Okay, choice made, but, rush hour starts 2-3 hours prior to the event, and it would be impossible to take a cab from home, would sit at least 30 minutes on the street just to get to the next intersection. Choice, walk up to next main road and hail a cab there. Driver makes good time, in rush hour traffic, time to spare, find a shady spot to sit and relax before heading in.
You can see now that getting ready for, transporting yourself to, and throughout the event, every little step is a choice, and to break it down, over the course of 6-7 hours, you would find thousands of choices made in an instant.
Now, there are examples as well, where something has occurred which limits the choices you have. Let’s use as an example, our mental health warriors who battle PTSD on a daily basis. Speaking from experience, there are times where it would appear that your choices have been reduced to one option only to survive another day. Actually, there are still two choices, do what you need to do, or do not do it. Those of you involved in this daily fight will know all too well what it is like when it appears there is only one option to get through. To quote Yoda, “There is no try, there is do or do not.” You know best for yourself what works and what does not work. Choosing either option takes massive amounts of courage.
You do not see it in the moment, but those of us who care for you can tell when you have gathered all your courage and choose to pull yourself up and out of the dark hole of depression for even just a few moments. Yes, some days it takes tons of courage to get up out of bed and climb into the shower. It is in those moments that if you don’t know, folks like me are giving you a standing ovation for the choice you made. I also know when it appears to be an insurmountable climb. I get it, and I’ve got your back, as this is a choice that takes as much time as it takes, it cannot be rushed in any way. Just know that when things are at their darkest, you have a wall of support behind you, we have chosen to not let you fall, ever.
What I will leave you with is something I created in the moment for our guest lectures as a way to illustrate choice.
From the moment you arrive in this life, everything you will do until your final moment is quite simply a choice. You will come upon this fork in the road regularly and at times frequently. There are two options, and you must choose one to be able to proceed. One side is dark, dreary, and dank. It is filled with Fear which leads to Anger, Anger then leads to Hate, and Hate leads to SUFFERING. The other side is lightness, rainbows, and music. It starts with Education which leads to Understanding, Understanding then leads to Acceptance, and Acceptance leads to LOVE. Take my advice, GO TOWARD THE LIGHT!
Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.