Saturday, March 17, 2012

On Choice

I feel a great deal of pressure to be "good". To recycle everything, to choose organic/cage-free/grass-fed, to avoid plastics/red dye #5/diamonds, to not drive or at least drive less, to reduce food waste, to go all-natural whether fighting headaches or delivering a child, to consider the risks, to keep things clean and tidy, to worry about global warming and child labor and oppressive regimes, to vote with my dollars, to avoid sugar and carbs and fats and processed anything, to be on trend, to change my passwords regularly, to see specialists for that, to floss, to stay together, to know what I'm signing, to read the fine print, to save X%, to talk to an expert and do all the research before making a decision, to not spank but practice tough love, to take nothing but pictures.

Guys, I'm tired.

Much of this pressure is internal, I grant you that. I don't have people regularly preaching at me about any of these things, but the voice in my head is loud and it sees everything I do. And that voice has been informed by thirty years of the catastrophic news and issues blogs and books and was probably a fairly rigid right-doer to begin with.

I don't know where all of the ideas I've listed above came from - some of them I've internalized so thoroughly that the point where they first came into my consciousness is indiscernible. I define myself by the things that I do or do not do, the choices that I make. Some of them are truly uncrossable moral boundaries but some are lines I've drawn that are fairly arbitrary alternative ways of choosing to live.

So where does that leave me? I'm at something of a crossroads in my life right now, having to re-evaluate something that I held very important that may not be available to me. I may have to say yes to something that's even bigger than the thing I've said I didn't want. There's not anything necessarily wrong with the options in front of me, except that they've always been not options.

Perhaps I'm afraid of the outcomes of those decisions. I beat myself up too much when I look back on my past choices. All the bottles of water I ever unthinkingly purchased and threw away, the long drives I took because gas was cheap and I was bored, all the cigarettes I ever smoked, the disposable diapers that diapered my butt when I had no say in the matter. Those choices that did not seem like a big deal at the time in fact do have a lasting legacy. I feel like this decision is of that magnitude, but it may not be.

My fear is that if I choose this thing that has previously been off the table for me, what will I regret by doing so? I know what the consequences are, or are likely to be, if I leave it off the table. But what might the impact be to me down the road? Will I end up regretting my decision either way?

I'm sorry to be cryptic. The specifics I am not comfortable discussing here yet. But situations like this have likely faced a number of you, whether it was the realization that you'd have to bottle-feed instead of breast-feed or that being vegan is not a healthy option for you or that the effort you put forward to live with a minimal footprint doesn't do a lot to solve the greater problem. How do I redefine my worldview to include mainstream options in my special snowflake life?


  1. You know, in a way I am very strongly empathizing with this feeling right now having to do something that I have never before thought I would be faced with. And I'm not ready to talk about it publicly either but it deeply upsets me, gets at the very core of many things I always held as truths and all the hopes and beliefs I held, and it's incredibly hard. So you have my opaque empathies with your struggle.

  2. I'm not quite sure what the decision you have to make is, but you are an intelligent lady with a fantastic husband by your side. Knowing this, I know that you will make the right decision, some of the greatest events in my life also have a touch of regret, but I have learnt to reconcile these thoughts. Also remember, we are our own harshest critics and our peers/family do not judge us in the same manner we judge ourselves.

    1. Anonymous, I just want to give you a big hug - that's exactly what I needed to hear!

    2. Thanks for the hug.

  3. Ahhh, choices! It can be difficult to make decisions. Obviously, I have no idea what you are talking about, but want to share one of my favorite quotes, by Tom Robbins:

    The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.
    The word that puts free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.
    The word that throws open a window after the final door is closed.
    The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.
    The word that fires evolution's motor of mud.
    The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.
    The word that molecules recite before bonding.
    The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.
    The word no mirror can turn around.
    In the beginning was the word and the word was CHOICE.

    I love this quote so much that I have CHOICE tattooed on my wrist. It's a constant reminder that everything we do has consequences, but, we have to be confident in moving forward and choosing our choices.

    Good luck!

  4. At some point you have to make your decision, my advice is to go with what feels right at the moment. Listen to your gut and your heart, it may not me the right decision when you look back from the future, but for now, you must make the right decision. The world is forever changing. You don't know what the future holds, you can only plan and prepare for the best and the worst. Your decisions both for now and the future must be made now. So for now, make sure you do the right thing for now and what you believe will sit well for the future.

    I hope that isn't to confusing.

  5. I think life balance is important. All of those things you mention are great ideals and something to aim for while knowing we're never going to be perfect and we need room to breathe. Perfection is exhausting, and to be honest, looks kind of boring. Cut yourself some slack -- we're always our own harshest critics.

    In the context of the decision you're trying to make, like Rafiki said, best to go with your gut and heart. I'm betting there's one decision that feels right, even if it doesn't necessarily feel perfect.


Thanks for commenting!