Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Finally, after three weeks: today was my weekend

I woke up at the usual time. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular hours. I had nowhere to be; no one to see; nothing important to take care of. So tonight I cooked a proper dinner, which I haven't been able to do for weeks.

I've had things going on every day and every night. Always rehearsals to attend, lessons to schedule, recitals to hear, concerts to give. Today I finally had time to go to the grocery, pick my way casually through the aisles selecting ingredients, compose a menu in my head, and prepare it at home while music plays in the background. I teach lessons tomorrow, and the stuff that could wait from today will be one day more urgent. Still, it was a good day.

And yet...

There is something missing. Maybe several somethings! Since it's "missing", you'll understand that I don't have a good idea about what exactly it is. I feel it, though. I feel it when I'm practicing. I feel it when I'm brushing my teeth. I feel it when I pick up my mail. I feel it when my mind is quiet.

This must be the wanderlust that sends people jetting around, trying to fill some hole in themselves. They quit their jobs, leave their loved ones, and take to the winds, trying to satisfy a longing in themselves. Except that, if they're like me, then the longing isn't understood. So we try to satisfy the unknown by throwing lots of different kinds of things at it, to see if anything appeases it.

So many people are keenly aware of the "missing" in their lives. They're not clear on how to fix it, though, so it creates tension and anxiety. We have this tendency to view each "big decision" as having spectacular impacts on our own individual personalities. When we come to a fork in the road, we evaluate the decision meticulously. We try to predict what's going to happen, event after event, in a giant chain leading away from the present.

A friend is trying to decide between two romantic partners. One offers safety, stability, and a spirit which loves unconditionally. The other offers excitement, challenges, and emotional honesty and realism. Each has appealing qualities, and not-so-good things. My friend is transfixed by the idea that their entire life will revolve around this choice.

There are geographical regions associated with each of these prospective partners, different choices of higher education, and different housing issues. So my friend can be allowed to think it's a significant decision. But in a lot of ways, they don't care about of that. They're more focused on which partner will provide the best and greatest route to happiness: boring and predictable love, or a frustrating, passionate partner who is as likely to be in an argument as a romantic dinner. My friend is agonizing over the decision, convinced that terrible unhappiness awaits them if they choose poorly.

I certainly don't envy having to make a decision like this. However, I feel that taking either choice is preferable to the position my friend is currently in: sitting in between two choices, spending their life wobbling back and forth instead of making a choice. Paralyzed by the fear of making an unfortunate choice, and stuck in a life filled with stress because of this "non choice".

My friend is trying to fill a void with one of these partners. So much has been laid to rest on this choice, I'm worried that either choice (at this point) will lead to some disappointment. This disappointment I can certainly see as leading to doubt about the decided course (the other grass appearing to be green).

So, is the answer to make decisions before you have too much chance to think about them? Before we have too much time to create an elaborate lattice of causality that blocks us in? I don't know. Making hard decisions is (brace yourself).... hard. We are right to consider carefully, when some decisions aren't easily undone. But we can't let the fear of bad things prevent us from making any decision at all.

After all, only experience teaches us what's missing from our lives. And we only get experience from looking outside ourselves.


  1. What if it's a big decision and you pick the wrong option? What if it's the 8th time you've chosen the "wrong" thing? So then what?

    Glad you got to have a weekend of sorts =)

  2. Blink by Gladwell. I haven't read it, but it along these same lines.

    What I've found personally, is that when I'm faced with a decision, I usually already made it, and am really agonizing over rather or not it's the 'right' one, as though there is some standard 'right' that we might be able to compare our decision to, searching in vain, and creating it as we go along.

    Reading your post I was looking back on the 'big' choices I've made in my own life. Sure, I've chosen wrong a few times, but I'm still happy. Very few things go so wrong as they can't be fixed; our threshold for recognizing such things is usually far too limiting, and quite frankly, wrong.

    This is a great video presentation from google about choice:

    The Paradox of Choice