Decisions are like coffee: they come in a variety of sizes, are frequently encountered at crossroads, and are as bitter or sweet as you make them. Like coffee, decisions can be recognized by their side-effects. Do you feel nervous? Manic? Like you’re just moments away from needing the rest room? Chances are, you’re either faced with making a choice or have just finished choosing.
Decisions can sneak up on you. Sometimes they creep in on the cat’s paws of inevitable, almost unnoticeable change. Sometimes they rush at you, crashing down like the piece of plane in Donnie Darko. You might be tempted to think you can outsmart a decision. You can’t, though, because even refusing to make a decision is in itself a decision. Unlike coffee, you can’t quit decisions.
Sometimes, you make a decision that you need to reverse later; this can come with a helping of humility, because you may be forced to admit you were wrong. Occasionally, you make a decision that cannot be reversed and you regret it. To have or not to have children. To put your money in a speculative stock or not to put your money there. To act out of love or to act out of self-interest.
The really hard decisions come with consequences. This goes at least double, if not triple, for decisions regarding your immortal soul or karma. Most decisions aren’t really that big, not in a cosmic sense, but they could have financial repercussions. As a species, we spend a lot of time deciding things based upon money. How much will that decision make me? How much will this other decision cost me? Should I get a tank of gas to get to work or food to feed my family?
Styron depicts the darkest of decisions in Sophie’s Choice by forcing his character into a situation where she must choose which of her two children will live. One could argue Sophie’s dilemma wasn’t really a decision. It was a torture tactic disguised as a decision. A true decision, the argument goes, will always have Option C: do nothing and let things play out without you ever making a move one way or the other. Semantics couldn’t help Sophie, and certainly didn’t spare her the agony of deciding. Most decisions aren’t that vast, that awful, or that cruel. Thankfully.
Framed this way, I feel that decisions aren’t at all like coffee. To be that blithe and brash would be to act as if there were no true darkness. There is darkness, though, and we are continually faced with choices that could plunge us farther into the dark, or lead us from it.
No, decisions aren’t like coffee. They are like rope. We can use them to hang ourselves or we can use them to pull ourselves to freedom.
Sometimes monstrous people will use that rope to harm you.
How, then, can we make decisions? Excluding the insurmountable and horrific category of decision à la Sophie’s Choice, how do we pick amongst our options? The danger of analysis paralysis, or spending too much time thinking about the pros and cons of any choice, can set in and force you into Option C. The danger of jumping in unprepared is often the road to regret. The most that you can do is make the best choice you can with the information you have at the time. Get your facts, vibes, or Tarot cards and then -right or wrong – make your decision. Don’t wait for one to be made for you unless you’re comfortable with relinquishing ownership of your life.
People might try to waylay you, for various reasons and often out of a sense of helping you. The important thing is to apply your core values and principles to your decision; if you do that, then you will be confident you are choosing what is right for you and your situation. For me, when I make a decision, there are only two essential items I Must Always Consider. First, I think of my marriage and how my decision will impact Mr. Aniko. Second, I think of how the decision will impact my writing. Other factors are relevant and considered, but they are secondary. If a choice will negatively impact either my marriage or my writing, I make a different choice. It’s really quite simple. Except, of course, when the decision is going to be good for my marriage and bad for my writing or vice versa. Luckily, though, each is mutually supportive of the other. I am happier and less anxious when I write, which is good for my marriage. I write better when I’ve been able to spend quality time with Mr. Aniko, which is good for my writing. It’s true, I take my coffee with milk and honey.
What about you? What informs your decisions? Who throws you a lifeline when you’re stuck?