Choosing.Posted: March 11, 2012
I am a terrible decider. A terrible choice-maker. It’s true. I keep an even keel, our home is not utter chaos, and my children have all that they want and need (I think?). But when it comes to ME, I am just wretched at selecting a path and heading down it.
Sean knows this, and teases me about it when appropriate.
When I was a little girl, I was choosing a new parakeet. There were two finalists among the cages and cages of birds at the pet shop, one traditional-colored medium blue budgie with a black stripy head, and one mostly-white parakeet with blue-speckled cheeks and mottled black wings. One was prettier (the white) and one seemed potentially more affectionate (the blue), but it was hard to tell about personality when they were both in cages with so many other birds.
I paced up and down the aisle, visiting first one parakeet and then the other. I made mental notes on how they each interacted with other birds, how they ate their seed, how they stretched their necks and peered at me. I coaxed them each in turn to my index finger, offering a nibble or a scratch on the face. I still couldn’t decide. Which one was better? Which one was MY budgie?
Finally, my mother applied sufficient pressure, and I made my choice. The white parakeet! I was sure of it. But then I burst into tears. Dismayed, the store worker asked if I was Ok. I nodded through stifled sobs.
“You can have whichever one you want!” my mother said. “It’s Ok. You can have the one you want.”
“I know.” I replied, sniveling miserably.
She looked at me quizzically for a second and then asked, “Are you crying because you don’t want the blue one?”, then laughed as I nodded sadly.
I had chosen the white one. That meant that any future with the blue one was gone. I wouldn’t be taking him or her home, giving her a name, playing with him, teaching her to talk. The Blue Parakeet Path ended there, eternally severed. And the finality of it all distressed me terribly. How could I know for sure that I’d made the right decision in selecting the white parakeet?
I still grapple with decisions like that. With the impossibility of knowing that the decision I’ve made is The Right One, the one that will bring me success and love and happiness and health and longevity and Really Good Hair. I don’t linger too long over restaurant menus, or flip-flop over the weekend’s activities. (Well, most of the time, anyway.) But with decisions that could Really Matter, I freeze, terrified of making a decision so very, very wrong that it will send my life into a tailspin.
I made a decision today. Impulsively, impetuously, sort of. I haven’t put the wheels for it in motion yet, so it still would be easy to pretend I never decided such a thing or never mention it to anyone so I didn’t have to follow through. It would be easy to ignore it.
But I don’t want to ignore it. I don’t want to sit any longer, waiting as if I sit long enough, the life I want will come and find me, falling over me like rain. I want to work harder at making my life the one I want, the one that suits ME. So I made this decision, this decision that probably sounds so minuscule but felt enormous to me.
I decided that I would put my almost-2-year-old daughter in daycare 3 days a week, and keep my 5-year-old son (who’ll be in kindergarten in the fall) in extended day programming on those same days. I decided that instead of focusing on putting Juniper in The Very Best Place With Only Wooden Toys and a Huge Play Area, I’d focus on putting her someplace still good, but that is also reasonable enough that we can afford to send her for 3 full days, and can afford for Bryce to go to extended day programming. I decided to do that so I can take that time to write, to really make a go of making writing my career and not just Something I Wish I Could Do, or Something I Hope to Do One Day When There is Time.
I’m a little terrified, because taking those steps means taking writing seriously, which means I could actually suck and fail and have to live with it or learn how not to suck and fail. It means treating it as what it is: my chance to do it or not.
The parakeet’s name was Speckles, by the way. She was quite a little scamp and I loved her. But I never did stop remembering the blue one that I didn’t choose.