Choices

A friend of mine readily admits some of her fondest memories involve watching “Pretty Little Liars” with her grandmother. Her nana.

Nana told me she had no interest in the program, but it was a way to spend time with her youngest grandchild on a regular basis. Despite her lack of concern for the fate of the various characters, she could handily talk through any given plot line from the show. Heather, her granddaughter, would proudly ask Nana a question about the series, and Nana would give a complete answer, smiling as she relayed the tale.

I’ve written before about the right or wrong of spending time doing something you don’t enjoy for the sake of one you care about. I believe sometimes you suck it up and go to the shower you’d rather avoid, because your love for the cousin who’s being honored is greater than your disdain for ditzy party games.

I understand the thinking of those who say “life is too short for me to do something like (fill in the blank), no matter who’s involved,” and in some ways I endorse it. There are certainly multiple opportunities to honor a loved one (and if there truly is only one chance, consider that fact carefully).

How do we balance looking out for ourselves first without being unnecessarily selfish? With children, it’s an easier decision. Sometimes the best way to build trust with a child is to watch a television show they love or read aloud a book that sends you screaming.

It would be a rare situation where I’d watch The Young and the Restless just to make a roommate happy. And yet, that’s exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago. My then-roommate and I weren’t getting along. We liked and respected each other, but living together presented challenges. We also had one television set between us. Compromise was essential.

We agreed to air the taped episodes two nights a week, and reluctantly I joined her. I never did embrace soap opera fandom, but watching and safely gossiping about those shows created a bond. We are friends to this day.

AdobeStock_157759079

In today’s world this example is a bit moot. With the ability to watch your favorite program at your leisure on your choice of devices, you can easily distance yourself from the undesirable family member or roommate.

But where does that get you?

I offer no answers, only questions to ponder. When is being selfish cutting yourself off from healthy relationships? On the flip side, when is it saving you from an antagonistic experience?

Life is full of choices, and the answers so often are ambiguous. The thinking process, however, needn’t be so vague. Ultimately, the decision is yours. And sometimes taking care of others is taking care of yourself.


Image Credits: © stock.adobe.com

What My Soul Knows

I have an important decision to make…and what I’m thinking of doing doesn’t feel right.

I won’t do it, no matter how logical may seem. I’ve learned my gut, my soul, has valuable things to say.

Seeking My WayIt’s almost as if logic and reasoning is the lazy way out sometimes, although I’ll never dismiss the necessity to reason through a life-changing or costly choice. Sometimes, however, what the prevailing wisdom might say is the right thing to do isn’t right for me.

When you know, down to your core, what you’re doing or about to do is wrong, it can be difficult to justify sometimes. The logic points one way, but the logic is missing some vital information.

There have been times when I’ve been told to trust people or trust a system I’m not familiar with, and my soul has known better. I knew once I was being led in the wrong direction by someone I should have been able to trust, desperately wanted to trust, and instead of saying, “this isn’t right,” I accepted his decisions. I was afraid not to; I had lost faith in too many people.

I should have let go. Ultimately, perhaps only a very short time later, my faith would have been restored. I likely would have found someone to trust, a person who could have provided me with the support and power I needed to rise above an impossible situation. Instead I let this individual lead me down a path where even more people betrayed me.

Q CatIt was a horrible lesson to learn. Rational thinking has its place, but you can never dismiss the weight of knowing you don’t have all the facts.

I’ll make my decisions in the future using all the resources available to me, the rational, the instinctive, and yes, the spiritual, for all of my major decisions need to be doused in prayer for wisdom.

Changing your life isn’t easy.


Images: © Geosap — stock.adobe.com

Treasure the Simple, Value the Complex

As I was unpacking for my second year of dorm life, the wife of one of my professors stopped by and peeked in to see how I was doing. She brought a dozen chocolate chip cookies, which I no doubt quickly devoured, and looked around with a smile.

Cargo Overload
First,  it no longer fits in your car.

“I always get nostalgic when I see you kids unpack,” she said. “It reminds me of a time when life was simpler, and you could pack everything you own in the back of your car. Pretty soon you’ll start gathering necessities and the load will get bigger and bigger.” She paused.  “I miss the simple times.”

I wondered what load she was talking about, the furniture, books, dishes and clothes that filled her home, or the burdens of raising a family, managing a career and keeping the love alive in her marriage.

I’ve been working to clear out as much of what I own as I can, to keep that load as simple as possible. It’s a lot more practical that way, especially when you anticipate another move sometime in the future (I rent, so it’s inevitable). As for the rest of my life, I’m not sure if I’ve missed out by not having a few more complications.

I’ve never been married, never had children. The reasons I’ve stayed away from those commitments aren’t clear to me. Growing up, my parents had a troubled marriage, but plenty of people with a similar childhood have gone on to raise families of their own, some successful, some, not so much.

It gets lonely sometimes without the connections that come from having your own family. On the other hand, I have friendships that go back as far as those college days, including that professor and his wife. Even before social media made it easier, we kept in touch.

Every path has its moments of beauty as well as treacherous turns.

With my mental health issues (I have bipolar disorder, which is well-managed but ever present) a simple lifestyle seems to suit me better. I get overwhelmed easily, and need my space. Don’t get me wrong. In no way, shape or form am I telling others with the same disorder, or anything similar, to stay away from marriage and family. It may be your salvation.

No matter how we try, life isn’t simple, and we need others to be there in both trying times and moments of joy. I thankfully have the support I need in my life, and I’m well aware the loneliest women are those in unhappy marriages. It’s hard to reach out and admit your husband is failing you.

Every path has its moments of beauty as well as treacherous turns. The load gets bigger as we get older, but the simple can be found. Treasure the simple, value the complex.

Life is made up of both, and the balance we have in our lives is often what we’ve sought out, what we’re comfortable with, perhaps how we can be most successbigstock-little-girl-with-umbrella-in-t-86027189-convertedful. Yes, we need to evaluate from time to time if we should challenge ourselves and take on new ventures, whether they involve moving up or down the simple-to-complex scale.

Frankly, however, life has a way of doing that for us most of the time. We make our decisions according to our needs. So for now, I’m taking a deep breath, picking up a good book and having a simply restful evening.

Simple

Image Credits: (Moving “Van”)  © James Group Studios Inc — AdobeStock; (Girl in Rain) © lavitrei — Bigstock

It All Adds Up the Same

I’ve spent some time, not a lot, but some, imagining what my life would be like now if I’d made different decisions.

It happens most often at night, when I’m alone and not much is on TV, none of the books I have appeal to me and I simply cannot play one more game of solitaire on my phone. I sit and ponder. What makes me who I am? My experience, my heart, my intentions, my choices? I suppose all of it.

night-at-homeSome of my worst decisions have led to the greatest breakthroughs in personal growth. Would I be a better person if I had not done such a foolish thing? 

Or would I be making the same mistakes, leaving myself with a level of immaturity I can’t get past? Or is it those mistakes that led to the unwise behavior in the first place? How do our thoughts, actions, beliefs and fate all play together?

The consequences we face are sometimes unknown, unforeseeable. There are those seemingly small errors in our ways that lead to lifelong reminders of that one errant deed, and potentially catastrophic actions that pass by almost unnoticed…and we forget…until there is a gentle reminder, and we breathe a sigh of relief that it didn’t happen the way it could have.

There are those who face mental illness, and they sometimes make what seem to them like logical decisions based on misperception because of the way their brain functions. I’m not talking criminal behavior here, although that certainly does apply, but day to day actions that have an impact on happiness and quality of life.

whats-up-little-bugI could overanalyze this, because here’s the bottom line: as much fun as it is to watch a movie where someone is given a chance to go back in time and change the path of their life, that would be a huge gamble. What if I hadn’t married the man who betrayed me and married the one who got away instead? You probably don’t know the second man any better than you knew the first when you married him. It could have been an entirely different sort of disaster.

I am who I am. If it hadn’t been this mistake, it would have been another. I still would be me. And I’m okay with that.


Image Credits: © sapunkele — fotolia


Or

By What Authority My Decisions Are Made

I’ve gotten used to making my own decisions, and managing their consequences. It’s what I expect out of my life, and I can’t imagine another way of living.

In recent years I’ve seen first hand what happens when a person is no longer in control of his or her life, when others control every aspect of it and let power overtake their better qualities. It’s frightening, insidious and happening every day, all around us.
Hands in jail
It happens in jails and prisons. Clearly, there’s a reason the deputies and guards must be in control, but when the jail tells you when to use the bathroom and controls whether or not you have toilet paper, a big part of your humanity is taken away. Yes, these people have committed a crime, and some would say, “they’re getting what they deserve.” But jail and prison are meant for confinement from society, not beating one’s spirit until it is destroyed.

WomanIt happens, sometimes, between husbands and wives. Men who beat their wives, whose behavior is so erratic and unpredictable the women live in constant fear their simple comments will trigger a violent attack, have taken away a vital part of their spouse’s heart and mind. It doesn’t get better, not in the marriage. The women have to leave to regain their soul, and it takes a long time.

globe-304806_1280 pixabay smAnd it happens in some countries whose leaders make a mockery of human rights and dignity. Where you are born with infinite worth yet no one will ever let you fully express your own essential self.

Today, as Americans celebrate their independence, I am thankful for my rights to make my own decisions, whether wise or foolish, to explore my options in my choice of career and even hobby, to freely write what I choose on this blog.

I know many of you who read what I post here live in other countries, and it’s important to me you know I respect and admire many of the nations on this earth and the people who are loyal to them. Patriotism doesn’t mean you reject all others, for me, it’s an appreciation of what I have and a commitment to protect those rights.

God bless us, everyone.

 

 


Autonomy


Image Credits: (hands in jail) © zurijeta — Bigstock; (drawing of woman) © retroclipart — Bigstock; (globe) Pixabay; (fireworks) © Carlos Santa Maria — Fotolia

Madame Alexander…damn…I mean, Madam Secretary

I’ve recently become addicted to the CBS TV series “Madam Secretary” with Téa Leoni and Tim Daly.

It’s another insider-White House series, this time with Téa as the unconventional Secretary of State called to duty when the man previously holding that position goes down in a plane accident (well, no accident, but you have to watch for details about that…). She’s a former CIA operative whose then-boss is now, well, President (played by Keith Carradine).

105623_0424b_2
Téa Leoni, Tim Daly. Photos courtesy CBS-TV.

Husband Tim Daly is a world-reknowned religious and ethics scholar, and the two get plenty of play in international intrigue. Some of it’s a bit too intense for my liking — modern audiences seem to crave more of something I find distasteful — but a lot of it is very real human emotion, played with a good dollop of humor. You get the feeling the Secretary of State is just one of us. Until you look at her day.

(If you’re wondering about the title to my piece, I had to get it out front: I keep slipping up and calling the show “Madam[e] Alexander” like the damn dolls. Okay, lovely dolls, but they have nothing to do with this show in any way, shape or form. I’m hoping to break myself of this habit by placing it right out there.)

An ordinary day for Secretary of State….like the first episode of Season Two, which just finished.  (The season, that is. The first episode aired months ago.) Somehow, despite the fact that in a bizarre turn of events Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord has become acting President for a brief time, you relate to her. At least I did. In part, because, you see, poor Bess was being called upon to perform modified lyrics to a Billy Joel song at a state dinner. Yes, SING. Like me, she’s tone deaf. Unlike me, her chief of staff is (Broadway legend) Bebe Neuwirth, so she was saved.

The show is generally much heavier than that, so don’t look for anything so lightweight on a weekly basis.

bigstock--121875197 [Converted a]But here, at last, is my point. Secretary of State is a serious position. So is White House Chief of Staff.  There are plenty more such jobs, with consequences both glorious and catastrophic. And while there is no one person capable of making the perfect decision every single time for any given role, there are those far more qualified than others, more likely to consistently make strong decisions. Like any job, there is value in having experience, connections and wisdom from previous choices.

Some of those jobs, such as Chief of Staff, are appointed, and others, such as Secretary of State, are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The meaning of the process of “advise and consent” that the Senate takes on in the confirmation process varies from scholar to scholar, but in practical terms it amounts to this: the President has the greater power in choosing who will fill those positions.

And the people he or she chooses shape this country in ways big and small, change lives and bring opportunity — or take it — from others who can make a difference.

In other words, our choice of President is critical.

It’s not a favorite year for many for presidential candidates. Lately I’ve been hearing words that strike greater fear in me than anything else, “I think I’ll just stay home on Election Day.”

vote-election-day-vector-illustration_GyWJDRd_ [Converted]Don’t let this election be decided by those who don’t — or won’t — vote. If you stay home, you’re part of a movement guaranteeing the wrong man will win. It’s no longer the same party politics.

Watch Madam Secretary for a taste of the decisions our leaders will have to make. Dramatized? No doubt. Real? In enough ways that matter, yes, it is.

 

Image Credits: (Scenes from “Madam Secretary”): CBS-TV (fair use); (Building) retroclipart — Bigstock; (Vote Sign) GraphicStock.com

Every Word, Every Drop

Once I was grocery shopping with my friend Pam and her then four-year-old daughter Macy, who was nearly jumping out of the shopping cart seat in excitement at every turn.

“Ooooo!” she’d say, “I want THAT!” Another few steps, “And that! and that!” In vain, Pam tried telling her they didn’t have the money to buy all those things. I decided to step in.

“You know Macy, there are lots of things I’d like to have, too,” I began. “I’d really like a new dress, and some shoes to go with it. Maybe some earrings. But I can’t afford it right now, so I just put it on a list for someday.”

“But I want THAT!” Macy insisted.

Pam sighed. “There are lots of things I want, too, and things Daddy would like,” she said, “but we can’t have everything we want.”

“I’d really like some new makeup,” I went on, maybe pushing it a little. “And a new car. Wow, I’d really like a new car. One with air conditioning.”

Macy was looking skeptical.  With her eyes narrowed, she put her hands on her hips and stared at us. “What you two need,” she said sternly, “is a piggybank.”

Piggy bank manager

We burst out laughing. Macy didn’t get anything she wanted that day, but she was the star of evening as we told the story again and again.

Since that time I’ve thought of that shopping trip and realized something rather important: Macy knew about saving money. As frustrated as Pam may have been with her daughter’s demands, when push came to shove, the kid had the answer. Mom was doing something right.

I wonder how many times parents get fed up with their children’s words and actions and wonder if they’re doing any good at all. They see other kids in the neighborhood seemingly doing so much better, maybe, or their nieces and nephews are the family stars. Is anything getting through?

It’s getting through. It’s all getting through. It may seem futile at the moment, but the words — and actions — are sinking in.

When I was about five, my parents decided to teach me a little about money. I’d been getting an allowance, a small amount, all in pennies.  They brought me to the kitchen table, where there was a pile of pennies on one side, and a dollar bill on the other.

I was told there were 100 pennies, which were worth the same as the dollar bill. I could have either the 100 pennies or the dollar bill, but it was important I understood they were worth the same.

No problem. Got it. Give me the dollar bill. I’d never had currency before.

My parents were certain that in my fascination with that dollar bill, I’d missed the lesson. I hadn’t. I’d grasped it quite quickly, in fact.

You never know what’s going on your child’s mind, but they’re hearing every word. That’s a comfort and a warning, I guess.

You can’t be there to make decisions for them, and they’ll make some mistakes, regardless of all your good words. But you’re laying a foundation and they’ll be building the house, so make it a good foundation.

Because it never stops making a difference. You never stop making a difference.


Photo Credits: (Piggy Bank Manager) © BCFC — Bigstock; (Two Girls) © zagorodnaya — Fotolia