There was a time in my life when I could be indecisive. Hey, I can freely admit this. Having several options before me seemed to paralyze me–rendering me incapable of making a decision. I would feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. I would hem. And when I was done hemming, I would haw. When that was done, I probably hemmed again. I would do this until I spun myself into a frenzy. I’m someone who tends to look at every encounter and moment as one that is capable of teaching me something. So when looking at the decisions before me, I consider all the angles. On the one hand, I find it helpful. But that other hand? On that bad boy, it causes complications. Excessive analysis leads to paralysis. At some point, in the words of Lil Jon, you’ve just got to ” . . . get out of your mind,” and DO something. Therein lied the rub for me. As I’ve said, I’m someone who believes that any encounter or thing (however pointless it may appear) has the ability to teach me something. However, I didn’t imagine that I’d receive a pivotal Aha! moment while sitting at Chili’s with my daughter.
Allow me to go Sophia from Golden Girls on you for a moment. Picture it. Homewood, IL, a small south suburb of Chicago. There’s a shopping center, and at the end of that shopping center, there’s a Chili’s restaurant. My daughter and I sat at the second booth from the entrance. We sat down and I began to peruse the menu. I immediately became overwhelmed by all the choices. I stared at the menu for minutes, unable to decide what I wanted to eat. When our server arrived to take our order, I asked for a few more minutes because I was not quite ready to make a choice. Our server returned minutes later, and I was still unable to decide. He returned a second time, and I found myself still in the throes of making a decision. Finally, my server asked, “May I ask what are your top two choices?” I told him, to which he gave me his recommendation. He then added, “If you don’t like it, we can always change it and get you something else that you’ll like.” Woah! Mind. Blown. You mean to tell me that I can actually change my mind? I do not have to chain myself to one choice. Shut the front door! And while you’re at it, close the back one and all the windows too!
Now I know this was a truly simply example. But it got me to thinking. How many other times in my life have I either stalled on making a choice, or simply failed to make a choice; thereby simply choosing to go on default mode? I’ve done it more times than I actually care to remember. And I’ve done it in some major moments in my life. I realized my marriage was no longer serving me. But I was too afraid to make the choice to walk away, so I stayed far longer than I needed and suffered far longer than I needed (causing my ex husband to suffer as well) because I was too afraid to make a choice. I needed to take legal action years ago against someone very close to me, but I couldn’t make the choice. I agonized over it and suffered over the choice that I couldn’t make. I’ve had friendships that I realized no longer served me. But instead of choosing to walk away, I stayed in those relationships; continuing to get annoyed by the people for being exactly who they’ve always been. And I did it simply because I couldn’t bring myself to make a choice.
In each case, I felt as if I had no choice. What I failed to recognize was that there was always a choice. I may not have liked my options, but there were options all the same. I had a tendency to put the weight of the world upon my shoulders if I made a choice. You know, like the world would somehow stop spinning on its axis simply because I chose to walk away from a toxic relationship, or chose to stay home instead of cashing in on an invitation. Or I would tell myself that I was ruining lives. You know, like I was really THAT powerful. Why was I causing myself so much difficulty over a seemingly simple task?
As if this revelation wasn’t enough, I found myself sitting in my counselor’s office, lamenting over something (I can’t even remember now. See, that’s how important it was!) I was going on and on, and she looked at me with such empathy and said, “Well, Je’Niece, try it out and see what happens. If you don’t like it, you can always get off the ride.” WOAH! There it was again. I can actually make a choice, and then if I don’t like the choice, I can make another choice! Are you kidding me? I felt that was confirmation of the lesson. I’d heard it twice in one week. There was no need to try to deny it. I needed to get comfortable with making choices in my life and stop living on default (which in itself is a choice, but I didn’t realize that).
I know at some points in my life, I acted upon default simply because I didn’t feel that I had the right to make the choice. I would feel guilty for feeling the way that I did, because again, I somehow had the idea that I didn’t have the right to feel whatever I was feeling. Perhaps my inability to make a choice was in part due to my failure to break away from my conditioning. I mean, we’re not taught that we can actually change our minds. At least I wasn’t. I can remember being told on numerous occasions how I had no right to change my mind; AND if there was any mind changing going on, it would be done for me. So is there really any wonder as to why I was incapable of making my own decisions as an adult?
But this isn’t a lamentation about my upbringing. No, this is a revelatory moment. One simple encounter caused me to recognize and break a pattern I’d been engaging in for the greater part of my life. Glory! I’m free! Yay me! But, and this is a pretty big but–but I like big buts *cue Sir-Mix-A-Lot* It’s a daily practice. And it can be so easy to shift into default mode. But each time I’m tempted to go on default, I remind myself that I am the most powerful person in my life. I remind myself that I am the only one who gets a say in how my life looks and feels. And then I choose. Even if I don’t like my options, I choose. And I choose because to do anything else is me failing to show up for myself. And I’ve come too far to be a no-show in my life.