When There’s No Choice But To Finally Choose

2010 November 27

I remember being on a walk with a friend back in the spring. We were discussing big life-changing decisions and how we (the collective, humanity-wide we) come to them. She voted for panic, I argued in favor of desperation. Pretty similar, although the latter still lets you cling to the illusion of control, while the former conjures up visions of ungainly, flailing limbs. In either case, we change directions and course correct and set everything on fire and just walk away because it seems, at the time, that’s all there is to do. We don’t venture in order to gain, but because we feel there’s nothing left to lose.

Photo by ervega

And that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world (though it can surely feel like it). Sometimes you need the panic, the desperation, the fear that comes from being flat on your metaphorical back to finally rob you of all your reasons to resist risking. It becomes the only whip left to crack on yourself. If you’re terrified of failing, the only way you’re ever gonna chance it is if you’re standing in a place where you’ve already failed – repeatedly, spectacularly, painfully. If your life is built on hedging your bets, what do you do when all bets are off? You finally act, you decide, you look down at the ground, then up at the sky, shrug your shoulders and start walking. And you do it because your mind has finally admitted defeat. Your instinct toward preserving and safe-guarding what you have (however insignificant and unsatisfying it was) abandons you because you realize there is exactly nothing left to preserve. You’ve exhausted the palatable and what you believed to be the possible, but you’re still here and you’ve got the next 40 years to fill and you need to find somethings and someones to fill ’em with.

There’s no mystic clarity that comes from this resigned realization. You don’t suddenly see the light and start sprinting toward it (and if that does happen, you’re probably dead and no one has bothered to tell you). No, you just understand that because you haven’t broken yet, you’re probably not going to in the future. And there’s comfort in that. It was bad. I survived. If it gets bad again, I will survive again. Options 1 through 344 have failed, but you’re finally in the frame of mind to consider 345. And maybe it was the right one all along and  you’d never have gotten to it if the first 344 hadn’t withered on the vine and you hadn’t figured out that those failures weren’t terminal. Or maybe it isn’t right, but it will lead you to 346 or 401 or however many options it takes to get there (Where? exactly). You can handle it because you have handled it before and you understand that sometimes you really do leave yourself  no choice but to finally, finally choose.

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