Picking And Choosing


Acrylic on Paper, Untitled, © Joan Z. Rough

Heaven and hell are not some places I’m going to go to later on.  Heaven and hell are here, right now, and I create them for myself with my choices.

Hae Doh Gary Schwocho
Beneath Belief

Driving in Ireland is quite frightening for me. It’s one of those places where you drive on the left rather than on the right side of the road as we do here in America. It can also be very difficult to figure out where I’m going. I’m not always good at reading maps. When I reach a crossroads there are usually road signs pointing to the nearest village, but more often than not, the signs may have been spun around by the wind and I can easily be lead astray. Many an hour has been taken up in my travels on that magical Emerald Isle, backtracking … trying to find my way to where I’m supposed to be. Fortunately it’s always a beautiful drive along the way.

And so it is with life. Crossroads are always in front of me and road signs are rare, if they exist at all. One minute I’m in a state of bliss. The next moment can take me on the most terrifying journey I’ve ever imagined. Taking one road over another can sometimes make a big difference. It’s always a hit or miss situation. Though I may get to my destination in the end, one way may be full of boulders and potholes, while the other way may be a straight shot on a newly paved surface.

I try to follow my intuition most of the time. But I’m not perfect at it in any sense of the word. Moving to Virginia from Vermont was one of the best choices I ever made. Up north I felt at the end of my rope. I felt I had seen every horizon that existed. I didn’t enjoy the part every winter when the snow was deep, the winds would howl, and I’d get very depressed. I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a problem brought on by lack of enough hours of natural daylight during the shortest days of the year.

Here, in Virginia, the road has indeed been tough at times.  Though it was especially hard to move, my world suddenly opened up to new possibilities.

And talk about making choices … we’re close to Washington, DC, where things change or not, depending on how the Senate or the House are feeling on any given day. But right here in Charlottesville there are more educational possibilities at my fingertips and a much more diverse community than I found up north, close to the Canadian border.

The weather here is most agreeable until summer comes along and cooks me with its heat and humidity. I’ve been here for 35 years, and I’m finally getting a bit used to it. Gone are the days of my winter depressions. The only weather bit that sometimes gets to me are summer heat waves when going outside is torture. But summer here is much shorter than winter in Vermont, so less suffering.

Pick and Choose

Which to choose?

But it’s somehow the day-to-day choices that don’t seem to have a great impact on my life that get me in trouble … placing me on the hot seat within spitting distance of hell. Simple choices, like what to eat when I’m feeling I need a bit of energy. Will it be protein or sugar?  Usually it’s sugar. Should I do my hour of exercise in the morning when I have more energy? Or can I make myself do it at four PM when when I have some free time?  If it’s not done by noon, it won’t happen at all.

And so it goes. There are always questions to be answered and choices to make.  Should I hang out with Louise, even though she sucks all of my energy away? And exactly why don’t I tell Steve that I don’t want to see him any more?

When I do nothing about the things that really bother me and just let them be, no matter how much they hurt, I am making a choice. Most often doing nothing leads to the stress and anxiety I’ve already been suffering from. And because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t call Louise and invite her to lunch, or tell Steve, that I don’t love him, nothing changes. That is the kind of the choice that will most likely lead me to hell right here and now. The deed not done, is done.

But if I let go and decide not to invite Louise to fill me with her doom and gloom over a healthy salad, or tell Steve the truth about how I feel, there are also consequences. Those two people will be gone from my life and maybe I will miss them. Maybe I won’t be able to find another guy that is attractive to me, and I to him. Maybe there won’t be another Louise to whom I can tell my deepest, darkest secrets. But then, just maybe, I’ll be happier and feel free to go about my life the way I choose to.

Making choices always has consequences. Some are good. And some might be bad … at least for a while. Making choices means making changes in what fits in my life and what doesn’t. Maybe I’ll be lonely for a little while until I find just the right guy. But if I keep hanging on to someone who doesn’t naturally make me want to sing and dance with him, I won’t be happy ever.

When decision times come along, I always try to ask myself what the consequences will be. If I remain where I am, will I be happier or does the alternative have more promise?  Yes, it’s hard, but without change where would I be?

How about you? Are choices hard for you to make? How do you handle those monumental crossroads? What helps to move you along and out of the reaches of hell?