I’ve been known to talk a good game when it comes to choosing. Back when we were courting, I asked my beloved, “Which flavor do you want?” “Oh, I don’t know,” he mused scanning the rainbow of 31 flavors. “They all look good.” Leveling my gaze at this sanguine suitor, I replied, “Have an opinion!”
In truth I stumbled through a chunk of my adulthood without any sense of agency in my own life.
Just past the diaper-stage of parenting and fresh into our first mortgage, an extended bout of unhappiness baffled me. Day to day existence felt like walking through a cold drizzle. But when we went to visit my family, I released my pent up misery in erratic micro-storms. For each hour we spent driving from Michigan to Pennsylvania (10 – 12 depending on traffic and potty stops) I spent a matching hour sighing and crying to a compassionate sister-in-law.
Just a tad fragile?
Well into one steady down pour of my angst and woe, my patient listener brought me up short.
“Rebecca, all of this is because of choices you’ve made.”
Blinking like I’d been struck, I caught my breath. Choices I’d made? Which ones? Where had I gone wrong? Was I miserable because I’d married Ken? Spent six years living on missionary wages? Given birth to our daughter? Or was it our son? The branching roads of my life journey whirled through my head. I wondered when I’d taken the wrong turn and screwed myself.
My sister-in-law — older, wiser, self-assured — seemed to see choices as possibilities. She evaluated options, considered outcomes, and chose what she felt worked best. For her, choices provided the raw material for shaping life and she had the responsibility, the right, to do that.
I did not understand choices that way. On the few occasions when I realized I was choosing, I felt paralyzed or nauseous. Paralyzed because of the possibility of failure. Nauseous because someone important may find fault or disapprove. Best to just get on with things — pick something beige, not-too-challenging, low-risk — and hope you’re not a complete disappointment.
And I wondered why I was unhappy…
It was years before I realized that her observation was not a damning judgment. Rather, it was a call to the thrill of owning my life.
With this in mind, here is my list of choices for 2013:
1. I choose comfort and joy.
I see these as my bywords for life generally, but especially for fashion and design in 2013. Fashion: Danskos not stilettos. Orange as my neutral shade. Mixing prints and patterns. Dress to celebrate life and bring visual joy to my bit of the universe. Design: continue the war on clutter. Create spaces that welcome, soothe, invite creativity.
2. I choose listening.
Listening to my body: taking time to tune in to my body, this house I live in, began in earnest this year. I’ve weathered frozen shoulder, remembered self-loathing, honored the shift time brings. I will keep listening. I see more walking and swimming ahead. I also see yoga, for balance and flexibility and a bit of weight training so I keep rather than lose muscle. Listening to my soul: I like journaling and will continue my hit and miss morning ritual. In 2012 I spent several months tuning in to the divine. I will keep this up. Listening to others: as an introvert I spend many happy hours in blissful silence. Listening to others, especially face to face, keeps me from getting weird.
3. I choose to release limiting beliefs.
Many beliefs — deeply ingrained notions of what life should or shouldn’t look like, how love behaves, the value of happiness, what forgiveness means, and much more — have formed a claustrophobic cubical around my life. I’ve started examining my beliefs and letting go of those that stifle growth or create barriers between me and my divine calling.
4. I choose love, abundance, patience, and curiosity as my motivators.
Worry, fear, anger, and scarcity can move me, but not in ways I want remembered. And definitely not in ways that can be maintained with any degree of health. As a parent I’ve had moments that I’ve been flat-out scared. I lose the ability to listen, wait, breath. I become scary. When at all possible, I want to move away from the motivators of my reptilian brain and fuel this creative life with positive motivators. Raise your hand if you think love trumps fear.
5. I choose gladness.
(Hat tip to Martha Beck.) A bit like #4? Yes. But I choose gladness as my response to life. While injustice, chaos, cruelty, starvation, violence, and catastrophe abound, I can never feel bad enough about them to improve the lot of one single soul. I am most clear, compassionate, and helpful when filled with gratitude. The evening news leaves me in shreds so I don’t watch it. Instead I read the news and focus on stories that I can impact with my actions. Out of deep gladness I can do much good.
6. I choose myself.
When my sister-in-law told me, “Rebecca, all of this is because of choices you’ve made,” I was a looooong way from this choice. And no wonder. I grew up in a family where self-expression, self-esteem, and self-confidence were sniffed like a week-old gallon of milk; is that a whiff of self-ishness?
A while ago someone asked, “And what are you doing?” I laughed and answered, “Anything I please.” Up gushed the concern. “Oh. How is that working for everyone else?” No doubt the household barely functions and discontent is rife, may have been the subtext. Turning to my husband, I queried, “How’s it working for you, Ken?” He eyes crinkled with a smile. “Just fine.”
Hillel the Elder spoke the truth. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”
I finally chose myself. I stopped looking to circumstances and other people for affirmation, stopped trying to be some way that would make someone else happy, stopped trying to control others or make life as it should be. And guess what? When I chose myself instead of waiting for someone or something to choose me, not only did I find happiness, my favorite man, favorite girl, and favorite boy…all breathed a huge, happy sigh of relief.. This year I continue choosing me.
If you’re making a list of resolutions or choices for 2013, include I will be for me.
In the comments below, tell me one of your choices for the coming year.