Me: I think decisions are overrated.
We put vast amounts of energy into choosing the right fork in the road. While some of us stand there in a quandary, deliberating, a whole industry has grown up around the decision tree: a way of distancing yourself from a big decision, bringing everything we know about probability and consequences to bear on this choice we must make.
The simple fork in a tree branch- a place where two paths diverge – has become big business. Great project management computer programmes have evolved, monsters which plan each step of the way to minimise risk and maximise profit.
When it was time to choose my daughter’s secondary school, we were both a bit terrified. So, both being trained managers, we listed criteria; we marked each school according to this complex set of requirements. We ended up with a perfect school and a second choice.
The first school tested my daughter within an inch of her sanity, no mercy accorded and I said, I don’t care if it’s school A, over my dead body is Maddie going there. The second school developed worrying financial problems.
Maddie ended up going to the one we didn’t select. And it couldn’t be more perfect for her.
When you come to the fork in the road, the most frightening and unsettling thing you can do is to let go. Yet: let go, and see what happens.
I have never been a motherly person. I have never felt as I suppose a mother should; I never yearned for a child.
Sometime in my early thirties I thought to myself: if I ever have children it’ll have to be an accident.
The eve of the millennium found us in Greenwich with friends, warm clever people who drew you in. We ate at their lovely Victorian house and then ambled down to the river in icy temperatures, breathing dragon breath on the air, listening to the excited chatter of the little ones. We waited for midnight, and a glimpse of that river of fire which had been planned further up in the city as a celebration.
The river of fire turned out to be a damp squib, much to the wry amusement of the assembly, and we went home.
When I woke, I felt abominable. It was the worst hangover I have ever had. Phil, I said, I need to be at home: and home was Cornwall.
I did not occur to me that something bigger than me might be taking over: that this was the beginning of something that flowers and trees and sheep and squirrels do, as a matter of course: a customary cataclysm.
The way I felt was the first sign that I was carrying someone else around with me.
It never stopped feeling alien, all the way through the next nine months. Becoming invisible is hard for an exhibitionist: this was my first lesson in becoming a type. People would look at me and think “there is a pregnant woman” and their assumptions would click in.
Maddie’s birth was pain-free. I remember thinking she looked a little like Winston Churchill lying there in a comfortable little transparent cradle, in a side-ward not far from the seaside.
She had never been a decision, as such. But here was life, changed utterly. The next five years were mapped out, and the next fifty would have a different flavour: because life makes its own decisions, sometimes. Sometimes, when you let go.
This world will tell you to bring all its powers of logic and intellect to bear on one of these forks in the road. It will say: make sure your boat is securely moored, lest a storm come. This world, these days, seems to fear disorder and the indistinct, for it might cost more or result in litigation.
Susan Jeffers says when we make our choices we must let go: “When you a make a decision, throw away the picture of what you think the outcome should be. Do your best and let it go…. If you take Path A, you get to taste the strawberries. If you take Path B, you get to taste the blueberries. If you hate both strawberries and blueberries, you can find another path.”
I find myself at the centre of a maelstrom in which life has made all the decisions for me. My wonderful boss left, and work is changed utterly; my mother faces a major operation within the next month; my mother in law has had a small stroke and is recovering at home.
There are a thousand decisions to be made. But my wisdom is spindly, and cannot compare with the power which created a child for me, a decade ago.
It is time to cut loose the moorings, and set sail.
Written in response to Side View’s there “The Decision” which you can find here