The Decision

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


49 thoughts on “The Decision

  1. Sometimes life wrenches from us the control that we think we have, Kate – change is the only certainty most of the time – I hope your mother and mother-in-law are back to full health soon

  2. What a lovely post, and so right. I dither and dither and then, without “reasoning,” just take a leap. And things feel right, and are. When I retired (impulsively), friends gave me a print of a woman holding onto a staff while floating in the air. The caption reads, “If you hold onto the handle,” she said, “it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”

  3. I do the “lists” thing, then I let my subconscious make thr final selection. Between the facts on the lists, that smart part of me is looking for the less visible clues to finally decide.

  4. Oh Kate. Such a perfect post for so many of us. May your Mom and MIL both sail through challenging times. I know from my own career how utterly miserable a job can conspire to make us, and I hope you find some peace soon.

    Decisions are the stuff of life. We make them sometimes by choosing not to, and other times life chooses for us. I am glad life gave Maddie to you. In not quite the same way, life handed MTM to me, in spite of my borderline stupid decisions. I think it is harder to let go as we move through life because we know more about what can go wrong. Maybe it is easier because we’ve experienced what can be right.

    What will be really funny to me is when Maddie writes her first book, and it is a memoir she decides to title: My Mum Thought I Was a Hangover.

  5. Hoping for good results for both your Mom and your MIL. Life’s lists of pros and cons and daily pondering of things to do and say are just considerations; in the end we just plunge ahead and see where it takes us. Wishing you the best as these challenges unfold.

  6. Oh, that letting go and letting be are so challenging, aren’t they? I’ve been through times where I just find I have to pray for the strength to get through the next hour, then the next, and found it helps and that choices sometimes are just letting go of the lead and letting whatever needs to happen, happen. Here’s hoping for the best with your mom and mother-in-law, your job, and Maddie’s next steps. Things do have a way of working out and I’m constantly reminded that I’m really not the one in control. Best.

  7. I used to be indecisive
    Now I’m not so sure.

    Nature let you choose motherhood and it sounds to me asif you are brilliant mother 🙂

  8. Have you ever watched the series Lost? If you have not, you may wish to…a particular episode comes to mind where a doctor, a man of science and logic, is tested. He has done his best, and yet his best doesn’t seem to be enough. He runs into a man who tells him, “You have to lift it up.” He doesn’t understand this at first, not being a man of faith, and yet as the series progresses he learns exactly what that line means.
    I have always loved the Beatles song “Let It Be”…the same sentiment, the same theme. Sometimes you have to stop forcing your mind to choose the “logical” path, stop listing the pros and cons of this decision or that, and simply “lift it up.” I have found that when I do that, learn to let go and follow my intuition, God’s gentle nudging pushes me in the right direction. And at times, I too have had decisions made for me….my son, my third and last child is exactly that. 🙂 God knew what we needed better than we did. My son filled a hole we never realized was there until he arrived.
    Quiet your mind and listen to the gentle voice of your soul, and all will be well. 🙂 I send good thoughts your way to strengthen you as you face these many challenges and decisions.

  9. I let go of a lot of decisions earlier in my life, and it turned out so marvelously. I think, deep down, I still trust that the path will turn out to be the correct one, but it took a little thoughtful reminder from a very smart lady to remind me today. Thank you.

    1. Ah,Cameron, if only we had eagles wings and could lift ourselves above time for a hawk’s eye view of what is really happening! I feel like nudging time and saying crossly :”Move over, already, can’t you, so I can take a look?”

      May your path take you precisely where you want it to. 🙂

  10. I call it Putting on the Lifejacket and Holding your nose and Jumping. (growing up by the sea i naturally came up with a nautical line for my survival mantra). There are many paths and many rivers and many seas. Life is a journey. How wonderful that Maddie chose you as opposed to the other way round!! I was so glad to read your words this morning.. you are always good for me! have a lovely sunday.. celi

  11. Ships are safe in harbor . . . but that’s not what ships are for. Here’s to letting go of the moorings and setting sail!

    Best wishes to all three “mums.”

  12. A maelstorm indeed. I’m a bit of a control freak at times- i think that if I know when how and why, I can cope with whatever. But sometimes we just need to bob along, and know that we will still cope with whatever, without the stress of worrying about it all so much.
    Love to you all

    1. That knowledge takes a lifetime to acquire, Fiona; I can’t even get on a fairground ride without having 50 fits. Howsomever: letting go has worked in the past. Time to travel hopefully 😉

      Thank you!

      1. Why would you ever choose to get on a fairground ride? I may be getting better at accepting lack of control, but that’s just madness! 🙂

  13. So many parallels in our lives, Kate, but thoughts about that another time.

    I’ve always been a serious control freak, but the further I advance down life’s road, the more I believe in the Serenity Prayer, or the simple axiom, let go and let God.

    Praying that all things uncertain will be resolved as they are meant to be, and that you will have peace.

  14. Wow! You have said it all! I hope saying all of this out loud also let’s you breathe a little lighter! I have wondered about your mother and not felt free to ask…so thank you for the information. We really do care “out here,” you know? And I will think of you and pray for your mother and mother-in-law, in particular. I have a very big soft spot in my heart for families going through these particular seasons. They come into our lives and are the most difficult because we really do care about the outcomes! Your wisdom in what you’ve just shared is immense, Kate. I don’t naturally “let go” very easily, but I know what you say is so true. I hope we can just continue to encourage one another. Some days I just pray for peace! Debra

  15. Many decisions are taken completely out of our hands, and we deal with them as and when they happen, surprisingly we usually cope. On reflection they often turn out to have been the correct path all along. What you have written will have a ring of truth for every reader.
    Best wishes to your mother and mother-in-law.

  16. First off: I send blessings and healing mercies and all sorts of prayers for your dear Mum (who many years ago made the wise decision to marry your Dad – my dear John – and give birth to such a brilliant daughter!). And to your Mother-in-love, please tell her she is included in this stranger’s-to-her prayers daily, as she does the hard work of recovery. I had one of those small strokes myself, and recovery is a bumpy road – sometimes three steps forward, four steps back; sometimes the opposite of that, and on the best days – huge leaps forward – with no steps or leaps back.

    I love your reflections on decision making. I am reminded of the great Yogi Berra (a New York Yankee baseball payer and manager who is forever famous for his delightful Malaprops) who said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” My thoughts exactly. Thanks for your once again inspiring post. Tell me – we now know how Maddie came to be, but how about Felix? Was his conception left to chance? (Glad I didn’t use your method of birth control!) And how did you manage having a pain-free birthing experience? There are many, many pregnant women who would like to know that secret.

    Stay rooted, Kate, and you’ll find the decisions you make, and those made for you will be wonderful growth experiences – allowing those roots to grow deeper and wider!


  17. The simple fork in a tree branch- a place where two paths diverge .

    I think it (the fork) is also the point of origin and if we can reverse a bit perhaps we can see things in original pre multi coursed form. I do not like serving on a jury for the very reasons you describe.

  18. Somebody else beat me to the Yogi Berra quote. But it never really helps me. I always want both strawberries and blueberries. And no amount of chart- and list-making can change that.

  19. I totally agree with you regarding decision making – the outcome of most decisions is most often not wrong or right but rather this or that (strawberries or blueberries as you so eloquently
    describe) – unless of course you decide to do an armed hold-up (that WOULD be a bad decision – haha). I don’t do much planning because life has a habit of undermining the best laid plans – so I just go with the flow most of the time – this can be very annoying for those around me who think I change my mind a lot!

  20. I once asked the president of a major financial institution what he did when new information came in that seriously affected a recent decision he had made.

    “I change the decision.”

    I nearly fell off my high heels. It really is that simple. And you prove it here, Kate.

  21. very well written… To certain extent, yes.. we create lot of hype… but I think it is particularly because of the uncertainity that comes with it …. only if letting go was that easy…

  22. Kate, I was walking z while reading this on my phone. A jazz tune was streaming via Pandora, it matched the rhythm of your post perfectly (I wished I would have saved the artist name). Anyhoo…I appreciate your candid nature; it makes me feel okay that I shall never have children. It has never been my calling. Bless you for finding your way, despite what you felt was your plan. Well wishes to the upcoming decisions with your family ~

  23. I found this post inspirational. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to make decisions, but like you say, sometimes it’s best to see what evolves.

  24. Isn’t it funny that you should write about the very thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Decisions. I’ve been going over and over in my head all the past decisions — were they good, were they bad, or were they just a reflection of where I was at a specific time and should I just let them fade away and focus on all the decisions I’ve yet to make? I’m turning 54 this year, and I’m starting to dwell on the fact that maybe I don’t have all that many decisions left to make. Better to enjoy the moment. Thanks again Kate, for a wonderful, thought provoking post.

  25. You see? This is why I have to read your piece after I have written my own, if I am to participate. 🙂

    Just beautiful. And fundamentally wise. I hope the storms pass soon, my friend. You appear to be an excellent, instinctive navigator…

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