Wise Decision

Employing the word decision could give one the impression that I actually did something to deliberately drive my life forward – or even to the side – during the last year. I didn’t decide much; 2010 was a year when things happened to me. I got pulled into the rushing rapids, and there were no overhanging branches to grab. I didn’t decide to say goodbye to my mother. She chose to stop treatment and enter hospice. I didn’t have to make any decisions; the rest of my life – my family and my work – just happened to accommodate my schedule so I could be with her until the end.

That was in February. What followed, all year, was a whirlwind of one thing after another: travel, work, responsibilities, challenges, burdens, changes, opportunities. Life just kept barreling on.

Never before have I been so behind. Never before have I had so many loose ends waving at me, so many unsorted piles and unattended tasks. The priority duties (for the most part) are (apparently) not overlooked, but otherwise my chin is barely above water. All those photos I mean to scan, those folders I want to clear out, the letters I want to write. That teetering stack of books is ridiculous; I really do want to read them all, but when? The New Yorker magazine arrives every week, I can’t keep up with it. Sometimes the issues stay in their plastic cover, piling up on the table where we put the mail. There’s that workshop I mean to take, the language I want to learn, the instrument I want to play again. The girls’ room is spilling over with out out-of-favor toys and books outgrown and clothes in their drawers that are now too short for them. I mean to spend an afternoon sorting and reordering and making bags of things to take to the French equivalent of the Goodwill. Next weekend.

Life hurls at me its great adventures and its mundane missions and there is all of it I want to do, to taste, to try to manage, to accomplish. I’m greedy about life; I say yes far too often. I overestimate what I can do and underestimate how long it will take. Then I curse all that eagerness when I find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

This could all make me crazy, and in the past, it has.

Sometime in the last few months – I can’t say when exactly, but recently – I decided not to sweat it anymore. I decided to stop worrying about what I haven’t done and what I haven’t (yet) gotten to and to stop beating myself up for it. Remorse is romantic but not terribly productive. In the end, I’ll get to what I get to.

Even before my mother was sick, she used to worry out loud about the backroom. This was the room where she stowed, over the years, her memories, her childhood scrapbooks, college folders, love letters, trip memorabilia and the general accumulation of stuff that one acquires after fifty years in the same house. She didn’t want to burden us with the disposal of those effects. I didn’t want her to worry about this. “Leave it,” I told her, “Go do what’s interesting to you. Travel. Be with your friends. We’ll clean it out later, after you’re gone.” And we did.

If I didn’t want her to make herself crazy about getting everything in perfect order, why would I do that to myself?

This life is the full-bodied one I’ve chosen, wisely or not. Sometimes it rolls in too fast, too large, too much at once. But that’s what it is and I’ll take it. I’ll take as much of life as I can and if I don’t get to everything, if I don’t get it all done, if it doesn’t all fit in the perfect order of my imagined self, well then at least it keeps things interesting.

As for how this will play out? We’ll see.

I’m participating in Reverb10, and this post is in response to a prompt from author Susannah Conway: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

6 Responses to “Wise Decision”

  • j Says:

    You seem to be ahead of schedule here with a new year’s resolution! And what a fantastic one for this new year! I’m hitchhiking on this one. Thank you! YFMBTW

  • Oceanaddict Says:

    Wow. Isn’t that the philosophy I need to subscribe to! But MD, there’s just so much to say YES to! I’m still in the “I’ll just get less sleep and survive it so I can do more!” phase. But definitely not so romantic when you have bags under your eyes and stop making it to the grocery store for that healthy meal prep out of sheer exhaustion. At least it’s almost New Years and time for RESOLUTIONS! Thanks for the incredible Wisdom.

  • Elizabeth Marie Says:

    Oh. My. This is a beautiful, sad, rich post. Kind of takes me back 11, 12 years to the year my father was dying. It was such a hard year, but also changed me in … I don’t know. Good ways? Thank you for this (and for visiting me).

  • Rebecca Hurst Says:

    Loved this: ‘Remorse is romantic but not terribly productive.’ And also how you drew in so beautifully to the post what your mother’s experience taught you. Thank you.

  • Caroline Wampole Says:

    Once again you have put perfectly into words so much of what I so often feel (and i don’t even have kids!): the angst about what is “not done” – these “sins of omission” which plague us perfectionists and keep us forever chasing our own tails…!

    But I agree – why make ourselves crazy with these “imagined versions” of self?
    You are so right, and so wise, to step back and see the richness and the mystery inherent in life, in all of it. Thank you! I will remember this as i lean into the New Year (and all its promise and eager to-do lists, LOL!)

  • Nona Mills Says:

    Oh. My. This is a beautiful, sad, rich post. Kind of takes me back 11, 12 years to the year my father was dying. It was such a hard year, but also changed me in … I don’t know. Good ways? Thank you for this (and for visiting me).

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