Sunday, November 13, 2005

Choices, choices and more choices…

Choices, life is full of them. Sometimes there are so many we’re almost overwhelmed at the options, at other times it’s difficult to see that we have any at all. The reality is though; there are always at least two.

  • Do whatever it is you’ve been doing
  • Do something/anything different..

I think it boils down, in the end, to how you feel about the life you’re living. If you’re happy, really happy with your life, job, relationship, lifestyle, etc… then the first choice is most likely going to be the one for you.

On the other hand, if you’ve got areas of your life that you’re not happy with, you need to make a choice from the possibilities presented by choice number two.

That’s where things begin to get complicated, for me anyway.

The “something different” options are not often clear, and even if they are clear, they’re not always easy. I know that when it became clear to me that I was not happy in my first marriage, I avoided the clear choice of leaving, for many years. Instead I tried everything I could think of to try and regain that original happiness I’d felt.

I filled my life with all sorts of ‘other things’, tried to focus on what was right instead of what was wrong and spent a year talking with a therapist about ways to work through what I was feeling. I even switched jobs in hopes that change would allow me to get enough stress relief and see it wasn’t the marriage, but the job that had me feeling so bad.

In the end though I saw that neither I, nor my wife, were really ‘happy’ any longer.

I made the choice to separate and get divorced.

It remains one of the more difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I remember thinking, here I am, late forties, balding, a bit overweight and haven’t dated in well over 20 years… this is not going to be a very ‘fun-filled’ adventure. I knew though, that having the chance to find the kind of relationship I knew I wanted, was better than standing still.

Regardless of knowing, staying put sure as hell felt a lot more comfortable than not.

Those of you who are regular readers know that eventually, that decision led to my meeting and marrying Maryan. We have the kind of relationship I was hoping to find. It’s not perfect, everyday, but we interact in ways I’d only dreamed were possible before, so it’s certainly perfect to me!

I’ve also made a lot of choices over the years, based on what I’d call “inadequate” information. Where the decision I made, had I actually had all the information, would most likely have been different. I think those are the decisions, that sometimes come back to ‘haunt’ us (or me at least). Where we find ourselves second guessing our decision, start thinking of what ‘might have been’ if we made our choice with all of that information at our disposal.

That my friends, is an exercise in futility, one destined to be ‘crazy making’. We can’t ever go back, to that exact spot in time, armed with that (what we now know to be) exact information and redo the decision process. Life just does not work that way. I’m not even sure I’d like it, if it were that way.

Life is fluid, a continuum, billions of conditions changing every nanosecond of every day.

I’ve probably made 1,000 ‘bad’ decisions, for every ‘good’ one. Each one though, I made thinking it was a good one. Well, ok, I’ve made some (very few fortunately) knowing they were bad, but even those I thought I’d at least enjoy part of the outcome! The rest where based on what I knew at the time, and believed would bring me the outcome I wanted.

Sometimes, I got exactly the outcome I’d been hoping for, and when I got it, found it was far different than I’d envisioned it to be. Others, the decision got me nowhere close to where I thought it would take me. In each case though, I did what we all do (or should do), I simply decided to make another choice, hoping this time I’d get closer to where I really wanted to be.

What’s the point of this ramble?

The point is, we always have choices. Sometimes they’re not very clear, and often they’re very difficult, sometimes feeling nearly impossible, but they’re always there.

It’s always the same two I mentioned earlier, do nothing different, or do something different.

If you do nothing different, you’ll most likely continue getting what you’ve always gotten. You’ll be in the same career, relationship, house etc… and if you’re happy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If, on the other hand, you’re like me, and you’ve always got another dream or two waiting for you to explore them, you’ll have to make a choice to start exploring, or not. To me, often times that’s the difficult part, finding a way, to explore the new dream (or dreams) without losing any of the stuff that makes me really happy today.

You see if I went off to pursue one of my dreams, and achieving it cost me my relationship with Maryan, the price of that decision and achievement would just be too high for me to justify.

I’d give up a lot for a dream I wanted, money, stability, all sorts of material possessions. I know that, because I’ve done it, and several times in my life. I’ve spent every dollar I earned, and every penny I’d saved, sold off everything I could sell, in pursuit of a dream, and ended up without the stuff, and without the dream.

I eventually got more stuff, saved more money, and even though I never got exactly where I’d intended to go, I have the memories of the effort. I remember the ‘rush’ of jumping headlong into (for me) uncharted territory, the thrills at each little advance, the single-mindedness of effort and pure, simple joy of believing in the possibility.

These days, as I’ve begun for the first time to ponder retirement and especially our financial needs in retirement, I’ve found myself wondering (at times) if those choices were wise. If I wouldn’t have been far better served saving the money, focusing on ‘one’ career instead of trying out nearly a dozen and now being at this particular place in time with a hefty ‘nest egg’ of retirement funds.

In the final analysis, I end up saying “No”, that even if I end up living a life (in retirement) where I have to take a job as a Wal-Mart greeter to make ends meet, I’ll be much richer in that life, with the memories of all I've done. I believe those memories will make my life far richer than it ever could have been simply because I'd be able to sit in an easy chair and know I had no money worries.

Rich Denny’s Mom said to me once, while I was still in my early 20’s, “you just do what you want to do, don’t you?”… I remember thinking for just a minute, about what she’d said, and responded with a “Yeah, I guess I do”. I recall she smiled a little, and added, “Good, if you continue to do that, you’ll never have regrets”.

I’ve sort of continued to do that, more often than not, since then.

Sure, I’ve made compromises, continued to work in jobs I didn’t really even like any more, simply because the money was good. Taken the easy road a time or two, simply because I didn’t have the energy (at the time) to venture down a rougher road. Chose to stay put in a place, when I should have moved on, because the unknown scared me more than standing still.

When all is said and done, we make our choices and live with the results. The beauty of life is, if we don’t like the result, we get to make another choice! We can’t go back, and change the last one, but we can make another and alter our path once again.

So, do you have regrets? Do you still struggle with past decisions? Or, do you let them go, make new choices and move on? How do you think your ‘method’ is working for you so far?

Hope y’all are having a great Sunday. Me, I’m going out in the shop and get reacquainted with the truck project!!

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Flash said...

Wow...too much to think off...brain ready to burst...

I like your recent post, because in some way, i've always thought about the "what if's." What if I'd done this instead of that".

But what it comes down to is that any choice you made, you made for the sake of yourself. Because at that time, you didn't know the outcome. What if you would of persued your dreams instead of marrage? Where would you be now?

It's too many questions, and if you think of them, you will bleed from the ears. I say just run with life, because no matter what decision you make, your always going to think about the other option long after the choice was made.

It's human nature.

Bill said...

Flash - Don't you think that we really make choice, *thinking* we know what the outcome will be? I know I've thought 99% of mine were going to lead to the outcome I desired.

Unfortunately, rarely, do things go exactly as we plan... but then again, maybe that's half the joy of living?

Bottom line, you're right though... ya gotta just run with it! Thanks for stopping by.

Spirit Of Owl said...

I keep on hitting the wrong button somewhere. :O When my life's gone right, it's definitely not my fault.

That's a really open post, Bill. Thanks for sharing so deeply, I've learned a lot from this. About you, and myself. I've read it twice today, and it's powerful reading.

I know that what I romantically describe as my own "existential philosophising" has in the end pretty much drilled my own life down to a cold, hard, and yet curiously defenceless nut.

It seems that you've found the real route, the path above. I'm not even nearly there, so here I am, looking to you for guidance...

I'm pretty sure that you're pointing in the right direction! :D

Bill said...

Spirit - Thanks, sometimes I just start wrinting and this stuff simply 'comes out'.

I don't honestly know what road I'm on... just that it's been a twisty one, lots of hills, valleys, switchbacks and potholes... I figure the best I can do is to get up everyday, be thankful for the day and do the best I can with it!

Hale McKay said...

"The choices not made," I think, can be be paralleled with Frost's "The Road Not Taken." We either take the path less worn or we venture to the unknown. Yet, that separates from the animal world, we consider the choices before taking them.

Bill said...

Hale - Well, from what I've observed, some of us consider things first! :)

You're right, a good parallel. I'd say though, that making the 'more traveled' road choice, is no better than the other, as long as it fits in with your wants and desires.

As I recall, Frost seemed to think taking that less travelled road was somehow a 'better' choice. He obviously felt it had been for him, but for another it could have been absolutely the wrong one.

Thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to post your thoughts.

jenbeauty said...

If you do nothing different, you’ll most likely continue getting what you’ve always gotten. You’ll be in the same career, relationship, house etc… and if you’re happy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It can be a struggle when you spouse is at this point and you are not. Where do you find that happy medium when one is content and the other wants to explore?

Just sort of rhetorical Bill. You know life issues and your blog tends to make me think. *smiles*

No_Newz said...

Good words today my friend. Got the wheels cranking on this rusty old jalopy. I have to say I have no regrets. Even when I've screwed up really bad, it was a learning experience. :)
Thank you for the thought provoking post.
Lois Lane

Firehawk said...


I think that we do our best by accident. I've compared the outcomes of highly-considered decisions and ones made by snap-decision, and usually, the snap-decisions end up working out as well or better. Our instincts don't hurt us very often, if we know how to listen to them.

It is a big question--that of "should I stay or should I go." As for mistakes, they're the only things you can really learn from. Generally, when you succeed, you don't know exactly why. Mistakes tend to be mroe clear-cut.

Bill said...

Jen - You know, I’m not sure I have an answer to that one. I was in a similar situation in my first marriage. I thought there was a big problem with the relationship, and my then wife simply couldn’t see, or understand, what I was trying to tell her.

The only thing I’d say, is say it, write it, hell make a video if that works, find a counselor who specializes in couples, and go, alone if you have to… and keep finding more ways to try and open a communication channel that works.

Also, not all exploration has to involve both partners. One person can certainly go back to school, learn pottery making etc… without a huge involvement from the other person.. other than some understanding of the time involved…

Above all, to me, communication is the key to resolving most relationship issues.

Lois - Thanks, it is the mistakes we learn the most from, or at least I do.

One of my favorite sayings is that "If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking enough chances"

I'm glad you can say you've no regrets... It's a great place to be! :)

Firehawk - I hadn't actually thought about that... I think most folks assume, that because it went right, it was because they did everythign exactly right... when, in truth, there could have been 1,000 other reasons it all worked out 'despite' mistakes you actually made.

When things really crash and burn though, there is almost always 'something' we can point a finger at, and learn from!

Again, thank you all for stopping in, and taking the time to share your thoughts.

WooleyBugger said...

Hello Bill,

You know...I've been going through what you mentioned with my marriage.Your first one that is. I couldn't believe what I was reading as it truly hits home with me. WE are more like room mates now and most conversation is her teling me that I'm always wrong and that I am selfish if I want to do something that is not what she wants me to do. As soon as I hit the door it's like a switch goes on in her head and I can't say or do anything right.
Only what she wants or desires matters and I am just supposed to be a pawn.
Not long ago, our son watched a video of us from a better time. He asked his mother "Mom. How come you don't laugh and cut up like that anymore? You just seem unhappy all the time now."
I'm still here because of my son but maybe that's not a good thing if she and I are so miserable.
She puts me down to him but I don't do that to him about her. It's not fair to him and so I just bite my tonque.

Anyway, thanks for your posting and letting me see that I'm not alone.

Bill said...

Wooleybugger - Thanks, and you're welcome, and welcome!. I think we're never really alone, it just feels that way sometimes.

Dropped by your site, and checked out as well, interesting stuff there for sure.

If you're up for it, we should throw a leg one day soon, seeing how we live in the same town!

That is if you're Ok bein seen with a Honda close by! :) Don't know about you, but I'm overdue for a day in the wind.

As for the relationship, it gets tough when you feel beat up on all the time. Finding a counselor might help you open up the communication channel I know you're looking for.

WooleyBugger said...

Thanks Bill for the feedback. I feel that I am at a crossroads and not sure which way to turn. I love my wife but sometimes that's not enough. We are more like room mates than anything else these days. We tried the counsler thing before and she absoulutly refused to go back. It was a woman too so go fiquire.

As for a ride, mine (Both)is a basket case at the moment but I would enjoy a ride when she's up again. Perhaps I'll just get another newer model. Perhaps a Shovel head. lol

Bill said...

Wooleybugger - That's a tough deal, but I know where you're coming from. I guess you just keep trying.

So let's put one of 'em back together! Hell.. them OCC dudes do it in 30 minutes!

Seriously though, if you need a hand sometime, just let me know.

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