Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! (To be sung to the tune of Tradition…)

So I was talking to a friend the other day in the capacity of a coach (and just a quick word to the wise here…if you’re a coach and your friend wants to speak to the civilian you, for god’s sake, don’t suddenly morph into coach-speak.  I learned this one the hard way. From my husband. And my sister. And my mother-in-law and my neighbors. And a couple of friends. It takes me a minute to incorporate feedback, apparently.) Anyway, this friend really did want to talk to the “coach” me—and what was bugging her was the idea of making a decision concerning moving that she fears might make her life permanently, air-suckingly miserable.

Oh, decisions! Those nasty and seemingly impossible decisions! I’ve noticed this with a lot of people, myself included, this fear of making the wrong decision. It puts us all into terrible paralysis. Speaking for myself, the paralysis usually involves my whole body except for my mouth which keeps doing one of two things: frantically scarfing up sea salt and vinegar potato chips dipped in blue cheese dressing the vast quantities of which could actually eclipse the sun; or spewing complaints about how I have to make this really hard decision, but I don’t know what to do.  Yep. My mouth keeps plugging away while the rest of me sits there believing that whatever I do, it might be the wrong decision—-and the results of it might be so terrible that it could actually kill me. And—that there’s no going back. Once the decision is made, baby it is permanent.  So—certainly in the past, I have put off decisions and done nothing. Which is a decision in itself, since time has a way of marching forward, dammit, and doing nothing eventually amounts to making the decision to just sit there and not make a choice, which is typically when, to put it in technical life coaching terms, the shit really hits the fan.

In listening to my clients talk about decisions, the same thing comes up for every single one of them and for myself, too. Here’s the lovely thought: If I’ve made the wrong choice, I will be stuck with it forever and ever and ever, world without end, amen. 

Yikes. Such a terrible feeling, this fear that not only will you do the “wrong” thing, but then you’ll have to live with it and pay for it right on into eternity. Which will surely be spent in hell, because you’ve spent a lifetime making lousy decisions, so where else could you possibly end up?  No wonder so many of us falter.

Okay, now I have to tell you a little anecdote, because it ends with the best sentence on decision-making that I’ve ever heard.

I got married in 1993, and this was, for me, in my life, quite a surprise. I was not one of those gals who always wanted to be married. No. I had read The Women’s Room by Marilyn French when it first came out in 1979 and I was 15. A lot of it went over my head, but the central message was pretty clear: marriage is a slave state.

That may be a little extreme, but…I had seen a lot of marriages that I didn’t want to emulate, that was for sure. I wanted to be free to be an actor—and by the time I got married, I was getting a master’s degree in Feminist Theory, besides. Talk about confused. 

But—I also really loved my husband-to-be and felt like I was happier with him than without him. We decided to get married, but—frankly, I had a lot of misgivings about the whole thing. Not about him. Just about the state of holy matrimony.

We had a “destination wedding,” not that we called them that back then. We just wanted to get married in the beautiful town where we’d met, so we made everyone schlep up to Ashland, Oregon. It was a lovely night, the last day of April, (because we got married on May Day—as in “May-day! May-day! We’re going down!”)  (Also, our room number at our hotel was 911. Portents everywhere!), and we’d just had the rehearsal for the totally non-conventional ceremony (my sister Karen called it the “performance wedding pic-nic” and I think that pretty much says it all) and were wandering the streets back to our hotel. I had a splitting headache, was tense out of my mind and just wanted to drink. A lot. Many of my friends and most of my family were gathering; and for a person who was as co-dependent with the planet as I was at that time, this was about as much fun as having an un-anesthetized rectal exam. Also, my father was very ill and all of us were mourning my grandmother, who had recently died. Plus, let us not forget, I was knowingly submitting to marriage and all I thought that meant. How would I never have sex with another person? How would I keep from getting bored? How would I manage to be someone’s wife? What was I thinking???

It was in this state that I ran into my friend Dan and his girlfriend Anna, who had just gotten into town. Dan was an old friend from CalArts—Anna was his incredibly gorgeous girlfriend whom I knew less well. She was a self-described “JAP,” which was not on my cultural radar, Jewish American Princesses being as uncommon as, well, as real princesses in my rural-ish home town of Grand Junction, Colorado; she laughingly said it basically meant she was spoiled. She was also so beautiful that I often felt a little tongue-tied around her—my envy making me uncomfortable. She was from the east coast—far more sophisticated than I, and was working a lot as an actor. To say that I was jealous as hell of her would be gross understatement; but I really liked her, too. In fact, she was going to be helping me with my makeup the next day.

Anyway, I was in this pre-wedding wreck mode when we ran into them on the street. Dan gave me a big hug; but Anna just grabbed me, looked hard into my fragmented face, didn’t even say hello, but instead, in her Carmella Soprano-light accent said urgently: “There’s always divorce, Pussywillow!”

And there it is. The best sentence I’ve ever heard about decision making. “There’s always divorce, Pussywillow.”  I tell you, after I stopped my hysterical laughter upon hearing it, that sentence is what got me through my wedding. It’s what’s gotten me through 18 years of marriage. Not the idea that I want to divorce my lovely husband; but the idea that there’s an escape hatch. A change in plan is always an option. There is always divorce should one need it. I’m not saying it would be easy or without consequence or maybe even ex-communication. But it’s there. Once I remember that, I don’t have to act like a trapped maniac. This gives me great comfort. 

I have one friend who says: “I hate to make decisions because whatever I do will have tsunami results.” I think that’s a thought that bears some dissolving—and the first step for me in moving past a fearful thought like that is to realize that nothing, nothing is permanent. Change is always an option.  In fact, it’s inevitable. Try it next time you feel like a decision you make may put you in hell forever.  Remind yourself: “There’s always divorce, Pussywillow.”  And thank god for that.







This entry was posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2011 at 12:14 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! (To be sung to the tune of Tradition…)”

  1. Karen Says:

    Well, you gave me the perfect decision-making line:  When Fred and I were about to be married but kept taking turns at getting cold feet, I finally said to him, "If we're not going to go through with it, we need to call Sonja because she's driving all the way from L:A."  For a couple of weeks, then, one or the other of us would say, "Call Sonja."  We'd laugh and it would calm us down…some.  Just before you started your drive, I told you about our on/off cold feet and "Call Sonja."  Your response was perfect.  You said, "Well, if I get there and you've decided not to go through with it, we'll all just have a great big ol' party and go home!"
    So by all means, let's remember that change is inevitable.  Let's remember that almost every decision can be un-done in some way (allowing for consequences, of course)–"There's always divorce, Pussywillow!"  And let's remember that we can almost always make a different decision–"We'll just have a big ol' party instead!"

  2. debbie Says:

    well done, pussywillow!  similarly, when making a big decision I remind myself that "life allows u-turns" :)
    oh and I'll have to give the salt and vinegar chips dipped in bleu cheese a try! yum

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