Today I like: The Avett Brothers
Not so much: Indecision
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
in the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
and it comes in black and it comes in white
and I’m frightened by those who don’t see it
when nothing is owed, deserved or expected…
when you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected
decide what to be and go be it
– The Avett Bros, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
I have to be out the door to get to school with my three kids by 7am. Naturally, on the mornings when we’re running late, I follow the most modern, enlightened parenting techniques to get us moving: I resort to bribery. The other day, bribery came in the form of doughnuts.
So, at 6:55am, as we’re standing in front of the bakery counter at Publix, annoying the hair-netted lady who is technically not on duty for another five minutes, my oldest daughter had a moment of indecision. Pink sprinkled frosting or chocolate sprinkled frosting?
“I can’t decide, Mommy,” she says. “They both look so good.”
She’s in agony. A choice between yummy and yummy. If I’d asked her to choose between a doughnut and a hefty serving of brussel sprouts she’d have had no problem.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about choice, and what it means to me, and these are the kind of decisions that are the most difficult. There is no obvious choice in two positives. The decision process is even more difficult if you feel your choices are all negatives. How does one pick between one bad outcome and another?
As I’ve gotten older, and whoa, I’m feeling ancient these days at thirty-five, I’ve found that the important choices in my life often come in shades of gray. As they say, the more you see, the less you know. I posed this problem to the smartest woman in my acquaintance, my mother. Not only is she insightful, she reads Aristotle and books with titles like The Fabric of the Cosmos for fun. So she’s my go-to for all questions philosophical.
She said that a Jesuit scholar once explained to her that the highest form of intellectual functioning is to hold paradox in your mind. This struck me as a fascinating concept…the idea that two opposing ideas could coexist: be simultaneously at odds and correct. In my opinion, when thinking people have difficulty with an ambiguous decision, they are putting this concept into practice. It’s much more challenging to look at all options and weigh them equally than to take a view that’s painted in colors of one extreme or another.
The danger in this way of thinking, however, is that it can lead to something I detest: indecision.
In the past, there was one path to success as a writer: you got an agent, and your agent pitched your work to publishing houses. Hopefully the stars aligned and you nailed the elusive publishing contract. The choice was easy, because there was no choice. These days, however, writers can choose from traditional publishing, self-publishing, and routes that combine a bit of both. All options have their supporters and detractors, their success stories and failure stories. It’s a time when things are both wide-open and intimidating. What’s a writer to do?
I guess I approach this issue in the same way I approach ambiguous decisions in my life. Maybe there is no perfect decision that will wrap everything up in a pretty parcel. No right choice, just a made choice. It can be more difficult when everyone around you has an opinion, and those opinions run in conflict with one another.
So you weigh your options, pick a route and embrace it. If that choice turns out to be the wrong one, well, then that course will have led you to another choice and another chance.
Self-publish or traditional? This job/house/college or that one? Full-time parent or career? Fight or flight? Pink sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles?
In the end, few decisions are really final. Those who love you will love you, those who believe in you will believe in you. And I truly believe that a decision, no matter how it goes down, is better than no decision at all.