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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

I ate an oat bran muffin for breakfast.

I ate another one after lunch and put turmeric maple sunflower butter on it.

I basically want to stress eat everything but I’m trying not to.

I need a word, which I told myself not to worry about, and that was such good advice that it’s almost 7pm and I still have no word.

The only word that came to mind today was choice, as in you always have one.

I mean, if someone pushes you down a flight of stairs, in which case you are going to have no choice but to fall unless you can whip out your flying superpowers, you really do get to decide what you’ll do.

How about this. You can’t decide what happens to you. You can only decide what you will do about it.

There is always an if-clause.

Which makes it easy to say “I have no choice.”

Like when I work until 10 at night. I can say I have no choice because something is due or there is something really important going on. But I can still choose not to. There may be consequences, but it’s still my choice.

So the sentence is really more like “I have no choice IF I want to get this done so I don’t piss off my client and/or get fired.”

But that’s conditional.

I can choose to piss them off and get fired, or at least risk it.

So really it’s on me.

I didn’t reflect much on this today except towards the very end of the day when it was 5pm and I was still working because I wanted to finish something. I would rather have been done and had dinner and chilled out but in my state of utter distraction and whirlwind, I messed up a client site so beyond anything rational that it’s a wonder I didn’t fire myself.

So I spent some time extricating myself from that disaster and didn’t want to quit until it was done. In the end I got it done.

So it was a choice, and I’m fine knowing that. I chose to do what I considered to be the right thing, and the important thing.

But other things, like spending day and night on a project for [reasons that I invent]. That is a choice, too. Yeah, stuff needs to get done, and everything is on red alert, but then everything with some people is a crisis.

And I choose to be part of it. Or not.

Today I had such a surreal conversation with someone, it’s the kind if thing that leaves you scratching your head and really questioning what you’re doing with your life.

Let’s see if I can come up with an apt analogy.

Person: Take all the furniture out of my room.

Me: Ok, but then the only place to sit will be on the floor.

Person: Oh, but I can’t sit on the floor.

Me: Then I need to bring some furniture in the room.

Person: But I don’t want any furniture in the room.

Ok, so do you want me to use my magical powers to hover you above the floor?

I mean.

I chose my answer carefully. My answer was [   ].

I know I have choices. And I make the shitty ones. Like, let’s see… should I go to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, or should I stay home and work on a client project because they decided to impose an arbitrary deadline?

Considering this actually happened, and I’ve already said that I make shitty choices, you can imagine how that turned out.

Also this happened, what, three years ago? Four? When they decided that while they were all off on holiday with their families, we had to stay home and work so when they all got back they would have their project done.

And we said… ok.

And now it’s happening all over again, and we’re saying ok all over again, except it’s not ok.

I have a choice. It may not be an ideal choice, and there may be consequences, but the choice is between my life, and… not.

And I want my life back.

I had a conversation with my friend Kaarina about this yesterday. Maybe it was yesterday or maybe the day before or who knows because I have no idea what day of the week it is anymore. Because that’s how I choose it to be.

And she asked me some questions that were annoyingly astute. Like, why am I doing this, and what is it that I want to get out of it, and what is the advantage of doing what I’m doing.

She was much more eloquent about it than I’m being right now, but I didn’t have any answers that I liked.

Oh, I had answers. I know why I’m doing this. Because I have misplaced priorities, because my priority is always to some “other” thing and never myself. Because for whatever reasons of the universe and the atoms that make up my brain, obligation and responsibility seem to trump everything else, even my health, even my family and friends, even my mental well-being.

It makes me so SO mad at myself, and I know that if I go back to November of whatever that evil year was and I read my journals, I will have written about very good reasons why we had to do what we did, why it was important. I’m sure I told myself a lot of things, but I think about it now and I ask myself what Kaarina asked me. What did I gain by doing that, am I in such a better place now that I honored their arbitrary deadline, has my life improved, did anything at all come of it except for the fact that I did not get to do what was important to me?

I know the answer to that, too.

It’s like I’m perpetually trying to prove something to someone. See, I CAN deliver your project when you want it.

Like that is what self worth is built on.

In the end it’s a choice I made and it’s a choice I’m still making except after talking to Kaarina yesterday somehow this tiny shaft of light got through my dense skull and I was like…

Hang on.

What AM I doing this for?

There are consequences. There are always consequences. The choice is what I’m willing to sacrifice for what else.

I said I have made a lot of bad choices but that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve just made the wrong ones for what really matters. I spent too much time wondering what everyone else wanted me to be and not enough deciding who I want to be.

If anything has come of this it’s that it’s time to choose things that align with the things that are important to me, and what I want from my life, my relationships, my career, and myself.

It’s kind of a cop out to say things like I have no choice, or even just I have to because it’s hardly ever true. It’s maybe conditionally true, but the IF part of the equation is never really as compelling in retrospect as I make it sound in the moment.

Here’s what I’m going to do instead of check off little boxes on paper: I’m going to spend some time figuring out who I am and what I want out of life. Things weren’t always like this but they’ve been like this for long enough that I’m starting to forget there is anything else.

I DID forget there was anything else. It wasn’t until someone slammed an alternative into my face like a clown pie that I thought oh, maybe I don’t actually have to keep choosing this same path.

I really need more conversations like that one. I need to be asked more often whether what I’m doing matters, and to whom.

I almost cancelled that call. We scheduled it a few days in advance, and I put it on the calendar, but as usual, work things happened and red alert buttons got pushed. I almost told her I needed to reschedule the call to the next day. Or maybe the next. I almost decided I didn’t have the energy to talk, that forming a full sentence was beyond my capabilities.

But maybe things were already brewing, because I decided that if I could summon the energy to deal with everyone else’s crises, then I could certainly summon the energy to talk to someone who is important to me.

I made a good choice.

Oh, you know what else I decided? That I’m changing my daily list with all the little boxes to check off. There are things on it that don’t serve me. That I do because at some point I put them on there and now I feel like I’m somehow obligated to do them.

So now I’m CHOOSING to get rid of those things and stop requiring myself to do them. Trust me, my life is not going to spin out of control because I leave the dishes in the sink overnight.

I guess I’ve ranted sufficiently. I’m going to have another muffin now and put chocolate sunflower butter on it, even though I already had two today, because they are made out of oat bran and I tell myself they’re healthy. In comparison to eating a box of cookies, they are.

Quite possibly that choice will make me mad, too, when I get on the scale next and it’s not good news. Guess we’ll find out, then I will know if two oat bran muffins is the limit, or I can swing three without turning into a cow. At least I know I’ll have a choice about what to do next.

Photo: a tree fallen across the path in the park where Ralph and I usually walk. You can go over it, under it, around it, or find another direction. There is always a choice.