It Is Always a Choice
I do not have a global positioning service activated on my phone, which yes does have the capability to navigate my life; but I choose instead to either use a map or rely on serendipity to guide me. Though it works well for me, I am not necessarily recommending it as a way of life, but nor am I willing to proclaim that either the phone or anyone else actually have the answers I am searching for and that bit of truth may apply to you as well.
Recently, I was listening to someone speak about the very real limits in their life; they seemed to be feeling that theirs was a life defined by restricted choices. I did not disagree with them about the constraints that they lived with; but I did take exception to their perception, of the choices, available to them, because of said constraints.
As the conversation unsatisfactorily drew to a close, my mind wondered back to a bouquet of birds-of-paradise, which has forever stayed with me, and changed how I not only looked at the flowers but at life.
I will always remember walking into Lia’s home many years ago, and seeing a beautiful vase, filled with birds-of-paradise, a plant, which in Southern California, is almost as ubiquitous as grass.
Initially I was astounded by the majestic arrangement; being drawn in by the bold and bright colors and slightly mesmerized by the angles of the flowers, which all but project flight. It was, at that moment, as if I was seeing the intricate flowers, of the strelitzia regina, for the first time; this is a plant commonly used in landscaping, in this part of the world, as it is drought resistant, hardy, easily cultivated, and provides reliable color, thus not only did Lia have it growing in her yard, but so did thousands upon thousands of people.
I knew Lia was and is brilliant, but suddenly, I also thought her very clever. I did not ask her why she had made a bouquet of birds-of-paradise; did she indeed want this particular flower or was it what was available to her, as the why did not seem to matter. What mattered was that she had seized the moment, as it were – she had adorned her table perfectly, and her choice had given me a new perspective, something I very much appreciated then and now.
As we welcome a new year, I cannot help but reflect on the role of choice and perspective in our lives.
I wrote in my column last month that my motto for 2016 was to go; not just on trips that were destined for a local I knew would lead to an enjoyable experience, or when I felt rested and ready for an adventure, or flush with spending money or was invited, or had the time, or the weather was perfect or was in the mood; rather I set out to go despite the destination or the circumstances, or my level of discomfort – and I must say it was an excellent choice!
For me, this choice meant that instead of staying at home, while Kate ran out to do an errand, I went with her, whether I was dressed, cold, hot, busy, working, hungry, tried . . . she was leaving the house, I was going to go, period. It also meant that if we drove through a town, at an least remotely decent time of day, where someone lived, that I knew, I took a shot and knocked on their door, oddly, they mostly opened the door, it also meant that if I walked past a place and instantly wished I had gone in, I turned around and went in, whether I knew what the place was or not.
While the going definitely dominated 2016, the other significant factor in my life last year was taking a chance on limitless rejection.
I am not a brave person. I am a person who goes and does, I always have been, but I am so often nervous or afraid when I step out into the unknown, including expressing how I feel about people. Often when I want to do something for someone, I will initiate the process, and then hand it off, mostly to Kate who I think willingly will complete the task, on my behalf. I almost always feel like I am bothering someone or do not want to make them uncomfortable or am just embarrassed to initiate the call or interaction; but in 2016, I decided to dam the torpedoes and go straight ahead.
For me, that meant regardless of how silly it may seem to you, I just went ahead and said you know what, I saw this, it reminded me of you and here you go. I was very brazen in my interactions with the people, in my world, telling them how I felt, not just in regard to my life, which for me is not difficult, but in regard to them, which oddly was much more challenging; but which mostly garnered me a lot more hugs than 2015; another excellent choice. I also approached more strangers, solicited more contributors this webzine, and shared more information with the people I interact with because of their work or my need.
(I do know I made a few of you uncomfortable with my openness, and yes, I was a little uncomfortable in receiving your thanks and reciprocation – giving is somehow easier, is it not, than receiving – but I am working on this.)
These choices lead to many unexpected opportunities and even a few happy conclusions to long unresolved problems. What I so wanted the person, I spoke with, to understand was that regardless of limits life may place on us, we still have a choice in deciding who, what, where, and when; and sometimes we are the ones limiting our choices, simply because of our perspective.
Let me say as clearly as I can, that I do get it – whatever your it may be, as oddly, we all have at least one it to deal with – most of us more than one.
Whether our it is time, money, or physical constraints, the top three its which seem to damper our desires, or the any of the many other countless its, from talent to possibility, or location to people, or luck to connections, they are all real and most assuredly impact our lives, but we do not have to be defined by the many its’ that so often serve as road blocks to our happiness.
When looking at our life and what we would like to do with the time we are given, we often speak about our dreams, and then fervently try to retract our statement, usually concluding that whatever we may be dreaming is in reality an impossibility, so why even try? I feel rather certain that the juxtaposition between dreams and reality is real, but not fatal.
I think so often we behave and believe that we are limited by constraints placed on us by the its’, when in reality it is that invisible other, which in-fact has the greatest negative impact on our life.
Whether it be what people may think or expect, beliefs held by groups we belong to from religious to political, or just the ideas we grew up with or are driven through popular culture and social media, we have become a society that continually and repeatedly relinquishes our power to some other voice, be it a telephone that thinks it knows the best route for you to travel, or a quiz actually designed to collect data about you, that masquerades as an oracle of wisdom directing you along a career path, or place to live, or God forbid who to marry.
I know this may be difficult for us to absorb, but while we cannot control the fact that say all we can afford this week is beans, we can control not only how we make those beans – look it up folks, there are endless ways to cook beans – but when we eat them and how we eat them and where we eat them and most importantly how we feel about those beans; and it all matters.
A cup of tea drunk from a paper cup, while driving down a crowded highway, is not the same as a cup of tea drunk from a pretty china cup with saucer, while listening to music as you look at your child sleeping or a favorite pet playing with a toy, or read a book or letter, or put elements in a scrapbook or stare out your window or enjoy it with a friend!
How we choose to perceive our life will impact our actions and the pleasure and joy we experience in our life.
Regardless of the its in our life and the limits which they bring, we have choices, and those choices are enlightened by our perspective.
I love having fresh flowers in my house. Of the many places I have lived, one of my favorite homes was a rented house in Whittier, because despite the slightly over-bearing landlord and too high a rent, the yard was filled with rose bushes, and I love roses!
Initially, I was a bit intimidated by the rose garden and worried about cutting the buds, fearing I might damage the bushes; but it did not take long to find a book about roses and begin to fill my home with fresh cut flowers, a true gift.
There is no doubt in my mind that my Mother introduced me to my love of nature; she was a woman who picked wild flowers and celebrated dandelions, but it was Lia who made me see that common shrubbery became common shrubbery because of an intrinsic beauty which should not be overlooked. We may not have access to gardenias or orchids, but that does not mean we cannot have fresh flowers in our house; if you cannot afford roses, buy carnations; and if you cannot buy carnations then by all means pick dandelions! That Is All For Now