If you wanted to do anything badly enough you would either just do it or die trying and the pieces would fall into place to support you. In moments when we pursue what we really want – fueled by ability and experience, desire and passion or all of those – we don’t think about choice. We don’t weigh pros and cons. We don’t perceive limitations and discuss options. We go forth in faith with an assumptive clarity that we’ll succeed in getting what we want. That somehow, everything will work in our favor.
But most of the time we don’t live this way at all. Most of the time we make excuses for why we can’t have or do or get what we want. Ultimately, we forget everything is a choice.
For months I’ve been inviting my friend Donna to a meeting of a women’s spirituality group near where we live. The meeting is every other Tuesday night at 7:00. Donna has three kids between the ages of six and thirteen and a husband who travels for work every week. Essentially, she’s a single mother of three about 75% of the time.
So I get why it’s challenging for her to make it to a weekday night meeting. Child care would have to be found and paid for. Kids would have to be fed and helped with homework. Planning would be required. It might not be easy for Donna to come to a meeting, but it’s entirely possible.
To hear her tell it, she’d really like to attend but it’s out of the question.
What’s really happening? She’s simply choosing not to go.
In instances like this we’re usually not conscious nor willing to admit that we’re making a choice, but we are. In addition we’re not usually aware – we almost can’t be – of the subconscious rationalization and self-talk happening on deeper levels. But I suspect that in Donna’s case what’s behind the scenes is one of the following:
- In lieu of not being able to find a babysitter, she’s choosing to responsibly parent her kids by being with them rather than leaving them to care for themselves.
- She’s choosing comfort and ease (the status quo) over the effort and inconvenience of finding and paying a babysitter and prepping the kids for her not being there
- She’s choosing to avoid conflict with her husband by suggesting he try to be home with the kids so she can go out.
- The idea of going to the group makes her uncomfortable in some way, and added to the additional inconvenience and work of preparation and child care, it’s just easier not to go.
- Some combination of the above.
I’m not interested in judging Donna’s choices – they’re hers alone. I’m only pointing out that she, like all of us, are indeed making choices even when we say instead “I have no choice”. Interestingly, we usually only say that when our choices are difficult or push us out of our comfort zone.
The choices Donna would have to make to go to a weekday night event will likely involve doing things she doesn’t like to or want to do, but they are choices. I suspect they are choices which, in her opinion, are not worth the discomfort or disharmony they would cause her. After all, if her desire to attend the group were stronger than her desire to avoid conflict and inconvenience, I know she’d find a way to go.
A problem arises when avoiding difficulty or challenge at all costs becomes our norm. When we avoid inconvenience or discomfort and in the process sacrifice our desires, we lose in the end. Discomfort and disharmony are sometimes signals that we’re not where we’re supposed to be, but they’re just as often precursors to growing into greater alignment with who we really are. If we avoid all discomfort, preferring instead a life of safety and ease, we stall.
Another pitfall is we get in our own way by thinking we know what it would take to act on our desires and if the road seems bumpy we become risk-averse. The truth is that you never really know if the road is bumpy or not until you travel it. And the greatest irony of all (lord does the universe have a wicked sense of humor!) is that the minute we go forth in faith, honoring our desires and passions, the universe conspires in our favor, removes the potholes and roadblocks, and shows us a smooth path we never could have imagined.
Some weeks, namely when my own husband is out of town, I myself have chosen not to go to the Tuesday night group, preferring instead to stay with my twelve year old daughter. This week, I chose the other way and left her home alone for two hours. Yes, it’s harder this way, because it forces me to figure out what I really want and take responsibility for it by owning my action or inaction. It’s the difference between choosing to stand in your power or choosing to be a victim. Whatever I decide (stay or go), I am consciously and intentionally making a choice rather than allowing circumstances or people to dictate it.
Like Vicky White says, we’re not here to lead a one or two-level existence. On a scale of 1 to 10, we’re here to live a 10-level existence. Our desires – even if easily thwarted – are our biggest allies because without them we lack the motivation to get out of our comfort zones and PUSH for what we really want. Often, we need to push through tedium, dirty diapers, traveling spouses, logistical arrangements, lack of money – the list goes on. But reach we must because nothing worth having in this life is getting delivered on a silver platter any time soon.
Spirit is a responsive force. The universe awaits movement and direction on our part before it can conspire in our favor. I think it was the prophet Mohamed who said, “When you take one step towards God, God takes two steps towards you.” While that’s reassuring, that’s not all there is to it. It seems to me the way things work is We – not God – must step first. We must always step first. In the end, actions speak louder than words.