I’m not sure anything makes us more uniquely human than the power to make choices. We make hundreds of choices a day and probably don’t think much about it. We shape up our hours and our days and our lives with the choices that we make, and yet we often feel so out of control.
When I saw this word on the list for today, I thought back to my high school years. I was meeting with a therapist, in the process of recovering from a particularly traumatic period of time. One day, in defense of something she was challenging me on, I said “I didn’t have a choice”.
She responded with something I hear in my head to this day: “Of course you did, we almost always have a choice. You just didn’t have a choice you liked.”
At the time that was not information I wanted to hear – in fact it is information that someone who has chosen poorly never wants to hear – but it was very true. Choosing between two “bad” choices still comes with a responsibility.
All choices have consequences and some of them are immediate and some develop slowly like film in a dark room. We don’t have a choice about whether or not Danny rides a school bus this year, but the choice we made about what school he would attend was what set that in motion. I don’t have control over what his days look like in hybrid secondary education, but I made the election to send him.
There are things that are out of our control, of course. There will be storms, illnesses, catastrophic events truly beyond the scope of our individual actions. In the cases where we can’t control what happens to us, the only choice we get is how we respond.
And in my life, those are the choices I am much more likely to regret.
Why? I think it is because I think about them a lot less. I could spend more time deciding what coffee to order than how to respond to an internet troll. I might make lists of pros and cons for weeks when I’m trying to determine at school placement for one of the boys but immediately spiral into anxious despair over a few bad tests.
I need to remember that even if my options look bad, I can regain control by refusing to believe the worst and choosing to hope for the best.