Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | By: Lynn

What Now? Life, Decisions, and Randomness

Frequently I yell out, “Crystal ball now!”

I stole that demand from Doug Heffernan, of the television show King of Queens, who yelled it in a moment he needed instant knowledge so he could make the right decision.

Like Doug, I face decisions all the time that seem so important to get right. Big and small decisions that for me carry weight. I’m a pretty serious person and I see in my mind’s eye implications of decisions, unintended consequences. I mainly want to avoid unhappy, uncomfortable, possible wrong decisions that take me down a path I didn’t expect. For instance, a conversation between my husband and me about dinner:

Him – Wanna take a bike ride before dinner? Get some exercise in?

Me – It’s 4 o’clock.

Him – I know.

Me – It would have to be short because I have to be here to make dinner.

Him -- I know. We could eat late.

Me – No, ‘cause then we won’t be able to get everything done we need to and be ready to sit down to watch our show.

Him – Maybe we could eat just sandwiches.

Me – Well, we could but then you won’t have enough deli meat for you to take a sandwich to work tomorrow.

Him – Okay, well, let’s not bike then.

Me – Okay.

For me, pushing back our schedule would mean stress. I don’t want stress. But what could be the unintended consequences of “our” decision to skip the bike ride (Yes, I know I am the one who shut down the bike ride)? For my husband, skipping exercise could lead to more arthritic knee pain. We’re both trying to lose weight, but we’ve chosen against an activity in favor of remaining couch potatoes.

Some decisions carry much weightier results. They are crystal-ball worthy choices. Should I go back to school and get a graduate degree even though my children are young and I would miss some of their childhood? Should we move to live closer to half our family when we retire, even though it means leaving all our friends and the other half of the family behind? Should I set aside my paying work to finish my present WIP when I don’t know if it will pay off? And on a daily basis I weigh whether or not I should set aside my writing and devote hours to social media and promotions.

I’ve been trying to be more open to spontaneity and to believe that something unexpected doesn’t necessarily mean something bad. If I can let go of control maybe I’ll find life gives me open doors I didn’t know about. In writing, that might mean though I struggle with self-doubt, if I pursue my goals, maybe an unexpected scene will flow onto the page or maybe an editor will suggest a spin-off series.

Life could be an adventure that includes happy and uncomfortable and sad and scary stuff. There are many philosophies and distractions we humans use to keep us going and staying hopeful and able to continue on in the face of the hard stuff. A popular one states, “Everything happens for a reason.” It comforts us when things don’t go as we’d planned or hoped. If an editor rejects my story, it’s because other opportunities are better. That’s the reason the editor rejected my story.

But I don’t prescribe to that thought. I think we make decisions, not knowing what will happen but we plan as best we can. Then we live with the consequences of our choices. We can use our insights, explore possibilities, but random is still a factor in our lives, whether we’re open or controlling. I’m thinking the concept of accepting what happens, processing it, and then using the good and the bad to inform my next decision is a powerful way to live. It acknowledges the feelings and ramifications of choices and asks, “Now what?” It’s what we do with what comes our way that matters.

What are some statements of life philosophies that you prescribe to?