I sat in my favourite café, ordered my favourite coffee and began typing, and typing, and typing. Until I was hungry.
Then I looked at the brunch menu and thought,
“Should I order the same thing I did last weekend, or should I try something different? I like the way that they scramble my eggs, and the gentle hint of salt on the smoked salmon. But on the other hand, that open sandwich looks interesting as I do have a craving for guacamole. But what about the dessert? should I get the brownie or the toasted banana bread?”
And this went on, and on, and on for the next 20 minutes. Until I was finally ready to order, only for them to run out of salmon, the brownies and the banana bread! So with some disappointment I was forced to order the open sandwich.
Interestingly, it appeared that fate would inevitably force my hand, and that I would make a choice whether I was ready or not; even if it came at the cost of my right to choose, or at least the illusion of it.
And this was typical of me throughout the majority of my life; which on many occasions led me to miss opportunities because of my fear of making the wrong decision, if of course you believe in wrong decisions (I prefer to think of them as hard roads, leading to seemingly hard truths, but truths nonetheless).
My indecisiveness was always rooted in fear;
• The fear of a disappointing brunch, diametrically opposed with the opportunity to taste something different.
• The fear of others’ disapproval (and the disapproval of my ego) based on perceived societal, physical attractiveness, and racial biases, versus the recognition and expression of my own feelings of attraction for a romantic interest. Not to mention my fear of rejection.
• The fear of being ridiculed by the religious and non-religious alike because of my spiritual views and beliefs, in opposition to the great peace and inner strength that I derived from them.
• The fear of my own perceived guilt and selfishness, in contention with taking certain career and life opportunities, because they would take me further away from family, particularly those with physical and mental health problems, who will not have the same level of support from me.
So I would stay silent, function in autopilot when I needed to, or defer decision-making. Then contemplate the possibilities (related to my last post), but the answer would never bring me comfort, it would just further remind me of missed opportunities and life experiences.
I grew up believing and learning that as the man of the house, the weight of responsibility was on my shoulders, and to bear it and grin; for to do otherwise would be selfish or an abdication of duty or maturity.
Ironically I had taken one of the things I loved most in the world and moulded my world-view around it, cast in the mould of the archetypal, spandex-wearing comic book superhero of the Silver Ages. The one that would forsake themselves for the lives of all others, or perhaps I distorted this philosophy and took it too far?
As a young adult I was able to function at work but outside of any sense of authority; be that an employer, parent or religious teacher I was conflicted, which manifested as indecisiveness, anxiety and procrastination. This interfered with my intuition and my ability to discern for myself and say no. I experienced many weekends feeling paralysed where I would be bed bound, or would sit in the same space, watching the same thing just wasting away hours, minutes and seconds doing nothing in particular.
Thinking about all of this, it was no surprise that I ended up in the Evangelical Church. After all their message was all about sacrifice, and the worthlessness of individual opinion and ambition compared with preaching the Good News; and it was a quick fix to my problems, providing me with a new and greater purpose at the time, but in the long run this only served to mask and exasperate my underlying conflict.
Fortunately a couple of things in my life helped me heal and confront my own inner-demons. The former of which was a very pleasant experience, and the latter I can only describe as ‘therapeutic’ in the most extreme sense of the word, or maybe a better term to use would be ‘tough love’ on the part of fate, and these things were;
• The encouragement and love from my mother. As adults as we both came to terms with our identities and conflicts through open discussion and a lot of quality time. She helped me become courageous!
• My need to please others through sacrificing my own desires and down-playing my feelings, which led to some pretty significant life experiences (religious and personal). But in the end my own unhappiness became too great to bear and I knew that one day I was going to explode.
I believe that life, God, the Universe or whatever term you would like to use presents you with a multitude of opportunities to confront such fears and in my mind this would explain why such situations appear to re-occur or increase in magnitude- Forcing us to confront ourselves.
I never understood that as an adult I could still serve those I love but still pursue and prioritise my own desires. I never understood that its ok, and not the end of the world if someone disagrees with my decisions and that their disappointment is not necessarily valid.
And I never understood that we are all entitled to give back to ourselves or make ourselves a priority. Because even when we choose to serve others, we cannot wholeheartedly to do so, or truly love others in service, if we don’t love or value ourselves. The balance and degree of which is up to us to personally decide, with respect to the feelings and thoughts of others.
Whatever decisions we make will either work out, or not work out in practical terms, but they will in the long run help us work out ourselves. Either way, we will learn. Be that with a sense of recognition that we were authentic to our feelings at the time, providing some peace of mind; or with a sense of disappointment because fate as it were compelled us to make a decision based on circumstance rather than our true feelings. Or worse, a feeling of self-resentment in the absence of any decision at all.
In any event, I was pleasantly surprised with my open sandwich and it was so filling that I did not need a dessert! So at least I had something sweet to go along with my initial disappointment.