Originally posted on my blogger blog - July 7, 2018. Not much has changed! I can still learn so much from using this tool.
Other Side of the Decision
Regret, no one really wants to carry the weight of regret, am I right? I know I don’t, and I have carried a not insignificant amount of it during my life. But - I’m working on it.
My youngest daughter has been a good impetus for the change. She doesn’t let me off the hook quite as easily as her older siblings when it comes to getting me out of my comfort zone. She is very persistent. When she has set her mind on something she wants to do, she lets me know early on and doesn’t let me forget until we’ve either done it or the opportunity has passed us by and then the regret instantly sets in...
I had a lightbulb moment this past week or two - we have not one, but two, yearly bucket lists that haunt me year after year. I don’t know exactly when it started but the first one to appear could clearly be labeled Mom’s Christmas Season Bucket List Fails. Somewhere along the line, I lost any enthusiasm I had previously experienced and enjoyed for Christmas. Bam! There it is - I fell victim to the Scrooge syndrome. In the clutter of decorations that are only drug out one time of the year only to be dealt with several weeks later returning them to their place of storage (which inevitably takes up entirely too much precious space in our somewhat smallish house), the list of 500 things to do to make this Christmas perfect (this began before the advent of Pinterest!), and the disappointment of unmet expectations (others and my own), I found myself dreading the approach of “The Holidays”. The anti-climatic nature of it all makes my skin crawl even as I type this. But - I’m working on it.
Then it suddenly occurred to me, I have also developed a similar attitude about Summer. I imagine it was when the last of the grown kids moved out and left sweet Rachel behind that I started to write a Summer list of thing-we-hope-to-do in the short span of three months or less. Every year the list looks pretty much the same. Every year we manage to accomplish about the same number of items on the list, and it’s usually the same things. The things that stand out on the list are not those that we did do but those that we didn't.
So why is it that I continue to torture myself with that damn lists?! I have no idea, honestly. But I know it has something to do with the fact that I don’t like living with regret, and I have plenty of it already from my lack of play time with another of my daughters. A vivid memory I have is that of her incessant requests to play board games with her. Unfortunately, my most frequent answer was, “I’m busy right now, maybe later.” Later rarely, if ever, came. She finally gave up and stopped asking. Regret, regret, regret... and now I realize that the list is the enemy. The lists are the enemies. I have been in this season of life where I am trying to recognize things that cause (or have potential to cause) regret and make better choices. Sometimes those look like hard choices until you get on the other side of them, and then they don’t seem nearly as hard as expected. This effort has spread across many areas of my life; decisions about physical space in our home, clutter of excess weight that resides on my body, commitments of time and effort that drain my energy physically, mentally and emotionally, and stewardship of money and other resources. It is a work-in-progress for sure. I’m not alone. There is a movement called Hands Free Mamas that is striving for the same thing; living a life less distracted and more purposeful even in the midst of imperfection and ordinary moments. I'm certain this is only one of many parts of the same 'movement' looking for ways to escape the merry-go-round that keeps us from engaging in our best life, keeping our priorities in right order. How did we all arrive at this place of confused priorities and hollow relationships? Many of us have simply forgotten how to appreciate what's right in front of us, the good things that are part of ordinary days and ordinary moments. We buy into the ideas that more is better, busy is good and later will always come. It doesn't. Later does not always come. Among the sources of encouragement and guidance I'm using to keep bringing my focus back where it belongs, is Hands Free Mama and Only Love Today, both by Rachel Macy Stafford. I also recently picked Love the Home you Have by Melissa Michaels off my own bookshelf where it has been patiently waiting for me. I love the way slogans, mottos, adages, and quotes can work their way into our minds to keep refocusing us when we stray. I kind of came up with another of my own as a result of narrowing a thought process down to this simple idea; the Other Side of the Decision - OSD. What is waiting for me on the other side of this decision? Is there a greater chance of regret if I do this or that? How will I feel on the other side of this decision? What consequences are waiting on the other side of this decision? I have started using this for so many decisions I have to make, from the very simple to the more complex. For example - to buy a new house and move or stay in the one we have. It has not really been 100% settled because we choose to trust that if God were to reveal something different for us, we would want to follow that lead. For the time being, however, the other side of the decision looks something like this - 1) buy a new house - new mortgage/higher payment/30 more years of said payments/less disposable cash/retirement possibly delayed for several years/have to sell current house/physical move/what if we don't love the new place any more than the current/there is no perfect house out there so we'd probably still have to make some renovations, so more $/ = lots of potential regret. LOTS of POTENTIAL regret for the hope of more space to gather as a family. That's it - that's all we're really trying to accomplish with a new house. The other side of the decision 2) stay in this house - paid off in 7 years/no move/more disposable income = more travel, ability to help others when needed/retirement within reach/already love our neighbors/reap the benefit of trees we have planted and are now mature/potential for renovating to make more space and enjoy the things about our house that we already like = not much potential for regret. The only regret might be that I continue to be frustrated until we make the renovations necessary to help create more space. And that can be done (and hopefully will be) by the end of this year. This seems like a no brainer to me. Debt is suffocating to me. I don't want to bite off 30 years of debt in exchange for my vision of gathering space. The key to contentment is not to have what you want, but to want what you have, right? There is a very good chance that my vision for that gathering space is distorted by unreasonable expectations anyway. I would much rather learn to appreciate and want what I have than risk having what I think I want and still being discontent. On a much more simple note, an example is what happened just yesterday. For a few weeks now, we had been contemplating our 4th of July plans. There is major event, Fair STL, held every year to celebrate America's Biggest Birthday Party. We are within driving distance and have only attended once. The entertainment line-up was of interest to us, so in my enthusiasm to fulfill the Summer Bucket List, I declared we should go. Well, let me tell you, my girl latched onto that promise like it was the last breath she'd ever take. Ruh-roh. Did I mention that I hate crowds, not having control over my travel to and from places, and midwestern heat and humidity? Did I ever mention that all to often my mouth gets ahead of my brain? This perhaps could be considered one of those moments. I had opened a door that was not so easily going to be shut. I did try though. I confessed the night before that I really just didn't want to go, I wanted to want to go, but I really didn't want to go. I offered up a day trip to local caverns where it would be less crowded and oh so much cooler. I'd have full control over our travel and I would be much more comfortable with that choice. Until I wasn't. That plan was received well, it was the plan in place when we went to sleep that night. Then morning came, and a voice that whispered in my ear - "Go to the Fair, it will be okay". Then I remembered my new motto - the question I ask myself to evaluate the potential for regret on the other side of the decision. Which choice holds the most potential for regret; not going to the Fair and seeing the disappointment that will live in my daughter's memories or going and experiencing the temporary discomfort of crowds and heat and dealing with public transportation? You can probably guess which choice won out. We went to the Fair. Now let me share what that decision did. Not only am I relieved and thrilled to not have the weight of that regret to live with, it actually turned out to be a seriously fantastic day. The weather could not have been more perfect, and by the time the fireworks began there was a cool breeze blowing. I'm not sure I even broke a sweat all day, even while we were walking the Arch grounds. The venue was incredible, and although we were told it might have been a record breaking crowd, there was plenty of space for everyone, people were friendly and patient, and when it was over, the crowd flow got us from the venue, through the line and on the metro headed for home in less than 12 minutes. That was with a stroller in tow and staying in a steady line of orderly movement with no running, rushing or passing to get ahead of anyone else. There was plenty of security and assistance for anyone who needed it. I'm really just impressed with our city and really happy to have made the right decision. All because I asked myself the question - what is on the other side of the decision? I hope I'll be putting this tool to use more often. I am finding that it really is helping me make decisions that get me out of my comfort zone and into my life.