I hate having choices! Where I grew up (in the former Soviet Union) we usually had one choice. For everything. In fact we were happy to have that one choice, because most of the time we had none at all. For example, if you saw a line for winter boots, you wouldn’t be picky about the size they had left by the time you reached the counter. You’d try to make them fit (if nothing else, that was a good exercise in building your character), or, in the case of absolutely irreconcilable differences between your feet and the size of the boots, you’d pass them on to somebody else – a family member or a friend. The same went for jeans, bras, and any other essentials. Most of the time, when we saw a line, we wouldn’t even ask what it was for – we knew we needed it.
The upside of that life style was that we had no confusion. Here in America, you can’t order a sandwich without being showered with multiple choices of ingredients, condiments, breads, etc. And that is not to mention that at the end, the sales clerk will ask, “For here or to go?” When I heard that for the first time, I – fresh off the plane – said, “Is there a particular place I need to go to with my sandwich?” (Just kidding, I couldn’t have said that. I spoke no English then :).) I was also asked if I wanted a “bottomless cup,” which left me almost in a state of paralysis, for how could a bottomless cup hold any coffee?!
Another thing that is wrong with having several choices is that as soon as you make your choice, you are responsible for the outcome of your decision. This is exactly why my husband avoids making decisions altogether: where we should go on vacation, where we should stay when we get there, etc. In fact, he doesn’t even choose the movies we see! Which means that I am the one who makes all these decisions and who suffers the consequences (well, I usually let him know that I’m suffering, so he’s not completely oblivious).
And you know what his indecision does to me? I’ve become really and truly neurotic. When a waitress walks me to a table, I am never happy with that table, so I ask her if we could sit at a different table – which inevitably turns out to be even worse than the first one, and I have to start all over from the beginning. Actually, my problems start even before my husband and I walk into the restaurant – at the moment when he asks me where I’d like to go for dinner. This usually happens on a Friday night – when my decision-making ability is depleted by working 5 days in the library and dealing with whatever that may entail. (Did I tell you that the last time I was the librarian-in-charge somebody jumped off the second floor balcony, and I had to call the police and the ambulance, and then talk to three traumatized bystanders who tried to prevent the guy from falling and killing himself? — Don’t worry. The jumper landed on his feet.) In any case, the last thing I want to do on Friday night is to make another decision. So, I say, where do you want to go? And my husband says, where do you want to go? And after several rounds of that, he finally names a place – which is never the one I want to go to. You’d think that after 15 years together he’d know better! Yet he never does. Even worse, as soon as I convey that fact to him, he says, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” And I say, “Because before I didn’t know that I wouldn’t like it!”
Jokes aside, we make choices every day, and even the smallest of them change us in some ways – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and at other times both. Yet we rarely know in advance which one it will be. The most important choice I’ve ever made was to leave my home country. Was it a good choice? Yes, it was, and I am glad to have made it. But I am separated from my sister and my parents, who now live in Israel, and my daughter decided to spread our family even further – she, as well as my two adorable grandchildren, lives in London. These are the consequences of my decision. Did I see them coming? Of course, not. As Kahlil Gibran said, “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.”
Going back to choices, a week ago, we all made our choice. Let’s hope it is a good one!
P.S. Do share your stories with me, would you?
Choice is freedom in a small scale. Freedom is a tough path and a lonely one. Wonderful Blog!
Thank you so much, Agnes! Eleanor Roosevelt said: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Making a choice becomes easier if you don’t take it too seriously. In fact, sometimes I prefer to tolerate consequences of the wrong choice than to go through the process of analyzing what I really want. This approach does not work, unfortunately, when other people are involved. Sometimes you have to take responsibility. That is also good, makes your brain work 🙂
Well written, thanks!
Interesting! Actually, you’re not alone in believing that too much thinking may be just … too much! According to one of behavioral psychology books I read, when people are faced with 2, 3, or 4 choices, they are doing fine. Yet when the number is increased (I believe it was over 7 or so), they often drop the whole thing all together.
All in all, it’s lucky that we can decide what serial to eat in the morning :).
Svetlana, This is charming! Great work! Thanks, Mary Beth ________________________________
I was thinking about the freedom of a personal choice in USSR for quite a while when I had to decide which profession is the best fit to me. I was fortunate to be mostly interested in astronomy and physics so to making the “single soviet” choice was a kind of easy to me. So, I did it once and forever. It works very well for this country 🙂
Lucky you! 🙂
All I can say is, SO TRUE!! My husband and I go through the, “Where do you want to go for dinner” question every time we go out! It really is quite comical. But I think it stems from being married to a really nice guy who thinks he’s being helpful by letting you decide.