choices, fallback positions, and faith

Recently, I’ve been faced smack-on with having to pursue one option or another.  Time to reflect on that idea, the idea of choice.

What to choose and how to make the decision?

My choices have been an either/or, but not both.  What would I choose and how to make the decision?

I found the answer to “how” by remembering a theory of successful negotiation–always always always have a bottom line, a position beyond which you do not progress.   Stand there quietly in that confident knowing.

The “what” came immediately because of the how, but this does not assume that it was easy.  So, “how” comes first.

The how is:  we have to know what we want, the shape of a path, even if we don’t fully know the path.  Choosing causes the path to veer and wind toward a goal, perhaps, or just allows a peaceful stance, one of acceptance of choices made.


A fallback position, the choice I could make if other options don’t seem to be working or presenting themselves, sounds like a good idea.   In theory.  In reality, adding an option that we don’t really want just adds tension and does not allow for acceptance.   So, no, I don’t want a fallback position because I don’t want to give up on paving my path with the choices I am interested in.

Having a fallback position presents too many options and causes paralysis.  Have to choose, to narrow down, to whittle away the swirling fog of confusion and plant my feet firmly somewhere.  Anywhere.  To do as my landscape design instructor kept hammering into us:  “Get in the boat.  Stay in the boat.”  (By which he meant, choose a theme/intent and stick with it.)

When first faced with this circumstance of either/or, I was newly out of the hospital and in fairly dire shape.  I remember thinking “Sophie’s Choice,” but I dismissed those words because of the horrific implications and I knew that my circumstance was not unthinkable.   (Sophie’s Choice is a novel about a woman at Auschwitz faced with an unspeakable situation.)

Nevertheless, there it was; my feelings, so very distant as to not exist, told me I had a decision to make.  These two choices were, essentially, my life or my mother’s life.  Oh dear god, you’re kidding!

If I wanted to live, to not risk going down the path toward death again, I had to choose me and not my mother.  It is still the correct choice, but not without a price.

choosing peace

Daily, I am reminded of that acceptance, even in the face of the pain, my own and my mother’s.   It does not help that I am so sensitive, that I feel the pain of others.  The pulling back from that ability is a wrenching, but necessary to keep to my path and find peace.  I cannot save the world.  Or my mother.  Only myself.


The acceptance sits easier because I have faith that all will work out:  I will get well and my mother will be safe.  (Yes, I get all wiggly sometimes and feel horrible, but I get through that!)

Define faith however you want, perhaps god-based, or Universe-based.  Until I was nearly 40, I never allowed faith into my life because I thought I was not entitled since I was not part of any organized religion (by choice) and did not believe in any mainstream god.  A Methodist minister I briefly met disabused me of that lack of entitlement quite quickly.  I came to see my faith as the outdoors, and the connectedness of all things, that indeed I felt gratitude and joy and awe.  That I did not need explanations, scientific or other, to tell me what I felt.

choices and faith?

Do I seem to be straying from reflections about making choices, and recognizing and discarding options?  In my mind, no.  Since I have faith that all will be as it should, I rest in the options I’ve exercised even while I don’t know the steps to the dance I’ve chosen.  However, having faith sometimes feels like working without a net, and damn that’s scary!  I want to live with grace and not struggle like a butterfly pinned to a specimen board.


A large life lesson for me has been to trust what I’m telling myself!  Trust that I really do want a blue car, or that I don’t care for huevos rancheros, or that I can have limits about other people’s behavior.   We call that setting boundaries, I think.  For me, it is the construction of beautiful, dry-laid walls, walls that had been destroyed by being hit with too much confusion and pain early on.

how hard does it have to be?

Another life lesson for me to unlearn has been that hard decisions had to be difficult, to cause suffering, to knock my pins out from under me.

Last summer I had a particularly appalling experience within the confines of family.  I remember the moment when I decided that it was not going to destroy me.  That I could acknowledge the intense, agonizing feelings, but not have them.  I was quite clear what feelings were attached to this episode, so I was sure I wasn’t just stuffing the pain into some corner, where it would rise up again and eat me alive.  I decided to be happy.

peace and oozing along

So, for me, the way to feel peaceful is to ooze along on my path, dance the steps slowly, and rest in faith.  I lean against the Universal connectedness at difficult times and ask for help.  Glory be, I receive it too!   I give back and feel gratitude.

No, the choosing is not always easy, but when I bring myself back to my truth, my choices, my bottom line, I do find peace.


26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. IsobelandCat
    May 03, 2012 @ 12:38:13

    I am enjoying your reflective and honest soul searching posts very much. They are refreshing, and thought provoking. I hope they help you too.


    • lahgitana
      May 03, 2012 @ 12:43:40

      Oh, thank you, Isobel! What lovely words! (I thought of putting a note at the top warning that there was more thinking-stuff, so leave while you can!)

      They do help me, Isobel, especially when I get all wiggly about decisions! Just because something is right doesn’t mean it’s easy!


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    May 03, 2012 @ 12:43:53

    Wow, this is tough, Laurel–really, really tough. I think the hard part here is thinking that there really is a choice at all. If you don’t choose yourself, you will likely cease to be. Is this true choice or the illusion of choice. It really does sound like a Sophie’s Choice kind of choice in that it is stunningly painful–and seemingly all one or the other. But somehow this sounds a bit different. Are there really legitimate options? I don’t know. I just wonder. But then, I suppose, Sophie’s options weren’t legitimate either when you get right down to it.

    Peace to you, my friend.



    • lahgitana
      May 03, 2012 @ 12:53:24

      That’s what made it so damn hard for me, Kathy. I think I’m invincible and can handle anything, so why SHOULDN’T I help with my mother?! Also, for quite some time, I didn’t realize how very ill I had been in the hospital and how ill I remained once I came home, so I dithered a while thinking I had a choice.

      I dunno about legitimate options, only that there they are in front of us sometimes. Isn’t the trick just trying like hell to find a place to stand in some sort of peace?

      Apparently, I wonder, too.

      You know what helped me choose? Big Mister telling me with urgency that I simply could not do anything except be ill. I was distant, so distant, and didn’t feel the depth of his meaning, but I kept his words and referred to them as my own truth. I had to believe him and the evidence I had of the hospital. Maybe that’s what made the choice so hard–I didn’t know that I COULDN’T do what I wanted if I wanted to live.

      Yikes! A whole other post in a comment! But you always make me think, Kathy!

      And peace to you, Kathy. –Laurel


  3. minlit
    May 03, 2012 @ 13:24:58

    Sounds like you’re just starting your life’s work. You have to BE to complete it. Nearly being dead was just the start. This is round two, where you get into your stride and the pieces of that mosaic start to come together. Can you see it forming?


  4. nadbugs
    May 03, 2012 @ 15:14:39

    Totally with you on this one, Lahgitana. I didn’t feel my own life start to flower until I realized that there is no room big enough on the planet to contain both me and my mother. A terrible decision and one I wish I hadn’t had to make every time I think about it. Took 60 years to get to it. Having made it — life starts. And I have no income and soon no savings. Worth it still.


    • lahgitana
      May 03, 2012 @ 16:09:33

      Yes, I don’t want to feel bad about choosing myself. I’m sorry you faced that sort of moment, Bean. It does make an impression, huh?

      I plan to spend half my tiny savings on going to Italy. How’s that?! Yikes! Actually, Big keeps telling me that I AM going, to salt the money away somewhere because I MUST go.

      Glad it’s worth it to you, too, Bean. Aim for the $$$. Have you ever noticed that there seems to be money around?!


      • nadbugs
        May 03, 2012 @ 16:41:45

        Umm — yes — but it always seems to belong to others. At least, in my experience. Probably my visualizations are flawed. Never could see too terribly well.


        • lahgitana
          May 03, 2012 @ 16:48:07

          Big once told me that he has been taken care of all his life and that he always had what he needed. That was a powerful statement to me at a very difficult time in my life.

          I hope the money shows up soonest. Bugs and Fang could sell pics of themselves, they are so darned cute!


  5. sweetdaysundertheoaks
    May 05, 2012 @ 04:30:29

    Wow! Powerful post. Choices. The trust part Lahgitana. That is big about trusting yourself, myself. I have always made my decisions based on what my gut felt, how I truly feel in my heart about what is right. I would have to say that when I go with my gut, my heart I make the decision that is right. I am in a big befuddlement about whether we should move right now. I am just dancing around the issue. Soon I will have to decide. Your post hits home to me big time this morning. I am glad you feel peace. I believe we all deserve to feel at peace and be happy.


    • lahgitana
      May 05, 2012 @ 07:14:52

      Good morning, Oaks. One of your comments (somewhere?!) got me to thinking about choice.

      If I may: isn’t dancing around the issue part of the deal? You’ve reminded me of another of my benchmarks for making decisions: if I find myself with doubts, I don’t make the decision looming. It’s easier on me to just wait until the tipping point presents itself, because it always does. Then, my hope is to proceed in peace with my life until something presents itself.

      Sounds like your heart and gut aren’t yet in agreement? Or is your head making noise too?! >:-D Keep us posted how you proceed, Oaks. It’s an odd little community, but we do care!

      Too: moving is HORRIBLE!


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