A FRIEND OF MINE was speaking about an event in her mother’s life and made the comment concerning her mother’s choice that she didn’t have one. I love my friend and I agree that in the past women had less choices, and I truly sympathize for the challenge described, but I think she did. I think we always have a choice. There has never been a situation presented to me that did not dictate that I make a choice. I know my experience is not the end-all, but stating that someone didn’t have a choice seems to be a value statement that the choice made wasn’t the right one. I don’t think that my friend meant to infer her mother was wrong, but she did. I often think of my grandmother, my mom’s mom, and her choice to divorce her husband three years after he abandoned her and their two children in 1949. I feel it is easy to say that she didn’t have any other choice but that would not be true. When making a statement like this, I am left imagining someone weak, helpless, and without her own mind. It over-simplifies, even trivializes the complex turn of events. Plus, I don’t want to think of my strong, attractive, and very intelligent MamaJo as incapacitated and vulnerable. I imagine someone with a potent will looking towards her future and choosing a path that was best for her and hers. I know that just because I want to imagine it, doesn’t make it so, but whatever the circumstance, she had choices. We all have a choice.
choice : deciding between two or more possibilities
Saying that I don’t have choices allows me to pretend that I am not responsible for being where I am. It assumes me a victim. Yes, life places us in predicaments and environments without our consent, but we always have the freedom to respond. I want to be clear, there is no shame in being injured in life. We are all injured. I speak more to the danger of identifying with the injury as a definition of who we are. I have been a victim of attack, injury, and robbery, but this doesn’t define me. I am a whole person full of complex contradictions. I would regret (see last blog) anyone referring to me as a victim. I fully participate in my journey and take responsibility for the outcome. Because, as much as I suggest we have a choice, none of us have a choice in what happens next. Being afraid of the consequence or the unknown can freeze me and I can choose to allow life to happen to me instead of me living life. This is especially true when I am confronted by choosing between what I want to do and what I should do. These choices are the hardest for me to make. I am so driven to head towards what I want and I get so caught up in the desire for instant gratification that I loose sight of the big picture. Doing what you need sometimes seem counter-productive to getting you what you want. I have certainly found myself wallowing in self-pity thinking that if I didn’t choose, that somehow wasn’t me making a choice.
Maybe Josephine felt abandoned and lost in a moment of doubt, overwhelmed by what was once filled with hope and then empty from despair. Maybe she chose not to choose and waited passively until the outcome was obvious. Even so, there was that moment those hard choices were made. In my cinematic mind, I see her the morning after hours of thought, before the children awoke, looking in the bathroom mirror and assessing her choices. Her thoughts of disappearing youth, the naïve happily ever after, and the grandeur of professional achievement being suddenly filed in a chasm under “not for me”. I would have liked to have been there. I would have told her to think deeply, feel strongly, chose wisely, and find happiness. Because there in the near future, unbeknownst to you, is someone who will cherish you for your choices. You made the right decision, I am here. JOE