Choices

Unknown-1Someone else doing yoga

I am not going to my yoga class today. If I go I won’t get a chance to write, and I want to go for a jog before work, too, which I won’t be able to do if I go to my class. I love yoga and will miss the stretching and the relaxation that comes from the class. Lately I’ve chosen not to go more often than I go. I miss it. But when I do go, I miss these easy mornings before long days. I miss time spent with the family in the morning, or taking Lucy, our dog, for a walk and enjoying beautiful Carl Shurz Park. With every choice I gain something and I lose something else.

ImageLucy

Unknown-2A View of Carl Shurz Park

When I was in my 20’s & 30’s I hated making choices. I felt personally responsible for others’ happiness and if I made a choice that someone didn’t like, then I felt deeply guilty. I always said, “it doesn’t matter to me, you decide.” Often I did have a preference. I preferred to go to a café rather than a coffee shop for breakfast, but I kept my mouth shut, while I silently regretted their decision. It took a long time for me to be able to voice my preferences. It’s not always easy, but I’d rather have a say in what happens, feel whatever I feel in relationship to the results than resent the ultimate outcome.

When we’ve experienced deprivation in any form making certain choices can feel daunting. We know we’ll feel a loss of what we don’t get, even as we know we’ll enjoy what we have. This has happened to me on vacations. By the time I take a vacation, I am so looking forward to the rest. Yet, because I yearn to travel the world, I am sad that I’m not choosing the Amalfi Coast over an inn in Connecticut. The practical, easier choice is the inn, which will be lovely. But the Amalfi Coast looks splendid. And, Italy is a wonderful country. If, in the end, I choose to go abroad, then I choose wander over simplicity.

6951_p1The Bee & Thistle Inn

Unknown-1Amalfi Coast

No, I am not deprived in that I get a vacation, a luxurious option in any life. But considering my options brings up all the times I had to do what I was told without being able to voice my unhappiness or disgust. The fear of the consequences of voicing my displeasure always seemed worse than just doing what I was told.   So even though my current life is not one of deprivation, making a simple choice can feel oppressive. But with practice the deprivation lessens, and the choices get easier. So, as I learn from a day without yoga , I feel more equipped to make the harder choices that life brings our way. And, I don’t feel like the old victim because I now understand that I do have a say.

Walking on

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If I’m not aware what I’m feeling, I become acutely aware when I start walking the city. Walking through beautiful Central Park on my way to a morning appointment a runner came towards me. As far as I was concerned she was going against the clearly marked directions on the pavement. I held my ground, and when I kept walking towards her, righteously indignant about following the markers, she barely moved to get around me, whispering, “Fuck you.” I wasn’t sure I heard her right. But she was a fast runner and she was well past me when I started to think of replies. My first thought, was, “Have a nice day.” Like I said, I was feeling righteous, and I thought my fake kindness served my feelings well. Sometimes I can just stew over a simple incident like that. But it was a beautiful morning, and I had gotten a rare early start.

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Then I was crossing 72nd Street, it was my light, but a cyclist tore down the road. He waved at me, indicating that he’d go around me, and I smiled back. A lovely New York moment. I forgot my self-righteousness after that. I find it amazing that a mis-matched moment can embroil me, but an act of kindness lifts me to a better place.

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This happens a lot as I walk or jog public areas. Sometimes someone takes up the whole sidewalk. He or she unconsciously walks in the middle so no one can get by. More often than not, I get irate, as if it’s my private sidewalk and I take it personally, silently cursing them out.

I went for a short jog this afternoon, but school was letting out, and, again, I got angry at the parents and caregivers who straddled the sidewalk.  Funny how I love to walk, yet I can get worked up over minor inconveniences. Perhaps my walks give me a chance to move through my emotional repertoire. An inner drama played out on the streets of New York.

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A Culture of Tattletalers

“Mommeeeee!” My sister, Susan yells from our bedroom.  “Janet pulled my hair.”  I hated when Susan tattled on me.  Technically she was right, I did pull her hair, but she fails to share the details of the said pulling.  We were playing beauty parlor, brushing each other’s curls, pretending to style, paint nails and put on lipstick.   Anytime we brush hair we pull it.  In the1960s we knew of no brushes or combs designed for anything but straight, fine hair.  So, putting a brush to Susan’s hair by definition meant I was pulling it.  Susan was a pro when it came to telling on me.  I hated when she did that, because it meant that I would lose another good girl moment to Susan. I would get in trouble even though I meant no harm.  I was six at the time to Susan’s four.

 Now, as an adult, I see similar behavior all the time.  People act as if they’re four years old tattling on a sibling who accidentally wronged them.  The poor reviews online often seem personal.  The writer wants revenge.  They didn’t like something and they want to get back at the merchant, the server, the service person.  Sometimes I fantasize about getting back at someone.  I remember the contractor who almost completed our bathroom.  I was angry and thought of going online to write a bad review.  Instead I reached out to him, told him how disappointed I was and that I could not recommend him.  He came back and begrudgingly finished the job.  He’s not someone I’ll use again, but I felt good about communicating honestly with him.  Last year, I went to a nice restaurant and received mediocre service.  I mentioned something to the server.  He tried harder, though I doubt he’ll ever be a great server.  Nonetheless, it was not personal.   He just isn’t talented as a server.  I don’t always like speaking up for myself, but it feels better than going behind someone’s back to get revenge.  If I don’t speak up then the incident or person stays in my mind.  By saying something to them directly, there’s a better chance I can let it go.

This goes on in workplaces, too.  No one wants to speak directly to the person who is causing problems.  We go to supervisors, gossip with co-workers, or act out when around the possible offender.  We may not always like something, but work and life might be more pleasant if we could communicate to one another about what we don’t like.  I can complain with the best of them, but do I really need to get a virtual stranger in trouble?  Sometimes I want to, but then I think of Susan, and remember I was not a happy recipient of her tattling.  No need to perpetuate childish behavior.  Or, maybe I prefer my righteousness to being a tattletale.  Even so,  if we all could have the courage to talk to those who upset us, we may experience the possibility of repair.