Week Four – Day 1: The Tough Decisions
I, by nature, am not much of a decision maker. I prefer for people to make decisions for me. Every night, it’s the same routine, “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t care, whatever.” “What movie do you want to watch?” “You pick.” “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, you decide.” For the bigger decisions, I am a little more decisive, but I typically mull over my options for days, sometimes weeks and then end up deferring to someone else’s position in the end anyway. I guess it’s a defense mechanism of sorts, because that way I never have to blame a decision on myself. I never have to live with the results of something I have chosen. Of course, I never get away like that. We, as a species, are constantly choosing, even if we don’t know it. And sometimes we choose right, and sometimes we choose wrong, and we have to live with that. It is how we live in the face of tough decisions that define us. I guess I’m still working on my own definition.
When Dusty got sick, there were a lot of opinions. There were medical opinions, personal opinions, opinions that were formed from experience and opinions that were formed from online research. I didn’t have an opinion. I could barely function enough to make the decision of whether or not to get up in the morning.
I heard that she was too sick and that we should put her down that day, that we were being cruel if we didn’t. I heard that she was going to be fine, that she would grow out of it or that it was manageable. I heard that to put her down would be a sin. I heard that we should wait until she got really sick and then put her down, but to make sure we put a time limit on her life so we would be sure that we followed through, even when we got attached. Very rarely, if ever, did I hear “I have no idea.”
It made me wonder about myself. It made me question who I was. Was I not a strong enough person to come out and decide something on my own? This was, after all, something that I cared very deeply about and was going to affect me immensely. So why couldn’t I decide? Why did I keep looking to Joe with big, pleading eyes, begging him to just tell me what to do? Didn’t all the education and the leadership conferences and the managerial experience help me with anything? Didn’t all the lectures all my life about “Don’t be a follower, be a leader” teach me anything?
I like to delude myself into thinking that I am, for the most part, a pretty intelligent person, but the fact that I couldn’t make a decision about this was bringing that egotistical thought into question. I have been accused by many around me that I lack a backbone. I don’t like to make decisions, I don’t like confrontation, and I don’t like people to hate me. That, of course, makes me weak in society’s eyes, especially living and working in a relatively competitive, high-paced location.
Well, I said to myself, I will define myself. I will grow a backbone. I will make a decision. There, I said it. All better. But it wasn’t. I vacillated, I mulled, I listened to everyone except for myself, because the things that I was hearing come out of myself were terrifying. I got a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth, from everyone I asked. And you know the funny thing? Those opinions changed – drastically. People who were originally telling me to put her down right away flipped to ,”Not right now, well, maybe not ever”. And people who thought putting her down would make me heartless changed their minds to, “Well, maybe, after all, it is the right thing, so you don’t get attached.”
I went through the stages, of course. I got angry and irritated at these people and all their opinions (didn’t they realize that all of this information was overwhelming, not to mention confusing?). I got mad at the vet for first explaining things too complexly for me to understand (I am a paralegal, not a doctor), then for explaining things to me like I was a child (I went to one of the best schools in the country). I got mad at Joe’s family and my family for taking different sides and coming at me from all different angles. I got SO mad at the people who wanted to talk to me about “God’s will” and “His hand” (mainly because they were probably right, but I just didn’t want to admit it). But there was one moment in particular when I realized that the anger I felt was fueling me to definition.
We were in the specialty vet’s office. Dusty was in my arms. A girl with a kitten walked up to me and pet Dusty. We were trying to pay the bill, both crying and bickering over splitting the check and cash and all sorts of nonsense. The girl was with her boyfriend, and she cooed over Dusty. When I looked at her, she glared and said, “I have five week old Boxer pups at home that are bigger than her, you should feed her more.”
Something in my head snapped, and all the opinions came colliding into one personal truth – Dusty was ours and people could opine whatever they wanted, but when it came down to it, we were her protectors, and her honor needed defended in that moment, as well as ours, “Seriously? She’s sick. That’s why we are at an internist for God’s sake. She can’t keep food down because her esophagus is the size of her lungs and stomach combined, and we are probably going to have to put her down before her first birthday. Are you seriously talking to me like that?”
And there you have it folks. All three of my big no nos, all wrapped up into one moment. I was defined. I had made a decision, or at least, voiced the one I already pretty much knew, confronted a complete stranger, and caused the same stranger to detest me. You know how I felt? At peace. And you know what my reward was?
The girl recoiled, and her boyfriend squeezed her shoulder, “She’s a beautiful dog. German shepherd, right?”
I sighed and nodded, and the girl smiled shyly and apologized. To me. People never apologize to me. I am always the one doing that.
Now look, I’m not advocating blowing up in vets’ offices at complete strangers, but I am advocating stepping outside yourself every once in awhile and taking a good look around at how you have written yourself. After all, your story isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. And when it comes to those tough decisions that we all have to make eventually, take opinions with a grain of salt. It’s your life, in the end, and no one else should get a say in it.