Choice. It sounds like so much freedom – the ability to decide what we do. Sounds like, we analyze things and come up with a decision. But do we really do that? Do we really behave as if, at every moment, we have a choice? Do we exercise our choice when something happens, or, do our habits, customs, upbringing, circumstances, feelings and thoughts choose our response? Choice sounds great, but in my personal life, choices have been hard to make. Too many times, I allow my circumstance to make the decision for me.
Before I can make any choice, I have to be able to see that choice. For example, before I was able to lose my belly fat (some of it), I had to think that I could. Thinking my stomach could never be flat again, because I had a baby, was the thought I lived by for 18 years!!! Finally, after believing I could lose belly fat, thinking it was possible, broke down the barrier my thought had created. I had to reject a previous thought to be able to choose. That is just one example of a time when I didn’t even see a choice.
There are also other times, when I don’t see a choice. When I am angry or in pain from being hurt, I can get so overwhelmed. Then, like an automatic response – pain, anger, hurt – lash out. I do not recognize the choice I have to respond differently. And I am happy to justify my response based on my circumstances. Other times, I am too busy putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions, coping, responding like I usually do because the idea of doing things differently doesn’t even cross my mind. Patterns are so engrained in me that the fact that I can live differently escapes me. I don’t recognize/realize the choices I can make. The idea of choice is lost in the sea of my circumstances, my habits, my thoughts, my anger, my pain, my hurt etc., etc., etc.
And habits don’t only blind me from my choices, they go even further, they hijack choices I know I have. Habits can be a choice annihilator. Here is a scenario: I will take the same route driving even though I know there are better ways to go. There is no pain blocking me from seeing my choice, no anger, no hurt, no debilitating thoughts. I may even want to choose a different response. Yet, even when I know I can make a different choice, I slip right back into the old choice because I am accustomed to doing “it” a certain way. I know I have a choice yet I do the same old thing. I fail to exercise the choice I know I have.
Then there are other times when I fail to exercise a choice I know I have, not from habit but from thoughts. I know I have a choice but I rule it out, like it never existed. Like when my desire to keep a secret or pride leads me to behave as if I have no choice. Or, because of a perceived outcome, I rule out a certain choice because I don’t consider it a “real” choice. Whatever I am afraid of, or unsure of, limits my choice. When in reality, a choice is still a choice, even if I don’t acknowledge it. Sometimes I confuse whatever holds me back from making a choice, with having no choice. In other words, I confuse not exercising a choice with having no choice. Also, I talk myself out of things, I make them “non choices” when they are choices I chose not to make, for whatever reason.
And then there are those novel moments when I make a choice I know is not right but I make it any way- because I want to – is usually the reason. And finally there is the choice I choose not to make because I don’t know what to choose. That is in itself a choice, but I don’t usually see it that way. But choosing not to choose is the choice right?
The choices we make are ours. No one has control over our behavior but us. There are no circumstances that take away our choice. Our choice, despite our circumstances, is always our choice to make. Years ago, before I was ready to hear that, I rode high on the wave of “my circumstances made me do it” or I had no choice. Years ago, I hardly saw choice in my responses. Some responses seemed automatic, others justified, even when I made choices I knew I shouldn’t. And now, even though “I have a choice” feels more real, often times I still get too much comfort in blaming my behavior on what happens around me. It is hard to stay grounded in myself sometimes, hard to make wise choices, especially when all hell is breaking lose. But that is the journey: to stay grounded in the way I need to be despite anything else- to make conscious choices.
This year my New Year’s resolution was to remember, I always have a different choice. When I confine myself into the box of no choice, I am busting, not bursting, busting open that lid to see. What choices do I really have; what am I missing? This year, I am going to see what else is possible.