Decision Point. Set. Match.

Anyone else feeling overrun with decisions that need to be made lately? What’s the perfect holiday gift? Do we invite the family to stay with us, or travel to them? It’s not just the holidays, though they seem to make it all a bit more anxiety-inducing. Personally, I’ve been staring down my mental decision trees for so long now, all I see is brambles. For example, with five days of NaNoWriMo remaining, I was noodling through the following: tether myself to my computer, coming up only for life-sustaining necessities, in order to churn out approximately 5,0000 words per day to make the 50K finish line; OR be (relatively) normal, but fail to qualify as a “winner” this year. 

For some of you, this isn’t much of a conundrum. For me at the time, the decision wasn’t straight forward. In retrospect, it felt like a microcosmic reflection of a number of decisions that have been tripping through my mind lately, and which, like the cosmos itself, are expanding ever outward in scope and importance. Should Julie and I continue feeding energy into this blog or use that time and effort for other writing goals? Should my family stay the course on limiting screen time for the kiddo, or use the electronic babysitter to create more time for my husband and I to get work done? Do we continue here in New York or once again go adventuring? Etc., etc. And I always wonder, even when the issues appear entirely disparate, how will any one of these decisions impact the others? 

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Back to NaNo and my pie-in-the-sky goals, the last five days of November this year included Thanksgiving, complete with family commitments (and actual pie), not to mention a host of other seasonal temptations. Perhaps these facts are enough to drive you firmly in a certain direction. For me, though, the pull between “winning” and “family” is stronger than I should probably admit. Even though I do really believe that every word written is in itself a win, the decision to give up going for the gold was still tough. 

What pushed me over the tipping point, however, wasn’t family, nor missing out on Black Friday (which turned out to be one of my higher word count days), but the needs of my story. Sure, I could have rushed it. It wouldn’t have been the first time (hello, NaNo manuscripts from 2014-2017). While I still believe there is a certain dark logic in the adage, ‘don’t get it right, get it written,’ admittedly, it can make the revision process not just longer, but hairier . It’s one thing to realize you have a plot hole or two, or a character that isn’t fully developed, or an internal inconsistency – it’s another thing all together to realize you’re staring down all this AND MORE as you start your revisions. So, in the end, I decided discretion was the better part of valor this time and I’d let my story continue to spin out at its own pace. Which is to say, I’m hoping to be done with the draft before Christmas, but I’m willing to give it the time that it needs, even if that means I’m still plugging away at the first draft into 2020. 

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“More” versus “Enough”

“More” is a lure. It’s the tantalizing bait always catching the eye. For me, it’s not so much about stuff as it is about all the things I want to do. There’s just so much great experience to be gained, in so many different flavors. Creative. Athletic. Musical. Social. Natural. Service-oriented. Friendship-based. Family-centered. If each event or activity is like a scoop of ice cream, then sign me up for the triple banana split! Not only is it sure to be yummy, but by opting for ALL of it, I don’t have to go through the painful process of choosing.

Never mind that I really can’t eat a triple banana split. Never mind that even trying is sure to lead to other forms of discomfort.

One of several books I’m reading right now (see, I can’t even limit my reading selection to a single scoop) is The Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams. In it, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share their thoughts on how to lead a joyful existence. Unsurprisingly, both mention gratitude for what we have as being a key factor in lasting joy. Recognizing when we have “enough” is the trick here. Abrams writes,

 “Yet scientists have found that the more we experience any pleasure, the more we become numb to its effects and take its pleasures for granted. The first bowl of ice cream is sublime, the second bowl tasty, and the third causes indigestion.”

I’ve got life experience to back up Abrams’ metaphor. My first job back in high school was at the local ice cream shop. The owner, bless her, allowed us to liberally sample the products free of charge. I can therefore attest, there is a point where “more” – even just one bite – tips over into “too much.” (Sorry, Lorna – and thank you for this and many more valuable life lessons!)

Sometimes the effect of this indulgence is as temporary as indigestion, but sometimes too much can turn you off of something completely. I rarely eat ice cream to this day – and it’s got to be a pretty special flavor to pique my interest.

For me, the sweet hook of “more” has always been the potential missed opportunity. My brain paints visions of the joy an activity could bring in the nanoseconds it takes to contemplate whether to take my child to visit Eggbert the talking Christmas Egg, or if I should set my alarm to get up early to meditate. The thought of my child smiling with the surprise of holiday magic, or of myself, calm and centered at the start of the day – how could I possibly miss these opportunities to better our lives?

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