Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Emma is in a new (and annoying) phase that's I've decided to call "choice panic." Whenever I ask her what she wants for dinner, she hems and haws, finally comes to a decision, and then panics when it comes to be. So for example, if I ask her to choose between macaroni and pizza, she picks the pizza and then cries for lack of the macaroni.

At first I thought this was just some sort of selfishness, but she never ever seemed to want both. She just sort of mourned the loss of the other. At two years old, she already fears the concept of doors closing when others open.

In order to quell this fear of hers, I've started a little method called a "box of choices." Her box of choices is a little glass box full of picture-cutouts of her mainstream choices. There are pictures of her favorite drinks, foods, and television shows. Whenever she needs to make a choice now, she rummages through her box of choices and can physically pull one out. She hands me her choice, but can always see her other choices. They are always within her reach, and once a choice is made, she sees it go back in the box. She learns that just because a choice is made does not mean that the others no longer exist, nor that she can never make that choice again.

I think a lot of us can learn something from this. In these scary times, we often panic when we're forced to make a choice. We think comfort and familiarity equal safety. We forget that the control we enjoy over our lives is merely an illusion. I'm not trying to freak anyone out or be depressing, but tragedy can happen at any time. Illness, car accidents, epiphanies - they threaten us all the time, yet whenever there is a gap in between them, we think we are in control and safe.

Just because the box of choices hasn't been opened in a while, we think it never will.

So how then do we cope? How do we deal with the constant loss of control that looms? We do what Mike is doing. We decide every morning what are thoughts are going to be, what are actions are going to be, and be personifications of hope.

Like Mike, I choose to dream of moving to Bali and living in a commune, becoming an independent opera star, or getting Emma on the next permutation of Star Trek. People often equate instability with irresponsibility, but sometimes instability merely precludes possibility. It's like we're 20 again and can do anything, but with a little more wisdom and a lot more support.

Call me crazy, but I'm excited about where we are. I have no idea where we'll be in a year. We could lose the house, but at least we'll have less to clean! Our box of choices is ever so much larger than Emma's and I'm delighting in rummaging around in it. So when you're faced with an unknown future, remember, everything is always unknown. It's all in how you face it.

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living...or get busy dying."
~Andy Dufresne

1 comment:

  1. So very true! would you like to come and make my box of choices.