Tag Archives: choices


Do the opposite

I am afraid. I am not sure exactly what I fear, but I know I am afraid.

I know it by my hesitancy to get involved, to start projects, to commit. And once I do start something, to stick with it until it is finished. I fear messing up, disappointing, being inadequate, not up to the task.

Things I used to do with confidence now give me pause. Sewing, cooking, knitting—all things I once did with certainty and ease—now I hesitate or, even worse, I don’t even try. A pile of fabric sits untouched by the sewing machine; recipes untried and yarn unknitted.

Not my usual way of moving through life, but pretty much the way I have been for the past few years. And I don’t like it. I want to be myself, more daring, more willing to try new things and more willing to take risks. What happened to that person? Where has she gone?

I wish I knew, and I wish I knew how to bring her back.

Fear has been holding me back, and I am tired of it. I want to break free.

My spiritual director recently suggested I push back against myself.  “Do the opposite of what you are comfortable doing,” she said.fear-vulnerability-riskMaybe it is all the loss I’ve experienced these past few years, all the grief and sadness. Maybe my equilibrium is just off. Maybe…do the reasons really matter? I think not.

Rather, I think I need to stop thinking, stop trying to figure it out—and just act.fear-vulnerability-riskBefore my niece’s wedding last week I went for a manicure. “Choose your color,” the manicurist instructed me. Standing in front of rows of nail polish in every shade imaginable, I was paralyzed by too many choices. I picked up bottle after bottle of different shades of pink, but could not make a decision.  fear-vulnerability-riskMy niece’s favorite color is blue, and I suddenly found myself drawn to the blues. “I have never worn blue nail polish in my life,” I said to no one in particular. Another customer said, “It is only nail polish.” Right. Only nail polish. Why such angst over something so temporary?

I chose a lovely shade of periwinkle, and then decided to get shellac so it would last at least two weeks. Two weeks of blue nails! Be bold, I told myself.

Two weeks earlier, I got my hair cut very short. Jim used to call it my “chemo haircut;” I call it my “girl’s summer haircut.” I had not had the courage to wear my hair this short for a long time, but I work at a cancer support center where people have very short hair (or none at all), so it is not an uncommon hairstyle.

It took some courage to tell my stylist to cut it short, but I am happy with the result. Plus, I know it will grow back if I tire of it. Short hair and blue nails—it’s a start.fear-vulnerability-risk



Whatever’s Easiest

“Whatever’s easiest” was a phrase Jim and I adopted during his illness. Dealing with cancer—doctors, nurses, treatments, etc.—was hard enough, so when we had choices, we chose whatever was easiest.

That phrase came to me recently when the battery in my car died. I had just made my last shopping stop before going to meet a friend. We had plans to go to an art fair for the afternoon and then I was cooking supper. I turned the key in the ignition and after a few clicks, nothing.

Fortunately, I have AAA roadside service, and this is exactly the moment when I am deeply grateful for it. I called and after a relatively short wait (I once waited for three hours for a tow truck in downtown Philadelphia, so I have some perspective here), the truck arrived and the operator confirmed the problem was my battery. He jump-started the car and then told me he had a replacement battery in his truck if I wanted to purchase it then and there.

My battery was five years old and after four rather balmy Philadelphia winters, it had survived the polar vortex of last winter in Michigan. I was not surprised that it had died.

I asked how much it would cost, and it sounded like too much; but, in that moment, “whatever’s easiest” popped into my mind. I could imagine getting home with a recharged battery that would be dead by morning or driving to a store to buy a battery (it was Sunday so my regular mechanic was closed), but that could take a while and would probably mean missing the art fair.

So I bought the battery and ten minutes later, I was happily on my way with the battery incident behind me.

While Jim was sick and after he died, I kept saying I wanted to remember the lessons I learned while caring for him. I am glad this one stuck.

Life, even without cancer, can be hard enough. A dead battery could become an event—or I could choose the easiest route to getting it fixed.

I am grateful for the lessons I have had on prioritizing what is important and for the resources to be able to make choices; life is too short to waste time and energy on a car battery.