I have slowly realized that life is stressful because of the amount of choices that we have to make on a daily basis. I see pictures of people in poor communities around the world. The people seem to be smiling a lot more than those I am surrounded by on a daily basis. I’m not talking about the fake smiling that people display to society as part of a societal norm established throughout time to convince others that we are “happy.” I’m talking about the smiles that result from true bliss.
These people are struggling with making sure that their basic human needs are met. They work to feed themselves and their families. They face medical needs with no access to care. They live in homes that seem completely unacceptable to the majority of first-world individuals. Yet, they are smiling. Is it possible that their joy is purely based on their lack of choices? Are they grateful for what they have, because there simply are no alternatives? They need to walk miles to get water. That is a struggle, but not a choice.
As part of a modernized, American society, we face an unimaginable amount of choices. When we were kids, what was the one question adults always asked? “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Holy shit. I’m 4 years old! What the duck? I just chose to have Frosted Flakes instead of a Pop Tart. Isn’t that enough for one day?
My latest personal mantra when faced with stress is, “Well, at least I don’t have to walk five miles through rugged terrain, faced with threats of wildlife or rape along the way, to get a bucket of water that I have to carry on top of my head all the way back.”
I sat for an hour last night perusing through all of the possible media outlets to find something to watch. An hour. I just wanted to watch some television. I became so overwhelmed with the amount of choices, that I finally gave up, and went to sleep. My husband is currently watching, “Locked Up,” in the other room. He will watch whatever is on when he turns on the TV. He will eat whatever is around. He truly does not struggle with choices. He doesn’t even look back at the choices he has made…as far as I know. I am jealous. That seems like a much easier existence.
I, on the other hand, stress about every single choice that I have to make or the millions that I have made! I love sleep, because it is the one period of time during the day in which I don’t have to make any choices. Have I mentioned that I love sleep? That is another topic for another day.
I have 3 kids. I make choices regarding them on a daily basis. I have to decide about their health, education, discipline, social life, etc. Some of those choices are minimal in effect, while some have potentially huge consequences. I think I am realizing that the thing I need to teach them the most is how to deal with choices. They need to learn, not only how to make them in the least stressful way, but also how to cope with the reality that they will not always make the right ones.
“I should have…,” has become so much of my internal dialogue. Maybe I just lacked the ability to navigate through the amount of choices I faced throughout life. It is possible that the problem lies in the fact that I just ponder the alternative for an infinite amount of time.
I have some very big choices to make in the near future. I want to just make those choices with confidence, rather than the constant consideration of the alternatives. I don’t want to look back.
I also want to turn on the television and just be content with watching, “Locked Up.” After all, it is a bit satisfying to know that there is a huge likelihood that none of the choices I have to make will land me in a maximum security prison having to then choose which gang to belong to 🙂 Except, in prison, I wouldn’t have as many choices to make! Hmmmmm. Nah.
So, tomorrow, I will wake up, go to my kitchen, and turn on the sink. I will not walk five miles with a bucket of water on my head. I will attempt to genuinely smile. For now, I will sleep.