Life gives us many reasons to obsess. It’s almost as if it were somehow imbedded in our DNA. A mutation of sorts that causes us to over analyze, over think, and over stress about, well, everything. Think about the “big” decisions you’ve made over your lifetime. Did they cause you to agonize for days or stay up all night weighing pros and cons? Then again, we can often act this way over even the most minor of choices. As if picking which t.v. show we watch is really of eternal significance.
When I think back to the major decisions of my life, I find myself laughing at how odd I truly am. First of all, I am impulsive. If I need to buy something, you will not find me googling the options and then cross referencing them to see which one is truly the best fit. In some ways, being an “act first, think later” personality is freeing. The flip side is that after I make these quick decisions I am left to the post-act obsessing. I leap and then gasp when I see what’s really below.
I am grateful that the major life decisions I’ve made have been full of peace. For college, I picked one school and didn’t bother to apply to any others. In retrospect, probably not the smartest move, but thank God I got in and it worked out beautifully. When I decided to transfer schools mid way through to be closer to my awesome boyfriend, I leapt again. The result? 8 years of marriage under our belt and we are even happier now than we were then. These were big decisions at the time, and yet I made them in the same way that I would decide whether to order a large or small drink. Obviously not all of my choices have worked out as I’d hoped, but is it really possible to ever be completely content and not wonder about the “what ifs” of life?
The danger is to become trapped and frozen with fear when it comes to life’s decisions. Take marriage and starting a family. Wow. Lots of room for obsessing here, don’t you think? But, let’s be real- there will NEVER be a perfect time to get married and there will NEVER be a perfect time to have kids. Honestly, NEVER. You won’t ever be as settled as you want to be, have checked off your “before I get married” to do list, traveled the world, saved enough money, or had that perfect 2nd honeymoon. I know first hand that often the biggest surprises in life are the biggest blessings.
I had never imagined that my first pregnancy would begin with me and my husband tracking down a pregnancy test in the middle of Honduras. Wasn’t in my “plan.” And yet, there we were in the middle of a medical mission trip, five days late on my period, and staring at a very bright pink plus sign. Good thing I speak Spanish and could clearly understand that I was very much “with child.” Not only did this timing seem horrible because I found out miles away from home and now didn’t know if my lovely GI issues were from some bad frijoles or simply morning sickness, but my sweet husband had just completed his second year of medical school and the role of providing for our family was mine. How could I possibly earn enough money to pay our bills and childcare? And, what about the fact that I wanted to be a stay at home mom? Would that be the craziest choice ever? But, nine months later when we met our beautiful and perfect baby girl for the first time, it all made sense. The timing was perfect, despite the details that seemed hardly manageable. Did I manage to stay home? Yes. Did we have any income? No. Do we have tons of student loans? Yes. Did friends and family think our choices were crazy? Of course! Do I regret any of it? No. Why waste my time on post-decision obsession? Definitely not worth my time.
I hear much conversation about “how far apart should I space my kids,” “how many kids should I have,” and “when should I have said kids.” What I’ve realized is that as much as we are all searching for the magic equation or the consumer reports summary that will give us the clear answer, but it is never going to exist. And, that’s a good thing. Embrace the fact that you are an individual. There is no one like you. Never has been and never will be. You can never look at another individual and play dress up with her life. The clothes, though they may look spectacular on her, will always be ill fitting on you, no matter how hard you try to make them right. If you have one child and feel content, that is great. If you have five, rock on. If you don’t ever think you’ll desire children, own it. God didn’t create robots, he created unique individuals. Your path is yours and yours alone so please don’t waste your time trying to walk someone else’s.
So, I don’t know which choices you are grappling with today. I have no idea if you are a personality like mine that is of the post-obsessive variety or if you are a pre-obsessive bird. Regardless, be encouraged that your choices are your own. Nothing will ever be perfect and there is always more than one option. Would you have been happier if you’d opened door #3 rather than door #2? You will never know. Really. YOU WILL NEVER KNOW, and that is regardless of how many times you spend replaying it in your head. With mistakes and triumphs alike we cannot do anything but move forward. Give yourself the freedom to let it go and to embrace your choices with a “heck yah.” That’s what I’m gonna do now and I’m going to try really hard to not obsess about it later.