4.7 Choices

One of the blogs I follow is Pat Bean’s.  Pat is a single woman, retired journalist, seven-year full-time in her RV, and birder who writes about how she experiences her travels. 

Her post today (http://patbean.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/odd-goose-island-tree-raise-questions/) was inspired by a wind-shaped tree in Goose Island State Park in Texas.  The tree prompted her to muse about how her own life has been shaped by forces that seemed invisible at the time.


 Photo Courtesy of Pat Bean.


At the conclusion of the posting, she asked her readers how Life has shaped them.  And that sent my mind to a corner I have not visited for a while.

Long ago I realized that no one makes bad choices.  After all, every choice we make is with all the knowledge and experience we have at the time.

The choices we make can have bad results–quarterbacks throw interceptions but he threw to his best choice.

Had we more information, we might have made a different choice.  But part of the choice was to choose now.  Procrastination might have led to a better result but procrastination sometimes leads to no choice at all and that might be missed opportunity.  Wayne Gretsky, the hockey great, said, “I miss every shot I don’t take.”

There are lessons from choices that turn out badly  Some lessons have to be repeated several times before we learn.  Although I am with Brad Paisley the country singer,  “Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once. . . . Hell it could have been the moonshine.”

What is most comforting about the notion of no bad choices is that there is no basis for regret–no reason to kick yourself.  There is no reason to complain that you missed the lottery by not picking a number a single digit from the one you did.  No blame on yourself for being too shy to ask the cute girl in algebra class to go for coffee.  Or stayed in the love affair a week too long. No value to brooding over buying an Edsel franchise.  Or drawing to the inside straight.

The past is gone, there is only now.  Forgive yourself, take the lesson, and move on.

Every time you choose, the deck of your life is re-shuffled and you play a new hand.

One of my favorite stories is about a man who was a janitor in a church.   When it was discovered he did not know how to read or write, he was let go.  A hard-worker, he soon found other work in a small business.  Although he never found time to go to school, his diligence was rewarded and he was promoted to more responsible jobs and eventually rose to running the company.   One day one of his friends learned he had never learned to read or write, and asked, “do you ever imagine what you could be doing today if you had learned to read and write?”

And the man responded,  “I know exactly what I’d be doing, I’d be the janitor at my church.”

I’ve made a number of choices that I knew at the time were life-changing.

I quit a perfectly good job as a tech editor to move to the Caribbean and become a beach bum.  It probably set my writing career back forty years. But it lead me to the boat business and I have no complaints where that took me.

I married the first woman that I knew would be a mistake to let get away.  I had 17 years that were as good as anyone could hope for.  Splitting up led to divergent lives for both of us and I am positive both of us had more interesting lives than we could have had together.

I’ve made a number of choices that might have been life-changing but I have no idea if they were significant at all.

When I first got to college, the first time I introduced myself, I said, “My name is AL.”  To this day only my high school classmates, my sibs, and four other people know my birth name.  And they know is it worth their lives to reveal it.

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5 Responses to 4.7 Choices

  1. karen wittgraf says:

    This is unabashed honesty and I love it. I guess if temptation beckons me, I have always chosen to cautiously tiptoe into those tulips. Occasionally, I have turned away or even run away, but at least experienced something from it..learned something. If alive at all, I think we have to be somewhat spontaneous. The bad choice in life would be to sit in a recliner and blankly stare at the TV, go to bed and wake up to the same. By the way, not many know my middle name and those that do are threatened on a regular basis. Hint: It starts with a G.

  2. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – you are so right about life and choices. We all have choices and when we make them, that was how it was supposed to be – or it would have been some other choice. I think that philosophy of life is why I have no regrets. Many of us could have gone a different route if we’d made a different choice. We are the sum of all our choices plus much, much more.

  3. David Bauer says:

    Along with the choices that I have made, when I look back at my life at age 70, I am amazed at the role that chance played in shaping my life. From the random assortment of genes that shaped my biology to the people I met along the way who influenced the course of my life, pure chance has been a major factor. Moreover, when I consider chance along with the impact of the specific time and place in social history in which I happen to be born, I often feel that my life has been profoundly shaped by forces that were beyond my control and even beyond my awareness at the time events transpired. In short, I am humbled by the miracle of my life and in awe of powers in the universe that are beyond my control. So far, my journey in life has been a good one, and I am thankful for my good fortune.

  4. patbean says:

    Thanks AL for the great plug.

    I like Maya Angelou’s philosophy: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” — Maya Angelou. It’s helped ease my conscience for a few bad choices I made involving my children.

    As for knowingly making wrong decisions, and enjoying them, I did all that after 40 — and after I realized the only things in life I truly had regrets for were for the things I hadn’t done. Since then, life has gotten better every year.

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