Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Choices, Choices

The helicopter has stopped circling my neighborhood so I’m assuming that whatever or whoever it was, they weren’t in my yard and it wasn’t my fault. After twenty-some years of living in California in a moderately densely populated area, I still have trouble getting used to the fact that there might be crime against person or property that would come anywhere near me. I’m like a lot of people that way.

I’m convinced some towns here promote their own reputation for being a scary place to live, if only to keep the housing prices low enough to be entry level for people from the Middle. My town has a bit of a reputation. I happen to live in the most racially diverse county around and in my town no one ethnic population is actually the majority. I know there are some people who would be horrified by that. I like it. I’ve lived in other places. I liked them too, truth be told, but they had their pluses and minuses.

We’ve had a bit of the “ick” factor in the news lately from places where people aren’t expecting people to dance on the tables and shoot out the lights like they expect in my town. Seriously, the economy has been down here for a while that if you can find a bar with tables and lights and the table is sturdy enough for you to dance on it, I say go for it. Most everyone here is trying to get by.

But the news does make you ask yourself the same question you might ask of junior high kids when you already know the answer, “What were they thinking?” What made it seem like a good idea to take photos like that and send them to, well, to anyone? There was a funny Facebook video I ran across yesterday where a score of attractive women had created a sort of public service announcement making it clear, if it weren’t already, that we’ve seen enough photos like that. I am aware there’s a certain market for things like that. Most women I know would actually be more impressed by men who pick up their discarded underwear, don’t splash, know where things are in a refrigerator and who have the good grace to say that you look lovely in that outfit and that your gorgeous friend would not. My husband fulfills most of these and has never sent me a photo that I wouldn’t show my mom. I’m talking my mom here. Your mom may be different but mine had a pretty narrow definition of what was acceptable behavior in public and in private, actually a little too narrow for my taste, but it’s a pretty good rule.

But seriously, Dude, what were you thinking? Like the junior high kids, nothing at all? Without investigating further because, well, because I may not really want to know, I prefer to accept the “nothing at all” answer and move on, kind of like that helicopter did.

Certainly I’m not above making stupid choices myself. Flashing back to my first wedding, if some small voice had whispered, “Run,” while I was walking up the steps to the church that summer day, I would have. I should have, as it turns out. I did get a really great best friend out of the deal, so it wasn’t a total loss.

And then there was a particular drive from one well-known spot in a Middle State to a lesser known spot in that Middle State where, on a dare, I drove without benefit of wardrobe. I didn’t get caught. Or at least I didn’t actually suffer any consequences other than feeling like an idiot and enjoying it a little. I am thrilled, however, that telephones were not mobile then and did not have cameras and that videos were never viral in that decade. Some decades have their advantages over others. And I have no political aspirations either. I’m glad to have survived most of my own foolishness; not everyone does. And remember, that was pre-California.

Also pre-California, however, was the time I had my wallet stolen by two traveling Bible salesmen from Texas. Nope, that’s just stuff you can’t make up. Yup, they caught them, just one town over about to enjoy a sandwich at a local motel restaurant. Yup, the younger man was convicted of using my credit card to buy gas and my driver’s license as identification. He was blond but seriously the resemblance ended there. They couldn’t arrest or convict his “mentor,” the older Bible salesman who talked him into it. Apparently the really big mistake was the forgery part. Law is funny that way. I just wish they hadn’t thrown out my photos.

But also pre-California were the two muggings I endured, a few assaults on dates that the times would have chalked up to “missed signals” as in what-part-of-no-do-you-not-understand and sadly child abuse at the hands of a family friend. These incidents resulted in no more dire consequences than my sliding scale of irritated-to-horrified. These were all in the “safe” places where people live and send stupid photos on their cell phones.

It boils down to no matter where you are, what neighborhood, how safe you think you are, how secure, how trusting or vigilant, how amused or disgusted, you have choices. If you’re having trouble deciding whether drugging yourself or your friend is a good idea, if you’re having trouble deciding whether you should take care of your child or get high, if you’re having trouble figuring out whether to go to college or join a gang, if you are having trouble figuring out whether the wallet you just found in a theater seat should be returned to its owner empty or full, these are all 7 of Cups things. You have choices. You may not realize it, but you have lots of choices. Even if you are the victim of a bad situation or a crime, you have choices and sometimes the outcomes are not going to be clear.

For instance, say your department at work has a structural reorganization and you are unhappy with the way things turned out. You still have a job, but it’s not the job you used to have or hoped you would have. Something about it feels wrong. Maybe you don’t know your new boss. Maybe worse, you do. Maybe nothing looks clear to you and when you talk to the new regime, they don’t seem very clear either. You have choices.

Oh, sure, you can bail out. That’s an obvious one. But in these “Be happy you have a job,” days that might not be the best approach unless you like living in a culvert or an old car. You can deny that anything at all happened, but that’s not going to serve you either. Something did change after all.

If you are presented with what looks like chaotic circumstances, you can choose to be angry, sad, depressed. You can broadcast your unhappiness to the world or share it with just a few. You can decide to be overwhelmed by chaos and wait for someone to rescue you or you can view chaos as an opportunity to start over, redefine everything and make things work better than before.

Sure, not all of our choices are even that easy. Sometimes we have to pick between two awful situations. And maybe that’s the most important time to choose what’s positive, even if it’s just the acknowledgement that you had a choice at all. At least you’ll know what you were thinking.

Best wishes!


  1. And usually the right choice, as in Mr. Weiner's case, is the obvious one (we'd just rather not do it)! Isn't the central figure in the 7 of Cups - the woman with the shroud over her head - supposed to represent spiritual enlightenment? Perhaps that symbol was obvious when the cards were created - it took me years to figure out what the woman with the sheet over her head meant. Maybe that's the 7 of Cups too, however. The answer's in front of our face, we're just not at that place in our lives where we "get" it.

  2. Just looking at that one image on the card, you see the "glow" but the shroud hides the specifics. And maybe what we choose is to chase the mystery, too. If you take the shroud off, are you just a little disappointed?

  3. Life was so much simpler when I thought she was a ghost. ;-)