What Are You Choosing?

I saw this meme the other day:

This quote (that I’ve seen attributed to multiple people) has been tumbling around inside my head for a couple of weeks now. I think it is truly powerful. Often, we desire a change, but fall short of taking the necessary action to bring that change about. We procrastinate, fumble, and otherwise delay moving forward. There are many reasons why we equivocate in this manner:

We get stuck in inertia.

It is far easier to live in a way that is familiar than to strike out on a new path. We “rest” in our habits. Momentum is powerful, and we lack the energy to interrupt the normal trajectory.

We doubt ourselves.

When contemplating change, even appealing change, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the “what ifs?”

  • What if things don’t work out the way I think they will?
  • What if I make everything worse?
  • What if I get what I want, but I’m still not happy?
  • What if the people around me don’t support me?
  • What if I’m just being selfish?
  • What if this change ends up hurting someone I love?

We lack resources.

By definition, change is going to require that we do things differently. This means that we are likely going to find ourselves needing money, knowledge, skills, connections, time, and other means that we may lack. Obtaining new resources is an investment that may feel risky and beyond reach.

**

In spite of these valid excuses, failing to choose to make a change is actually a choice we make to perpetuate the status quo. In other words, “no choice” is a choice. We may tell ourselves that we are undecided, haven’t really had a chance to look into it, or aren’t sure what our plans are yet, but these rationalizations are simply variants on the choice to do nothing.

The headline is: If we want a change, we have to pursue it.

Change is happening all the time, but it rarely unfolds in the specific way we desire. Rarely do we sit and wait with no action, prayer, or intention and get a longed-for result. I won’t say it never happens, because sometimes good fortune simply drops onto our doorstep, and these are wonderful moments! However, generally speaking, we need to take an active role in order to bring about a coveted change.

**

It is my experience that we often put off difficult endeavors for a long time, and then suddenly find ourselves ready to act. I call this being “in the mood.” Something triggers us and we can no longer continue with things the way they have been. For example, we can’t bear to look at the stain on the wall and decide to paint this weekend. Or, we knock a stack of papers to the ground with our elbow and determine it is time to clear off the desk.

I had my own experience with this last week. I had been putting off dealing with a couple of cysts on my right hand (my “good” hand). One was painful and pressing into my fingernail, and the other was clearly not going away on its own. It took me a long time – more than a year – to decide to have them removed. I delayed because I knew it would knock me out of work, be painful, and cost money. Then COVID came along and we were locked up for a long time. Suddenly I couldn’t get these cysts removed even if I wanted to. When my state finally began to open up, I decided to bring up the issue with my doctor, who said, “Now is as good a time as any. You never know, we may lock down again in the fall, and even if we don’t, it may be difficult to schedule a procedure in the future as we have a backload of surgeries from the spring and summer.” With this perspective in mind, I found myself “in the mood,” and set the date.

Here is a photo of me hours afterwards.

Needless to say, it has been challenging. I think all went well, but it isn’t easy to live without your dominant hand. Here are two lessons I’ve learned about what to expect when you take action.

 #1 We can’t predict or plan for every eventuality.

My procedure went smoothly, but there are always developments that are unexpected, unplanned for, and/or unwanted. The medicine that my doctor ordered got lost in the email between the doctor and the pharmacy. I ended up not getting the pain medication until the next day. Fortunately, the Advil and Tylenol I had on hand did the trick. Also, I had an allergic reaction to the antiseptic they paint all over your skin before the surgery. It is fading, but I’ve been itchy.

Twisty path can be successful

When things like this happen, it is easy to become discouraged and doubt the wisdom of the path we have undertaken. In reality, these kinds of scenarios are common. We should be mentally prepared to have to deal with problems and try to pivot and move on.

#2 Things might take a bit longer than we think.

I’m happy to say the healing is coming along, but I can see I won’t be back to “normal” for a long time. Nerves are tricky little things. They don’t like to be touched. I may have to do some therapy, and there may be some residual “tingling” for a while.

When we pursue something new, rather than set our hearts on a “best case timeline,” we are wise to prepare for everything to take longer than we think it should. By mentally gearing up for an extended process, we are less likely to experience frustration and disappointment, and will be pleasantly surprised if things move along at a speedy pace.

#3 Creative thinking is a plus.

To this day, I haven’t been able to get my right hand wet. As I sat in the recovery room, I wondered how I was going to shower. Plastic bags have been in short supply since a ban went into effect last year. As I walked out of the hospital, I passed a stand which had long, narrow plastic bags for holding wet umbrellas. I took one look and thought, “Those are shaped just like my arm. I bet I could stick them on, roll a rubber band on top, and keep everything dry!” I spontaneously grabbed two and they have been working like a charm!

When you encounter inevitable challenges, don’t panic. Be resourceful and keep an open mind. You may figure out an ingenious solution. Don’t let people box you into one approach. Many great ideas have been the result of roadblocks and problems.

**

As I sit here more than a week after my experience, I am glad I did it. The worst is behind me, and I am glad I decided to “go for it.” That said, I also want to acknowledge that sometimes we intentionally choose to continue with the status quo, not because we are procrastinating, but because we believe it is the right decision. Life is never perfect, and each of us needs to decide which situations are worth accepting and which we truly want to change. Most of us will have a bit of both, and this is both practical and wise.

**

Is there a change in your future that you might be getting “in the mood” to tackle?

27 thoughts on “What Are You Choosing?”

  1. I am so glad you acted on this medical decision. I am thinking of you! Hugs!

    Thank you for sharing what motivated you “to get in the mood” to make change happen. That change became important because of many factors. We are living in complex times where there are many reasons to make a change happen and many obstacles. Take all of these into account and keep obstacles from stopping you.

    1. I can’t clearly articulate what makes me finally be “in the mood” to tackle something, but I think it is a common experience. I’ve talked with many who say that they suddenly just couldn’t stand a situation anymore, or just felt an overwhelming motivation to finally begin. As you say, there is so much going on right now, including two hurricanes heading in your direction. Hope you won’t be impacted! (I’m thinking you won’t?) It is wise to consider all the obstacles, but also to listen to your inner voice and promptings.

  2. Aw, Seana, I hope your hand is healing well now and sorry you were living with that pain, especially during the COVID shutdown. But am glad you were able to have it taken care of now and not chance not being able to if we get shut down again. Thinking of you and again hope you are OK now.

    1. Acknowledging that we are particularly susceptible to one or another hindrance is a helpful step in the process. When we can speak our anxieties and concerns out loud, we get them out into the light of day where they are less intimidating and where we can make a plan to tackle them. As we both know, we do anything through Christ who strengthens us!

  3. This is an excellent article. It describes me to a T. I keep putting off so many things that literally take just minutes. I have been pushing myself to do at least two tasks daily. Once I am done with them, I wonder why I ever put them off for so long. It didn’t hurt me to do them and they are now done. Procrastination is my biggest enemy!

    1. I love this idea of tackling two a day. This keeps them boundaried and limited… giving you permission to stop and not feel guilty about anything else on the list. I do think we are often surprised by how easily a project or task is when we finally tackle it. That is empowering and makes us want to do more (or more willingly repeat the task) in the future. Thanks for the comment, Terri!

  4. Seana- I’m sorry you had to have hand surgery, but I am so happy that you are on the mend. Keep taking good care of you. I love how you took a difficult situation and found inspiration from your discoveries on change- plan on the unpredictable, be patient with the timing, and think creatively. Your umbrella bag solution is brilliant! Change is a fascinating thing and happens whether we choose it or not. However, we can direct the path. And when we do, it might not go as anticipated, but at least we are moving towards something we want.

    When I began reading your post, I thought we might have had a mind-meld this week. Several words jumped out at me like action, change, momentum, stuck, and overwhelm. Those were “characters” I was also thinking about but in relation to enlisting help.

    Kudos to you for writing your post so soon after your surgery. You are amazing!

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Linda. I am on the mend, and glad the worst is behind me. As procedures go, this was pretty minor. I know so many people out there are facing and coping with much more life-altering surgeries. Life events often knock us off of our game, but they sure are great times for learning new skills and about ourselves.

      We definitely were on the same page this week. Must be in the ‘organizing air’ over here in the Northeast!

  5. Seana, this is such a powerful message. I don’t know how many times I’ll need to be reminded that not making a decision IS making a decision – to not move forward. I’ll try to keep it in mind as I contemplate any future changes.

    Your story reminded me of one of my own. About 25 years ago, I developed an unattractive mole on my arm and with short sleeve weather approaching, I was self-conscious about it. At the time I was on an acting assignment with a very lenient boss, and I would soon return to my regular job with my regular boss who was very by-the-book and insisted on us making up any time taken off for medical appointments. I went and got it checked and it turned out to be melanoma, which was promptly treated and has never returned.
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    1. Wow – that is quite a story! You should write that up. In your case, the external situation proved your motivator, and the hand of providence was upon you to motivate you into action. It isn’t easy to predict what will get us “in the mood” to move forward, but it often happens that we get to a place where we are finally ready to take action. I think it is important to listen to our inner voice in those moments, and am SO GLAD you did and that it hasn’t recurred!

  6. I hope you feel better soon. I agree with you on being creative through the process. I also think we need to be flexible. We can only do what we can do when we are taking care of ourselves and that is OK. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. That’s so true about only doing what we can do. It has been very hard for me, a “get things done” person, to sit and do very little. I’m getting back into the swing of things now, but I knew I really needed to take it easy to avoid creating an infection or other negative situation. Needless to say, we’ve been eating whatever could be easily prepared with my left hand – which was, frankly, hilarious to watch!

  7. Thank you for using your story to teach us these wise lessons. I offer you this passage from author Sarah Young: “Give thanks for the conditions that are requiring you to be still. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in our universe have been done from sick beds and prison cells.”

    1. I adore this quote! It is so true. I heard a pastor talking about how we wouldn’t have much of the New Testament if Paul hadn’t been imprisoned. He wrote all those letters from captivity. If he hadn’t been in prison, he would have been traveling and communicating his messages in person, and hence not writing them down. You never know what wonders will come from a time of stillness, whether you wanted it or not. In a way, I think many have experienced something similar during this pandemic. While it isn’t total stillness, it has been a more restricted lifestyle, and for many, more time for reflection.

  8. This story is so relatable and perfectly demonstrates how important it is to choose change when you can. I try to think about this in terms of being prepared. Even though I can’t determine exactly how change will occur, at least I can have some control over the resources I have available to respond. Thanks for sharing and I hope your hand is feeling better!

  9. First of all, Seana, I hope you’re feeling well. And I am so glad that this is behind you and you did the right thing by taking care of yourself.
    I’ve always found that when I put something off it ends up being so much easier than I imagined. I think of all that energy layered on unnecessarily.
    You are so right , choosing not to do something is a choice. Sometimes I just throw my hands up in the air and tell myself to do it anyway. I know it has to get done, so I might as well just do it. That works too!

    1. I totally agree, Ronni. It is easy to overthink things, and I find I often am worst about this when there is no definitive deadline. Sometimes, you just have to just throw your hands up and go for it! Many thanks for the well wishes. I’m on the mend!

  10. This is such a great lesson to reflect on. I absolutely love the quote at the beginning. It’s a reminder we all need once in awhile. I certainly do! I especially love your point about things taking longer than we think. It’s true of so many things, and it’s especially true of decluttering and organizing. Focusing on the end result and enjoying the progress along the way is important, I think.

    1. I completely agree, Sheri. I also think there can be joy in the process. I have a great time with my clients, and always tell new ones that this is a very positive experience, not something to be feared or dreaded!

    1. There is something great about having it “behind you!” Facing unpleasantness is just part of life, and when you summon the courage to go for it, you can feel good about that decision, even if it leads to some rough times. After all, NOT taking action can also lead to rough times, although we often discount this reality.

  11. Praying for a healthy recovery from your surgery, Seana! Your initial quote reminds me of the saying, Nothing changes if nothing changes. You’re so right when you say ‘if you want to change, you have to pursue it.’

    1. Thanks, Sarah – I am on the mend. A few exercises to try and get full motion back. Aging is not for the faint of heart, right? Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is step into something challenging. We rarely welcome this, but it feels empowering to take action for sure:)

  12. Oh man, glad you’re ok. I remember having a sinus infection and then and an allergic reaction to the meds they gave me. So not planned for!
    And what you said really struck a thought with me in that can’t predict or plan for everything, and things take longer. I always just assume everything is going to be so smooth, but Cassidy sees the pitfalls of our projects. Like hidden cost, natural disaster, unplanned for things.. always.

    1. I feel like this year especially it has been hard to predict and plan for eventualities. I cope better with possibilities I had considered, so I’m more like Cassidy, taking the time to think about everything that could go wrong. I think this probably makes me a bit less likely to try things, but it is just the way I am!

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