The Decision //

Will a simple decision lead to a lifetime of regret or happiness?

It was getting late, later than she had anticipated, and she knew that she needed to make a decision. Would she hold tight to the dream that has kept her going for the past few years or would she let it go in favour of the undefined possibilities that stood ahead of her?

This question nagged at her each day demanding a response and she had talked through the two options with friends and family countless times. Each person offered their own helpful perspective but as well-meaning as that was, it only added to the confusion. Exhausted by the weight of this decision, she would rush to sleep hoping to find rest. But as soon as her head hit the pillow and her eyes closed for the night, her brain would go into overdrive hoping to help her make sense of the confusion.

Last night her dreams took her to the future where she was now well into her 70s with changes in her vision that made it difficult to see things clearly. She could tell that there were many people gathering around her radiating love and joy but couldn’t quite make out their faces. Their voices were also unclear but she felt happiness in this moment even though she couldn’t quite make out the reason for the festivities that brought out this group of people.

“The woman of the hour! I’m so happy that you finally agreed to let us celebrate you!”, said the voice that was approaching her.

She recognized this voice instantly and it made her heart jump. She tried to formulate the words running through her mind into a question but each time she tried, she would lose grasp of the phrasing and the scenery in front of her would change. The next thing she knew, she was in the future again but a closer future. She was in her 40s and was on a flight taking a trip somewhere.

“Will you two be having the special meal you ordered in advance or one of the set meal options?”, the flight attendant in front of her asked. She turned to the seat beside her but it was empty.

“Um, I think we’ll be having the special meal we ordered, if that’s okay with you?”, she asked the flight attendant.

She was met with a response and, testing the waters, she tried to ask who exactly the other person accompanying her on this journey was, but like before, she couldn’t form the question properly and was swept away to the third act in her dream.

This time, she didn’t time travel too far. She was sitting at a coffee shop, holding her London fog between her two hands. The warmth from the drink grounded her and she could tell that she was in desperate need of some grounding. Her heart was racing and an entire family of butterflies was flittering around freely in her stomach. She glanced over at her phone to check the date even though she was pretty certain what day it would be. It was June 26th: D-Day.

All of her dreams would end with her in this exact moment, sitting in front of the person she knew she had to share her decision with. Would she be met with a huge smile, a hug, and a sigh of relief from this other person? Or would she have to sit across from this person, watching their heart break as she shared her decision with them?

In this dream, she had to say something because the time had come. But in reality, this exact moment was still a little over a week away. Sitting here in this moment, she had to resist the urge to beat herself up about how many times she had resisted making a choice and instead defaulted to the excuse that it was “many, many months away!”. What’s happened has happened; there was no point in fighting with the past.

Her heart was conflicted and wasn’t doing her any favours in making this moment any clearer or easier. The truth was she could see herself being content with either decision. What it came down to was how much she was willing to put her trust in the hands of the people around her. She found comfort and joy in the black and white areas of life, the easy yes’s and no’s, and anything in the grey brought her an immense source of frustration. This decision in front of her was one that was firmly in the grey and she hated every moment of it.

She looked up at the person sitting in front of her and made a simple request for a coin. After some slight shuffling and an extra purchase of a small donut to break a $5 bill into some change, she received a 10 cent coin. Without thinking, she flipped the coin and quickly placed her hand over it once it made contact with the table.

“Heads, I stay. Tails, I go. Whatever happens, happens. Is that alright with you?”, she asked her companion.

They gave a slight nod of the head and she gently lifted her hand to reveal the coin. She looked down and was overcome by a huge sense of relief. She would walk fully into this decision – her final decision – and move forward with her life.

Proceed with extreme caution //

Warning: consume at your own risk. Side effects may include: daydreaming, disappointment, and euphoria.

She started chasing Love in the fourth grade.

After months of intriguing conversations, hilarious inside jokes, and intimate confessions of deepest, darkest fears, she had finally found The One. But The One, named X, had to go ahead and ruin it all by giving her a ring made out of thick grass to go along with his declaration that they would be married at recess. She knew X in a way that not many people in their class did so this behaviour was out of the norm for her mild mannered crush. As the world crumbled around her, X was standing there with his smile slowly turning to a frown. Sensing that she would not reply the way he thought she would, he shrugged, threw the ring to the floor, and ran off to join the other kids. As she crushed the grass ring below her shoe she questioned his behaviour. They were In Love and he was The One. So how could he disappoint her like this?

Over the years, she would find herself feeling sure that someone else was The One. She would cycle through this pattern of feeling intoxicated by an all-consuming crush and getting to know this crush, only for it to fall apart. On her 28th birthday, her friends, who were very familiar with and tired of this cycle, gifted her a single present: a book about love by bell hooks. At first, she laughed because self-help was never her thing (what a selfish pursuit!) and surely this was a gag gift leading to the real thing. But as soon as she realized her friends were serious and no other gifts were coming, she solemnly promised them she would read it in a few days.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into seasons, and before she knew it, she was sitting at home with the book staring back at her on the eve of her 29th birthday. This wasn’t what she had planned. Her 29th birthday celebration was supposed to be a kick-off to enjoying the last year of her 20s. Instead, an emergency alert lit up her phone at 5 AM that morning warning of an imminent thunderstorm and advised people and businesses to safely shelter at home. All day she had been trying to convince family and friends to come over (it’s just a short drive! We can shelter in place together!) but no one was coming. As the skies darkened and the rain began to pour, she decided to get comfortable and start reading all about love.

…while I wanted to know love, I was afraid to be truly intimate.

to know love we have to tell the truth to ourselves and to others. Creating a false self to mask fears and insecurities has become so common that many of us forget who we are and what we feel underneath the pretense.

…as long as we are afraid to risk we cannot know love. Hence the truism: “Love is letting go of fear.”

While she read the last few phrases in the book, one question kept floating through her mind: had she been afraid of Love this entire time? The revolving door of crushes that seemed to burrow their way into her heart and mind certainty didn’t make it seem like she was afraid. On more than one occasion, she boldly claimed to love Love in all of its forms. Her favourite movies, books, stories, paintings, and songs were all about the different faces of Love. If she looked at it that way, she definitely didn’t fear Love. But she knew that for 28 years she had been pointing to these examples as a way to reassure herself that the Love she was chasing was not the problem. Love was perfect but the men she was infatuated with weren’t. Simply put, that was the problem. And as she checked the clock and noticed it was well past midnight, a large part of her wanted to continue telling herself that lie for another year so that she could live the way she always had. It’s unclear whether it was because of the increasingly loud winds outside her window or the sweet calls of the sleep deprivation sirens, but at that moment she made a decision. She would confront Love head-on once and for all.

The idea of confronting Love set off tingles all over her body. For so long she had been taken in by the idea and promise of Love and heartbroken when it let her down. X wasn’t the shy romantic who spent his evenings telling his mom and dad about how he loved her so much he cried himself to sleep. He was just a normal kid who did normal kid things and who sat two seats in front of her in class. There were many more X’s than she would like to admit but at least they were better than the Y’s. The Y’s were the ones who were perfect until they weren’t. Y would hook her in with his mystery and the allure of being someone that couldn’t be figured out. She would spend her days telling friends all about him and spend long nights browsing through tweets, posts, and pictures to better understand who he was. There was never enough to figure out Y so she would do her best to get to know him in real life. Over a series of conversations, she would piece together the puzzle and just when she was certain he was The One, he would do or say something to make her reconsider. The disinterest in his eyes that she loved so much would change to something that terrified her. He would lean in a bit closer, laugh at her jokes a bit louder, or call her “just to say hi”. Moments that would make her heart flutter as they unfolded onscreen or on the page caused her mind to initiate a flight or fight response of the highest degree. She ran away from it over and over again because this wasn’t the Love she wanted.

Her idea of love was shaped by early exposure to an upbeat duet from a certain 80s musical. The song was only 2 minutes long but that was all she needed to dedicate her life to the lifelong pursuit of Love. In the song the woman sings about how the man is everything she ever wanted and instructs him to move his legs, shimmy his shoulders, and come closer so she can hold him tightly by the waist. He sings in response and tells her that she too is perfect and among all the women living on earth, she is the best. Together they hold each others arms and agree to protect their love as they dance their way offscreen. Years later, she would play that clip from the musical and listen to it as she imagined her and her latest crush dancing and singing along. No matter how many times she would be disappointed by Love, it would remain in its purest form in this clip, beckoning her to come back. This clip was replaced by a song with lyrics so beautiful (“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathing in your dust”) that she would lose herself in it for a little while. Soon, she had her own required reading list of songs, movies, and books that taught her true Love was easy, fun, and lighthearted. It promised her that all she had to do was find The One and she too could laugh and smile everyday of her life. In the early hours of the morning, with flickering lights as her only companion and lightning making contact with the earth outside, she came to realize this was nothing more than an idea but it also wasn’t entirely a lie.

Love really could be easy, fun, and lighthearted, she knew that for a fact. She had experienced this form of Love over and over again. This version of Love was what she referred to in her mind as the “plug-and-play”, special edition, version. All it required was a curious romantic with an active imagination (her) and a co-star to join along on this journey (mostly X but sometimes Y). But the love she was reading about in the bell hooks book was a different kind of love. This love was all about intimacy, vulnerability, and honesty. This love required work but promised to be more fulfilling than the one she was so familiar with. This love scared her whereas her Love comforted and shielded her from the harshness of the world. But the promise of this love was far greater than what she could have ever imagined and to reap the benefits, she needed to step outside of the safety of her daydreams into reality.

As she closed the book sitting in her lap, she closed her eyes and thought of all The One’s there had been. Every single one of them was alluring in his own way but she preferred them when they were strangers. Once she got to know them, they would reveal themselves honestly and wait for her to do the same. She was a private person but gave off the impression of being open to everyone she met. Her closest friends called her out on this, several times, but she would laugh it off and share just a snippet of herself to satisfy them. She was only truly vulnerable and honest with God. Did she have to bare her innermost thoughts and desires to another human being to love and be loved? This realization dawned on her just as the phone rang. It was her friend on the other side, calling to make sure she was safe and wanting to stay on the phone with her until the storm had passed. For the next few hours, she would share her reflections with her friend, laugh as they reminisced about the past, and share their biggest fears. She may not be open to loving someone romantically just yet, but she decided that these moments were also love and she would do her best to dive in with her whole heart.