Here’s Why You Can Stop Worrying About Your Decisions Now
“Decisions can be like car accidents, sudden and full of consequences.”
— Allison Glock
Last night, as I was enjoying a hot mug of cinnamon tea by the fire, Witchy burst into my cottage in a panic.
“Liberty! Liberty! I don’t know what to do!” She came to a screeching halt just short of my comfy wingback chair.
“My goodness, Witchy! Sit down and tell me what’s going on.” I gestured toward the chair opposite mine.
“What if I got it wrong? What if I was supposed to do something else?” Her breath was short and shallow.
“Witchy, try to calm down. Take in a few deep breaths and let them out slowly,” I offered in a reassuring tone.
“I can’t! There’s no time! I might have to fix it!”
“Fix what, Witchy? And…there is time to calm down. That’s the best way to approach any difficulties. Plus you still have to breathe; you might as well do it slowly so you feel better and we can talk about the problem.”
“Oh, boy, I feel dizzy!”
“You’re hyperventilating. Take a deep breath and hold it…”
“Hyperventilating. Just do as I said, please.”
She drew in a deep breath and held it.
“…and now let it out slowly.”
A few more of these and she began to calm down.
“Okay, Witchy, what’s going on?”
“Well, I went to the library again today. It was my second time. I, um, had to return a big book I got last time.”
“That’s good! That’s a great way to keep improving your English.”
“Well, I hope so. Boy, that place is kind of weird.”
“Yes. There is only one lady at the desk. And only one tiny section where you’re allowed to get the books by yourself. Everywhere else, you have to ask her to get them for you.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand?” She has done quite well learning how to live in a strange, new country since leaving the depths of the Transylvanian Forest. But sometimes she is puzzled by how we do things. “You don’t have ask for that. Well, unless you can’t find what you want.”
“Yes. You do. There is only one little area that says ‘self-help.’ Why would they have such a big place full of books and only one small lady who has to run to get what you want when you could just help yourself? And why is there only one tiny section where they let you do that?”
“I see. That’s not what ‘self-help’ means.”
“What? It doesn’t mean helping yourself? It’s only two words! What else could they mean?”
“Well, it does mean helping yourself, but — ”
“It does? You just said it doesn’t!”
“It doesn’t mean that kind of helping.”
Rolling her eyes, she sighed in exasperation.
“English is so dumb.”
“So you keep saying. And rightfully so. In this case, ‘self-help’ means books that can help you improve your life.”
“Well, that’s even dumber.”
“Dumber than English.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because the book I got has just told me that I’ve messed up my entire life and got it wrong!” With every word, panic rose in her voice.
“I’m sure it didn’t say that, Witchy. That’s a pretty huge statement.”
“Yes! It did! It really did! It said that every single decision you make affects what happens to you! Even the teeniest, tiniest ones! And that because of this, there are gazillions of possibilities for how your life could have gone and what you could have done or been in your life!”
“Well, yes, that’s true.”
“It is??! Oh, no!”
“Why is that a problem, Witchy?”
“What if I did it wrong? What if I made 194 million wrong decisions? What if I was supposed to be somewhere else?”
“Well, then, I — ”
“Oh, dear! I could have avoided wasting those two or three centuries with that pinhead, Vladimir the Vampire! Worst. Boyfriend. Ever!”
“Yes, that’s true, but — ”
“And I wouldn’t have had that…that awful ‘secret trauma’ that ruined my spells and broke my magic!”
“Well, possibly, but — ”
“And I might have been the most powerful witch in the Forest by now and leading my own coven! And maybe I — ”
Her head spun toward me. “Stop what?”
“Stop with all the ‘what-ifs’ because there’s no point.”
“But what if I got it wrong, Liberty? What if I should have made millions of different decisions? What if I should have been doing something else, somewhere else? What if I had never have gone through all of the awful trauma and challenges that led me to where I am?”
“Then you’d have been doing something else, somewhere else, getting through a lot of other trauma and challenges that led you there.”
Silence. Her mouth fell open. It closed. Then opened again, as if she couldn’t decide whether or not to speak. Either that or she was attempting to imitate a fish. I’m sure it was the former.
“You make it sound like our lives are nothing more than a long series of accidents!”
“Well, to be honest, they might be.”
“What??” Her eyebrows nearly hit the brim of her beautiful purple hat.
“We don’t know if everything happens for a reason or if it’s all random choice and coincidence. Or perhaps it’s a combination of both, with some things that are meant to be and others that are purely chance or luck, whether good or bad. Some people believe our souls choose the lessons we’ll have before we come to this life; others disagree.”
“That’s not very helpful.”
“The truth is that there is no answer.”
She frowned at me, pursing her lips.
“That’s even less helpful.”
“Sorry, Witchy, but it’s the truth. At the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best we can with whatever hand we’ve been dealt. And that means doing our best to find meaning in what happens to us. Plus we can decide to do things that will make our lives meaningful, at least to ourselves if no one else.”
“I don’t know what possible meaning there could have been in all that awfulness in the Forest. I mean, losing my magic, and being so humiliated by the other witches and by Vladimir after — well…you know.”
“Yes, I do know, Witchy. But remember all those conversations you’ve had with your cauldron, Enchantra, and with me? All those times you came to understand something about those painful situations that helped you?”
“Well, for example, that you deserved to be treated with more respect than Vladimir showed you. If not for the disasters of your ‘wonky spells,’ you would never have seen him for the vampire — and awful boyfriend — he was. And you wouldn’t have seen that your friends weren’t really ‘friends’ at all.”
“And you wouldn’t have overcome a lot of fears by leaving the Forest with Enchantra and starting a whole new life here. I know you still have a lot of fears but you were so brave, Witchy. In making that decision, you faced many fears. I mean, even having that huge spider on your hat. That’s your way of facing your arachnophobia.”
“A rack of what?”
“Arachnophobia. That’s a huge fear of spiders.”
“You could have made lots of decisions to stay stuck in your fears but you’re doing your best to overcome them.”
She was wearing her “thinky” look again.
“And think about how that’s changed your life! You’re having lots of adventures and learning so many new things about yourself and the world. And…I wouldn’t have met you, and you are so precious to me. I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it now. You’re my family, Witchy.”
She stared at me, her eyes filling with tears. Her lower lip quivered…just a little. She was silent for a few moments. And then, “Every decision I’ve ever made was exactly the right one.”
I smiled. And so did she.
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