Deliberately vague

When all arrows are pointing you THAT WAY, why, oh why, would you go THE OTHER WAY??

When your heart is telling you to do X? Why would you do Y?

When your gut is telling you you are wrong, why do you let your head tell you you're right? Or vice versa? Whatever??


I've been a student of the human condition for most of my life. Why people do what they do drives me; inspires me to press on, challenge myself, grow no matter how painful or difficult. It's my profession. I am both a student and a teacher of it. I intuit what is needed of me and I am there, like a suckling pig on a platter for the taking. Just eat me up. And I thrive on this. I feel strong, smart, and loving by doing whatever it takes to be there for someone I love, or even someone I like who has no one that loves him nearby. I'll fill those shoes if I need to temporarily, and then I'll kick them off and move and with my life.

I am most proud of myself when I am challenged and given two options: Option A sucks shit and fire; Option B is more bearable, much easier, and I choose A. I always choose A because I can breathe with a clear conscience that I did the right thing. Not the easy thing: THE RIGHT THING.

For example, when Dad was dying a miserable, lonely death I was there for him on the phone and then in person in hospice. Arguably, he deserved none of that: he was cruel to me and my sister, he harmed her person out right, he was just plain mean, but I knew that he was also alone in this universe and it would be my final gift to him as his daughter (deservedly or not) to be there for him and I was.

I fielded his demented phone calls, his hallucinations, his tears through fiber optics. And then I held his cold, soft hand in his gurney and watched his massive, cancer-infested chest rise and fall closer and closer to death for days before I had to return to my life whereupon I caught more distraught and terrified calls from him as he continued towards Death and his Maker.

When it was done, I was devastated, but also proud. Proud that I had given him all the love I had for him and sent him off into the afterlife (whatever that may be) with the glow of being loved by someone, anyone. It shattered me to hear his voice, talk to him, see him, touch him and be touched by him, to bring my sister near him, but I prevailed and I have no doubt in my mind that I did the right thing. I absolutely did the right thing.

Because of that experience my soul has been pulled inside out of me and twisted around my heart, exposed and vulnerable to any man bearing his semblance: a mustache, khaki pants, sunglasses. I fight tears if I see him crossing the street or in the mall. In fact, I just saw "him" yesterday at a festival of 50,000 people. "There's Dad," I told my mother. "Right there... " and I pointed at a tall man wearing a t-shirt and shorts, sporting a paunch, cloth sunglass-holders and a faded khaki hat. "Yes. That does look like him," she responded quietly. He's been dead for 3 1/2 years.

And this Option A would NEVER have been expected of me. No one would have told me, Jessica, you need to see your dad. You need to be nice to him. And yet, I still did it.

So WHY, when none of those things are even at stake would someone given Option A and Option B still choose the easier Option B??? I just don't get it. And it breaks my heart and tears me open to see it happening. I am confounded and confused and angry.

In reality, I know the answer. It's very simple. Option B, is simply, easier. My real confusion stems from why people are willing to take the easy way out over and over when the reward is short-lived and minimal. No one is really proud of this choice. It's like reaching for the chocolate when you know you shouldn't. Mmm, the chocolate tastes so good, but you know the harder choice would have been to deny yourself. And it would feel 1000 times better looking back on it because you've reached your health goals.

I suppose people wouldn't have as many troubles in their lives if they did everything they could to improve themselves given the opportunity. It's when we lose ourselves and divert from who we know we should be that we get into hot water. Self-contempt is poisonous.

So I will slip into those shoes that need filling, because it's what I do and what I love to do. I will power through, I will breathe deeply and fill my cells with love and energy and I will walk through that door for everyone who can't and won't and doesn't think it's that necessary. And when it's all over with I will feel good about how I carried myself, how I behaved and what I did. I'm not sure that everyone will have the benefit of that feeling when all is said and done.

When at a crossroads, what do you do? I'm not perfect, nor am I holier than thou, but I'd like to know what you do when it's safe for you to do so and even when sometimes it isn't safe. Do you lean towards one of these two options consistently? Do you know why? And how do you feel about your decisions?

[Ed. add: I've been thinking about all of this since I posted it. I'm worried I come off as some kind of saint whose shit don't stink, but I'm here to make sure you know it does. I will almost always reach for that piece of chocolate that I talked about and I'm sure there are many real-life friends who might read this and scratch their heads because maybe I wasn't there for them. What I want to really impart here is that whenever I'm at a crossroads, a come to Jesus moment FOR ME, to my recollection, I have always chosen the more difficult path and I am proud of that because I felt in my heart it was truly the right thing to do. People on the OTHER end of that path might not have felt it was the right thing, but I certainly have.]


  1. Very interesting post.

    I resonnate with it, but not completely. I will never back away from a challenge and often choose option A, but it is hard for me to say if in the case of your dad, I would have chosen that route. I am new to your blog so I do not have all of the history, but I do struggle with family commitments. I love my immediate family dearly and while my mom can be trying, I do almost always give into what she needs/wants.

    She has very complicated relationships with her family though and her siblings and previously her father could be so cruel to her. So it has always amazed me how she continues to put herself out there to be there for them and then subsequently get hurt. It is very difficult for me to imagine this scenario because my family is very loving, but I find myself imploring my mom to stop giving so much to her family. She will never stop giving and trying with them.

    Anyway, not exactly the same situation as yours, and in all honesty, I am sure if faced with the same scenario as you, I would do the same...family situations are just complicated.

    I am reminded a bit by the book "A Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genius." Have you read it? You might enjoy it.

  2. I try to be an Option A person, I really do. But every once in a while, I find myself mesmerized by B...especially when I'm just so exhausted by life that I'm not sure if I can take another step...

    I find that's happening less and less the older I get though. Option B is so much less satisfying.

  3. Very interesting topic. I basically do what I think is right for me. In any case. I can't say I go one way or another each and every time. It's always different and depends solely on the circumstances.

    But some people (my aunt comes to mind) do things the hard way all the time. And it's not necessarily because she thinks it's right, but because she's a martyr and likes to do things the hard way and then complain about how no one appreciates it. Which is just so ridiculous, I don't even get it.

    And then, my husband has some pretty difficult relationships within his family and he continues to put himself out there, when he gets little or nothing in return. But it's almost as if he doesn't even see that there's another way; it's as if that is the only way and there's no alternative.

    What's interesting is how different all of our perception is - and how differently we deal with our dilemmas. Thanks for making me think this morning! ;)

  4. This is a tough one. I try to do the right thing, even if that is more difficult for me. But when there's no big moral distinction between two choices, I do what feels right in my gut. I figure that if I want to do something then I will regret not doing it. I never regret trying things that didn't work out.

    I think there's a balance here. Some people make their lives very difficult for themselves, surrounding themselves with needy, draining people and always being in some kind of crisis. I try to make my life as smooth and easy as possible. It's horses for courses I suppose.

  5. I like to think that when at a crossroads, I take the right way, no matter how hard. I may hesitate a moment to pep myself up and talk myself into it, but I do it.

    Except with chocolate. there I give in every single time.

  6. I agree with you guys that there is definitely a balance. No one wants a martyr, but like a lot of you are describing, when it would FEEL RIGHT to do A, most of us seem to do it. I'm just angry at the people who don't do A and choose easy ass B instead when it would really benefit someone else AND your own sense of self-respect if you took the tougher path.

    Of course it would never do if you were resentful for choosing the harder route, then it really isn't the harder route, it's just the route that YOU get more out of one way or another.

    Anyway, thank you all for your feedback! I'm really munching on this and I was so angry at the world yesterday I could have hurled my poo at someone hahaha.

  7. I also want to add that moments like these are when you can test your mettle and see if you can give yourself a passing grade. It's not like you do it on purpose, it's just an opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a human being (again, VERY different from martyrdom, codependence, and enabling).

    Ugh, ugh, ugh.

    Seriously... I really would hurl something right now if I could...

  8. I would say that I am mostly inclined to choose option B, the easy way, if it's a decision whose outcome would only negatively effect ME. It's easier for me to shortchange myself, screw myself over, and not take responsibility for my actions if I'm he only one suffering. In situations like your example, where my choice would effect someone else, I am like you and would always choose option A.

    I think that probably indicates that I don't value myself enough. Who knows?

  9. For me choosing A or B will depend on the situation. I have too often put others first (although they may not see it like that) but I don't do that anymore. With my kids and husband I will choose A if I feel like it is the right choice, but not for other people. Not anymore.

  10. Deep, beautiful writing.

    I enjoyed it immensely.

    Thank you for the thought provoking topic, and the honesty that you wrote it with. I loved it. And I still don't hve an answer...I could talk about this forever.

    Just thank you.

  11. I'm trying to think of an answer and will come back if I come to a conclusion.

    But I just wanted to say: Whatever's going on, I hope for you to have strength, comfort, ass-kicking abilities ... whatever it is you need. It sounds like a toughie.