I hope you will accept my invitation to join me in the second week of my 52 Invitations series of posts. This week I invite you to join me in changing your mind. . . or your heart.
I recently had a big change of heart on some lifestyle choices. I had been thinking about what would help me feel truly content with most areas of my life. I was surprised to realize I don't want to do even a third of what I've been planning to do. I don't want to learn another language at this point, I don't want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I don't want a huge vegetable garden, I don't want to live in the country, I don't want to start a charity and I don't want to live in a Tiny House.
As I pondered my ideal situation, I discovered that while I want to travel and get-by with what little I may know of French or Italian, I do not want to commit the time to being fluent. In the past I might have felt like a, "dumb American" for not making a huge effort. I now accept that when I go back to France, some may think just that and I'm OK with it. I may not get the best item on the menu in a restaurant because I didn't understand enough French to say yes and stuck with something familiar, but I'm OK with that too.
I don't need a lot of possessions, but I must have space. I am sensitive and need breathing room. I do not need a luxurious space or an expensive space that will impress people. I need a space that feels open and clear. I can stay in a Tiny House or even live in one short-term, but given a choice. . . I want a bedroom separate from the rest of the place. Oh, and not living near the ocean is no longer an option.
I also came to the conclusion that while I love hiking, camping and nature, I want to live in a city with twenty-four hour delivery, bookstores, cafes, theaters that get limited release movies and grocery stores that carry organic non-gmo foods. I no longer want to grow my own vegetables. I want to support those who are doing it and enjoying it. I do not want to start a charity, instead I want to fund charitable projects that other people have the dream of starting.
As far as the ocean, I need it. It is no longer a choice. I need salty ocean water, to see waves breaking on rocks and if seals are around, even better. Pine woods nearby? Yes, please.
These sound like simple things, but it took me a long time to realize that I want a large comfortable living space in a city. My husband and I tried minimalist living with a dog in a 430 sq. foot apartment in a small town. It wasn't so hot. Now we are in the same small town, but in a large house and I'm working on the move to a city!
I know our word is supposed to be golden and we want to keep all of the promises we've made to others and ourselves, but sometimes it's OK to simply decide you don't want to be, do or think what you once did.
This goes for the heavy duty things like life changes (engagement, marriage, divorce, jobs . . .) as well the little ones (ice cream flavors, how you dress, where you park. . .) or the ones in-between (who you vote for, which child gets the larger bedroom, renter's insurance or savings. . .).
The important thing to remember is that no matter what the level of change is, you get to make it if you want to. It doesn't mean everyone is going to be happy about it and support you, but you get to make it.
I was revolted when I read about a couple who went through expensive infertility treatments and got pregnant only to give their baby up for adoption when she was born with Down's Syndrome. However, it was their right. They knew it would cost them friends, they'd be harshly judged and they did it anyway because they felt it was best. I haven't changed my mind how I feel about it, but it has made me ponder my own reasons for making certain decisions and choices.
I hate to say that some of my decisions have been made based on what people think or how I think they will view me. I don't want to appear to be rude or wishy-washy if I cancel a lunch date at the last minute or if I suddenly realized a project my employees had been working on for weeks was no longer relevant.
I now understand that I have the right to change my mind and when I make the decision to say no or change my view, I also accept that there may be consequences. Some friends may be annoyed with me, some employees or bosses may not respect my shift in priorities, but if I'm OK with it, I'm OK with it.
Sometimes I'm not.
Sometimes I dread a commitment, but keep it because I know I'm counted on or do not want to let down a friend who needs some support. That's a choice and maybe there are consequences for that too. Maybe I keep the date with the friend and miss a deadline at work, but if I can live with it. . .I can live with it.
There are some commitments you may feel you can't possibly go back on. How many times have you heard about women who knew the minute they were saying, "I do." they were making a big mistake ("We'd paid for everything and all of our friends were there.") ?
Yet, you can go back on your commitment to get married. You may hurt people, you may lose money. However, it is your choice.
There are some things that seem unchangeable. Having or not having children. And they may be, but you can always revisit your expectations and make changes accordingly. Are you wishing you didn't have kids so you could travel and explore the world (Yes, there are women who secretly wish this and its OK) ? Well, perhaps you need to think about how you can travel and explore with your kids even if it means giving up ideas that until now have felt like, "best for your child" decisions. Maybe your in-laws will judge you if you take your kids out of school for a year and home-school while you travel across the country, but you as a parent get to make that choice. Or you could do something less drastic and find other ways to make the summer fun for your kids, but use vacation money to send the kids to grandma's and go to Prague for two weeks on your own.
Perhaps you never had children and now it is too late biologically. Acknowledge the regret and consider other ways you can grow with and nurture a child. Foster parents are in demand in almost every city.
I never said changing your mind is simple, but it is yours to change.
Much of what I have offered as examples may sound like middle-class problems and seem frivolous to someone trying to decide which child gets a new pair of shoes and which gets the new coat. I get that, believe me. However, even if your decision is much more agonizing, you still get to decide . . . and it doesn't always feel like a privilege.
I invite you to think about your life (or tomorrow) and if you realize you've had a change of heart about something and feel like you need to change your mind because of it, please follow your instincts and do what you know is best for you. A note to parents; you'd be surprised at how what is best for you is really good for your kids.
There are experts who could break this whole thing down to a process and make a mind-change seem simple by asking yourself questions and while that is helpful, I'm not an expert so I'm just going to ask you to consider how your plans or ideas feel. Not so hot? Sit with them awhile and see if you can live with them. Pretty good? Go ahead on!
If you have any thoughts or want to share your decision making process, please feel free to share your words in the comments. Your comments are my gold!
Oh, and here is an interesting link for my writer readers!
p.s. The image of the woman thinking is available here.
p.s. double s. This is my latest piece.
I wish I could show you...
when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.