Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Other Hand

Oh, decisions. The bane of my sorry existence. I wriggle, I wail, I writhe -to no avail. Decisions keep popping up like whack-a-moles. And I'm really clumsy with the mallet.

At least my problem is, well, biblical. By which I mean that decisions are a long-lived, tried-and-true, since-time-immemorial type of pest. One of those good, old-fashioned plagues, like locusts. To listen to the serpent, or not? To build the ark, or not? To covet your neighbor's wife, she of the swishy hips and talent for calming sheep, or not? Ka-POW: a decision, and no amount of lamb's blood on your door is going to save you.

Because decisions don't pass anybody over. Michael Pollan, in his dreamy hunk of a book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, reminds us that we evolved one decision at a time:

To one degree or another, the question of what to have for dinner assails every omnivore, and always has. When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the potential foods on offer are liable to sicken or kill you. This is the omnivore's dilemma.

So we're all out there trying to decide whether to eat anteater or squash. But why do some people plunge straight for the anteater, fork raised, while others stand back wringing their hands? I'm appalled to read, day in and day out, of yet another suicide bombing. Somewhere in me, though, lurks a shameful green glob of wonder: how can anyone make a decision with enough force to blow themselves up?

I am the decider! Ha. More like the agonizer, the freezer-upper, the drifter-alonger. Today I backed slowly, like a truck with an uncommonly wide load, into a decision on what to do with the next five months of my life. Backing in is among my preferred methods of making decisions, though there's also sidling-towards, tricking-someone-else-into-making-it-for-you, doing-nothing-until-the-universe-makes-it, and flipping-a-coin. All designed to prevent me from taking full responsibility for the shape of my life while I wait until I just know.

For this is the mirage in the desert of decision, the siren song: you will just know. I will just know when I meet the love of my life. Never mind that my first impressions of the various people I've fallen for, over the years, can be summed up as: "cute but old," "cute but gay," "a little much," and "smelly." I will just know when I find the right career. Never mind that the only career-based epiphany I've had to date is that I ought not, under any circumstances, to eat paperclips. I will just know where to go to dinner, when to have children, how to come home.

I'm still waiting like a fool for the fuse to run out, for the bomb to go off, for that soft explosion of certainty deep in my belly. Meanwhile, heads or tails?

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