How I Make Big Decisions and Laugh at the Pain is my deeply personal explanation of how I make big decisions. The other day, I was asked how I got this far – with my theatre group, the 2-day arts festival I’m planning and my blog – and it caught be off guard, really. So here are my thoughts about how I’ve gotten – well, at least this far.
As I write, with cold sores on my face due to too much stress, I’ve been thinking about some of the life decisions I’ve made recently and what it all means. I can’t really laugh about this yet because my face hurts too much. But it is pretty funny… especially if you’re the narrator telling my story.
Writers must be able to make important decisions all the time because we determine what happens and what doesn’t happen to our characters. But does this ability translate into our everyday lives? I tend to think so – and I’ll tell you why.
When a Muse Changed My Life
Many years ago, someone (I can’t remember who) said something that really made a difference to me. As it goes for so many Muses, this faceless, nameless person who told me exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time will go on without my thanks, though I would very much like to give it.
She said, “Shouldn’t we all, each of us, see ourselves as the protagonist of our own respective lifetimes?”
From that point on, whenever I had a difficult question to face in my life, I thought of myself as the protagonist in my story. This was great for me, because it meant I could more easily pose the question about what I should do next – like this: “If I were reading this moment about me, what would I hope for that character? Would I want the character to do X or to do Z?”
Being a Protagonist
Many times, the more difficult choice has been what I ended-up choosing – frankly, because it made for a much better story. If I wanted the character of me to make the right choice, well… that often meant having to do something I wasn’t keen on doing at all.
The protagonist often has to do the tough but right thing. Right?
I want to be able to look back on the decisions I’ve made and not have regret – and I don’t mean the self-denial-styled, “I have no regrets! I just deal with my crappy life and I like it that way!” –not like that.
In the past, I firmly proclaimed that I lived without any regrets, and at the time I really believed it, too. But I’ve found that embracing sorrow and regret (as part of a process or path, not a permanent residence) is an important step to becoming a better and more interesting person.
My Steps to Getting Past the Nonsense in Me
I learned I cannot cheat a deeper sense of awareness or living more conscientiously by simply deciding that I have no regrets. It doesn’t work that way.
Why did I defend so viciously my right to have no regret? Well, I think in part it’s cultural. I mean, I felt guilt for everything all the time – so why throw regret into the mix? So I had to dump the guilt before I could really move forward and address other, more complicated emotions like sorrow and regret.
Thinking about this, here were my steps:
- dump the guilt
- embrace regret (and forgive myself)
- let go of what I think others expect of me
- think of myself as a protagonist. What would I actually want for myself? What do I want my story to be – what is it about?
My Stupid Lip
At this point in my life, I’m really just doing the things I want to do and then doing them whole-heartedly. I’m self-employed, so I’ve created the type of work I really want to do.
So why do I still get so stressed-out? Why did my lip explode from all the pressure – and what was the pressure, really?
Well… that comes from having to stretch beyond my comfort zone, really. I’m working on this, but it’s something that doesn’t come easily for me.
Outside my Comfort Zone
It’s a funny thing that I love getting creative people together and at the same time it totally freaks me out. To the surprise of many people who know me personally, I am a shy person. You’d never know it unless you watch me carefully – most people just see me “in action,” as a good friend calls it. They don’t notice the incredible effort I have to put into not breaking down.
Social situations – well, that’s maybe too big a term for what I want to really talk about – how about, talking to actual people in some way (that’s more accurate) is something that I enjoy but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work at it.
Yes, I’m a teacher and I speak to my students – and it’s hard, it’s really, really hard work for me. Not that I don’t love it – because I do. But I am considerably more comfortable with writing, with painting, with reading – or with playing board games. That’s my comfort zone.
Purpose and Heart
I have a purpose, a reason for doing the things that push me into circles of people, even though my heart beats harder whenever I do. I’ve the sense that maybe this is where I should try more. I can only bring something to other people if – well, if I’m actually there to bring it.
For that to happen, I’ve got to actually show up – and get in action. Heart pounding.
Yesterday, after a full week of having to talk to people, I had too much. I was just pushed too far outside my comfort zone for a little too long. It felt like I was teetering on an edge between me and whatever it is natural-born-gregarious people do… over there.
I was on the verge of tears, from exhaustion, from the feeling of responsibility and from just so many words that so many people had been saying to me. My lip exploded, top and bottom. So I scrubbed the kitchen down until I worked up a good sweat. Then I took a hot bath and at last sat down refreshed and ready to write. Lip throbbing.
So here I am. Writing. I feel much better already.
Tomorrow, I’ll have 7-8 little girls at my home, rehearsing The Dragon Princess musical I’ve written for them. They’re going to be brilliant, I know. But every time we rehearse, my heart pounds. It’s like stage fright, but instead of running off the stage, I press closer to the audience. It hurts.
So many sleepless nights I’ve wondered if I should stop theatre. No. The show must go on as they say, and this chapter of my life hasn’t yet reached a good enough cliffhanger. I’m not ready for the next chapter.
What is it you want your story to be? What brilliant chapter’s-end cliffhanger will you determine for yourself – so that you’ll want to just keep going, flying into the next chapter and the next?
How do you make big decisions?
Share with me, I’d really love to know!
Keep creating, no matter what.