Life can be muddy sometimes. Our time on earth is defined by constant decisions, big and small. It’s usually the more momentous ones that can be hard, until the moment the veil parts and it all becomes, well, crystal clear. Mostly.
I think it was my father who introduced me to the concept of making lists of pros and cons. It never worked for me – I would diligently draw a line in the center of a white sheet and start writing: pros on the left, cons on the right. I was usually stumped after 2 or 3 per column, with nothing ever weighing heavily in any one direction.
sofagirl recently mentioned finding and reading an old journal she kept during a particular trying time. “It was full of stuff I had forgotten! Some of it so bad I don’t understand how I lasted as long as I did”.
I also reread some of my old journals a while ago and was amazed by a) the number of people I was writing about and of whom I have no recollection and b) the outcome of agonizing situations already all over my words – only I seemed still too blind to see.
Don’t we make a million split decisions every day? What to eat, what road to drive down, whether to answer the phone….I believe we are wired to do that, to trust our better judgment, accumulated over years of experience, of life – yet, as we get older, we are plagued by what ifs and worst case scenarios that bog us down. We call it caution.
Clarity is a wonderful state to be in: residing in the conviction of doing what is right for us at that very moment, all doubts cast aside. And we don’t get up one day with a clear-cut vision of what our direction should be like, I don’t think. Our accumulated experiences, trials and errors lead us to clarity.
In youth, we follow instincts mixed with a touch of foolishness. In middle age, it should be knowledge, of ourselves and our world, that should ease us into making swift decisions, leading us to a state of clarity. There is no more mistaking right from wrong; moral from immoral; we don’t operate solely on selfishness any longer and yet, we muddle through – looking for what makes sense. Instead of trusting what we already know.
Personally, I err on the side of following my instincts a bit too much, leaving my unconscious to work things out until it’s ready to let me know which way to go. Sometimes it takes longer than I would want. It works for me, and probably for very many like me, but if I objectively looked at the sum of my experiences and my personal reactions to situations over the last 50 years, I can’t help thinking I would come to mostly the same outcomes in half the time. Because, at this point, we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Everything we have forgotten has still worked its way to shape who we are – letting our wisdom take over, now and then, might make for a smoother, and clearer, path.
“Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.” Julian Barnes (from Flaubert’s Parrot)