Last Monday I hemmed and hawed all morning long about whether or not to attend an event that night. There were people I wanted to see and it was cold and windy outside. I felt restless and in need of a change of scenery, and I wanted to stay warm and cozy at home. I knew I would disappoint people if I didn’t go, and I didn’t want to disappoint myself with regrets.
Back and forth, back and forth, my mind waltzed to the dance of indecision when I finally got sick of it all. Pick one, I told myself, and be done with it.
Often that’s all it takes to stop the madness that goes on in my mind when I feel on the fence about something. I make a choice and trust myself to deal with the outcome. But on this particular day, I felt really unsure and that approach didn’t work. So, I did something else instead.
I sat quietly and considered each option. Then I asked myself: Which choice gives you the greatest sense of relief? This is a question I’ve asked clients over the years when they’ve felt tortured by ambivalence.
Within a few minutes of asking myself, I knew I wanted to stay home. I felt tired and while I’d miss seeing friends, I could tell by the relief I felt in my body that I needed rest, not stimulation. There would be other opportunities to attend events in the future.
I’ve come to appreciate relief as a form of intelligence. When I can set aside the thought of negative consequences, potential hurt feelings, fear of disappointing myself or others, or the possibility of making a mistake, I gain access to the truth. Then, from there, I can make an informed choice. Sometimes the right choice is to go against relief because a loved one needs my attention and care. But more often than not, the truth is a reminder of what I need to take care of myself.
More and more I’m learning to let myself off the hook, to divest myself of responsibilities that don’t belong to me. It’s a gift of the wisdom years… and one I gratefully accept.