Making a decision doesn’t come easily to every one.
The other day I was watching Master of None when Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar came up. It has been years since I read the book. It sticks in my mind because I started it on a comedy improv night. Unsurprisingly, all the suggestions I yelled out were pretty bleak as a result. They had to work for the laughs.
The fig tree has been playing on my mind a lot. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree. Each fig is a choice she could make. She envisions herself sitting below it, unable to make a choice and watching each fig drop, black and dead; no longer an option. Hardly the stuff of which improv is made of. A good metaphor nevertheless.
I was 21 or 22 when I first read the Bell Jar. My attitude to life was to just let it carry me where it may. I made my choices on a whim. I would take a bite of the closest fig. There was no painstaking decision. My life was a series of happy coincidences. Until things started to go wrong.
As I got older and the decisions carried more consequences, it just became increasingly harder. Poor decisions can age you. I repeatedly made the same poor decision with an abusive ex. When I finally made the right choice I felt a hundred years older, and had no faith in my own choices.
From then on my go to move for any choice which carried a real consequence was to survey all my friends, until someone offered up an option that seemed manageable. I would then mentally decide to defer all my future life choices to that person, hoping they would just live my life for me because I was so terrible at it.
This was not a plan.
My decision making is non-existent in relationships. The people pleaser in me comes out then all of a sudden every decision I make revolves around making someone else happy. I’m always looking after someone else’s tree, or eating the fruit they hand to me. When you are offering that much power over your life to the wrong person it has disastrous results.
Over the years, I have met so many people that would happily micromanage my life for me, and a few that returned the decision to me. Thank you to the latter for withholding judgement, and forcing me to adult. I feel like I am doing it more now than ever.
After my last break up I was bothered that no one had warned me about the immaturity and drama that came with him. As if I could have been better informed in my decision making. Transparency wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have given him the same chance. It had been my choice to make.
It had made me laugh when he informed me that I had no right break up with him without consulting him. He didn’t seem to grasp that I was allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe because I had spent a year letting him sway all of mine.
I still hadn’t understood there was so much power in a choice.
I empathise with Esther’s anxiety about making the wrong choice. I have to remind myself it’s equally bad to randomly choose anything, or to make do with the options people give you. It’s such a fine balance. So dependent on luck.
At 35 trying to get into a writing position is hard. I get told I am brave a lot, which makes me feel like I have some kind of terminal illness. Stupidity perhaps. I am sometimes overwhelmed with panic and shake that tree hard, scrambling to see what options I have managed to shake down. But that isn’t the way I want to live life, and I calm down soon enough.
My choices are simpler these days. I am learning to have more faith in myself.
I have to just trust my tree still has a few good figs left.
Image from Zen Pencils.com Check the site for the full illustrated extract from The Bell Jar.