This I Believe

Joanne - Hartland, Wisconsin
Entered on May 16, 2007


I believe we have a choice. A choice every morning and even every hour, about what we will make of the day.

I learned this when I was young and my family seemed so very different from everyone else’s. As in the children’s game of pick the one that isn’t like the other, it was our family that stood out. Of course, by the time I reached adulthood, I realized our family probably wasn’t so unusual. Maybe the names of our secrets were different than the neighbors’, but they most likely had their own batch of odd or sad or goofy stories to hide.

I first became conscious of having a clear choice when I was a child sitting in the tub thinking about drowning myself. Luckily I was too curious about the next day to take any drastic action at getting back at my parents for whatever they had done to wrong me.

It was awareness of choices that kept me going through a rough adolescence. While I did my share of making mistakes, irritating adults, and generally having a great time, I always knew I wanted to go to college and try for a better life than the one I was leading. It was the constant curiosity about what I could make of my own adulthood that kept me from the most dangerous trouble.

I watched adults I respected carefully, trying to figure out how they made their lives work, how they got from A to B with out alcohol or pills while still laughing.

That’s not to say I didn’t experiment with alcohol and pills anyway. I did all that and dated some exciting men (rugby players) that could have made my life miserable for years to come. Fortunately it grew tiresome to ask friends to help reconstruct the events of the night before and equally tiresome to continue hoping Mr. Excitement would stop being exactly who he was.

Now that I’m solidly into middle age, everything seems much more severe. The blunders I make, the cruel words I let slip, all seem to happen in a steady stream of hectic days. However, my belief about choices is still what guides me.

When the bad things happen: a job is lost, the pregnancy ends badly, a lump is found, I still get to decide what happens next. I get to choose the response. I can begin to drink heavily, take a deep breath and go for a walk, or something in between.

Most days aren’t dramatic. Most days it’s just me telling myself as I drive to work, well, might as well try to make it a good day. Lots of times it’s as simple as trying to be patient with a child for one more minute before snapping.

So far, figuring out that each choice influences how much happiness I get to have with the next choice, has served me pretty well. Well, that and the same old childhood curiosity about what will happen next.

Even when it seems I’ve completely messed up and made all the wrong decisions, I believe I get to choose what I make of the day.