Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Shine on you crazy diamond

California horse trough

My choices have come back to haunt me. What was it that Jean-Paul Sartre said about the hardest part of life not being that we have too few choices, but that we have too many? It’s crazy. At my job, one of the things I do is make people new id cards. I always ask them one simple question—if they want a lanyard or not.

Nine times out of ten, people can’t even make that simple choice, and I never let them off the hook. I make them choose. It just seems so clear to me, as they hem and haw, that most of the time people don’t have any idea what they want. They don’t know how to make a decision even when they’re forced to.

The existentialists believe that our choices are literally infinite. That we can do anything we want to, anything in the universe, at any moment. What makes our lives so brutish is that we’re consistently the ones who limit ourselves. We constrain our lives with structure and routine so that we’re not forced to see that we could re-carpet our entire house on a whim, or drive down to a bar tonight and drink liquor until we fall over, or change our locks and kick our roommate to the curb.

We can do anything we want, whenever we want. It’s just too hard to deal with.

So my choices. This summer has been about doing the things that I want, but these decisions have consequences. For instance: my body now festering with poison oak blisters. I chose to hike, I chose to wander around parts of the National Seashore that were overgrown and wild, and now I’m dealing with the results of that choice.

For instance: my choice to live in Chattanooga instead of Marion. It’s hard now that I’m back up here, and I realize all of the time that has passed, the children that have grown up without me in their lives, the relationships that have been left drifting, like threads in the wind.

The thing is that our choices are all we have. At the end of my life, all I’ll have is the choices that I made. I have a really hard time believing in change, that change is possible for me, for anyone in my life, for anyone at all, really. But change is just small choices, adding up over time—small, daily choices to do something different. Something big, or something small.

“I can change, I swear,” Dylan said. His saddest line, in my opinion. How often do we believe our lovers can change? How often do we believe we can change?

Overblown ramblings of someone itching within an inch of her life. I don’t regret my choice to hike, or to wander. But it was a choice. And now I have to spend the rest of the month dealing with it.

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