Someone once told me that the most powerful phrase in the English language is ‘This I choose to do’. I freely admit that, at the time and in the privacy of my own head, I questioned their sanity. How on earth could saying you have made a choice make any difference? Life is all about choices. We make them whether we want to or not, when to get up, what to eat, what to wear, what to read … the list is, in all honestly, endless. These daily choices become so monotonous that we forget that we are choosing, taking the decisions on autopilot, moving through them without recognising them for what they are. One of life’s certainties is that you have to make them. You have no choice about choices, they must be made in order to live and shouting about it, even if only to yourself, won’t make the blindest bit of difference.
Or so I thought.
There are some things that happen which are not of our choosing; loosing your job, the death of the loved one or your partner leaving you, to name but three. Things like that often make us rage against the world. I know I’ve bellowed ‘It isn’t fair, I didn’t choose this, Why is it happening?’ at the sky on more than one occasion. For me the feeling of helplessness, the inability to do anything about what had happened, is the thing I find most difficult. When my Gran died I couldn’t acknowledge it directly. Instead I focused on looking after Mum, helping with the funeral arrangements and generally carrying on as if nothing had happened; I was ‘being strong’. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to behave that way; it was simply the only thing I could do, the only way I could manage to keep going. It took me a long time to allow myself to grieve for Gran and even then I only let go a little. I still haven’t really got over it, as evidenced by the tears in my eyes as I type.
In the years after her death, those words, ‘this I choose to do’, kept coming back to me at odd moments. Most often at 2am when sleep was being particularly elusive. I found that, if I really meant them, when said they gave me a sense of freedom that I rarely found in everyday life. When I entered the Great North Run, to raise money for the MS Society, every time I didn’t want to train or was struggling to keep going, I would repeat them to myself. It became a sort of mantra. I was reminding myself that I had made a conscious choice to follow this path and acknowledging that helped me find the resolve to see it through. I stopped feeling hard done by when I needed to run and it was pouring with rain and it made me feel good, feel in control.
After the Great North Run was over I didn’t think much more about choices, just got on with my life and all that entailed. When my husband and I went through a particularly rough patch in our marriage, after he was unfaithful to me, the mantra came back with a vengeance. I had chosen to marry him. I had spoken my wedding vows in the sight of God and I had not broken them. I had made my choice that day and now I had to stand by that.
It was hard. It was very hard. But I did it.
I kept going, I kept a smile on my face and I tried to make it work. The one blessing was that no-one else knew. I did not have to face anyone’s sympathy or incredulity when they realised I wasn’t showing him the door. I did not have to justify my choice.
Not that it mattered in the end. It took less than three years for the choice to be taken away. He phoned me from Switzerland (he’d gone on a last minute skiing holiday) and informed me that we were getting divorced, that there was no point in arguing. In fact “what I had to understand was that it was over” was his final text on the subject, after I suggested we might discuss it when he came home.
I won’t pretend that I wasn’t upset. I won’t pretend I didn’t cry. But I didn’t fall apart. I hadn’t chosen it, I couldn’t change it but I what I could choose was how I dealt with it.
I chose to speak to a solicitor despite him saying we didn’t need one. I chose not to be pushed into agreeing to things just because they were what he wanted. I chose to take the time to decide what was important to me and then fight for it. I chose to finally be honest with him about how I felt about elements of our life together, to try and explain some of the choices I‘d made along the way, despite knowing that he wouldn’t understand and certainly wouldn’t believe me. I chose to do what I felt to be right, to act in such a way that when I looked back on the whole experience I would be comfortable with how I had acted.
I finally understood the power behind those five little words.
‘This I choose to do’ took away the fear, took away the helplessness and took away the feeling that my life was out of my control. I realised that there is always a choice, that your life is ultimately yours to control. Whatever life throws at you, you have the power to choose how you react, what you do, what you say. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, what you believe. Every choice you make is yours and yours alone. You can make excuses, you can blame other people or circumstances, you can even claim the drink made you do it. It doesn’t matter. The choices were still made and they were made by you. You have the responsibility and you have the power.
‘This I choose to do’ gives you the power to change your world. You just have to mean it.
If you don’t like what happened in the past, learn from it and don’t make those choices again. If you don’t like where you are now, choose to make changes, to take a different path. If you think you have no choice ask yourself why. Ask yourself what you are frightened of, what you are hiding behind or hiding from. Don’t allow you to delude yourself. Of course there are always outside influences and your actions will affect other people. You have to consider them as well. This isn’t about being selfish, being so single minded in your pursuit of what you want that you ignore everyone around you. This about accepting responsibility for your actions and making sure you are doing the right thing. You are the judge and you are the jury; make sure you can live with your choices from here on in.
There is nowhere to hide and there is no-one else to blame.
How you live your life is down to you.
I will not be blogging for the next couple of weeks as I’m off to Somerset to delve into the world of Arthurian tradition, celebrate the Solstice at Stonehenge and try not to get too caught up in the mass madness that is the Glastonbury festival.
Although the dog is remaining at home to guard the house and get spoilt rotten by her lovely dog sitter I doubt that you would appreciate her attempts at typing. She has tried to share her thoughts many times – well, she’s stood with her paws on the desk and battered the keyboard with her nose and I’ve presumed that was what she was trying to do – but unfortunately her enthusiasm doesn’t quite make up for the lack of spelling, punctuation, or real words!
I’ll be back in July, with new stories, tales of my travels and as many photos as I think you can stand.
Till then, adieu and take care. Kiz x