Choice: the panic of a natural ditherer

from Where’s My Sammich on Pinterest

I am one of the buzzards in the old Jungle Book movie who sit around shrugging. But with me, I take on the roles of all them.

“What we gonna to do?”

“I dunno. What YOU wanna do?”

“I dunno. What YOU wanna do?”

“I dunno. What–”

“–Don’t start that again!”

The only thing cool about this scenario is their British accents.  As a writer, I dither about what I should write about, whether I should write anything at all, and if so, when should I do it, how should I begin, how long do I spend on it, blah blah. The dithering usually only ends after I blast myself with nasty words intended to act as a swift boot to the backside. My backside (ego) is pretty bruised. But, oh, if only my problems were confined to writing!

Here’s the issues I have with choice:

photo by imelenchon at

  1. There are too many options in this world. I have a very hard time shopping these days (probably since the 1950s). Why do grocery stores have to stock 10 kinds of balsamic vinegar? You should see me trying to purchase a new laptop. Even having limited it to Apple, there are too many options. Aaghhhh!

2. The word “choice” has the second meaning of the best, optimal selection: a choice cut of meat; “man, that’s really choice.” Maybe I’m dating myself, but I still have that expectation when I’m choosing something important (like how I spend my morning?) of the choice resulting in the supreme satisfaction that I chose well. I did not waste my time, my money, my enthusiasm, my creative spark, my life on this endeavor. I freak out, because what if I choose wrong???

3. The result is that I find it way easier to make little choices than big ones. I promise you I can buy balsamic vinegar with zero angst. I write my morning pages. I can commit to 15 minutes of meditation every day. But the bigger choices that require bigger chunks of time (months, years) –like which huge writing project to focus on, whether or not I should pull out that easel and really work on the portrait I promised my friend 2 years ago, cleaning out the files in my office (oh no, more choices!)–these overwhelm me. I put them off.

Moment by moment we all make choices of what to do in the now. The smaller the commitment, the easier the choice is for me to go with it. In this era of small attention spans and electronic devices that give us endorphin rushes for small tasks, I find I choose over and over again the short commitment.

I have 5 minutes. I’ll just check out Facebook. Or do a quick puzzle on my phone. That can easily turn into half an hour, 45 minutes locked into the screen in my hand. The choice to do that is not “choice” in that good sense, but it entertains me. It kills time.

Time to check the phone, Photo credit: byronv2 on / CC BY-NC

Kills time. I’m a chronic time-murderer. I know I’m not alone. And I know that sounds melodramatic, but I need to get my attention, here. Because my phone doesn’t just kill time, it steals time from relationships with art, with my husband, with whoever and whatever I’m not paying attention to so I can distract myself.

No one’s throwing me in jail for this crime. But I want to do some penance, try to change my ways. At least a little. So, one goal I’ve got for 2019–and I’m publishing this here, mind you!–is to use my phone as a tool for communication and not as an instrument to distract me from experiencing the world more fully.

I’m CHOOSING to do this. Wish me luck!

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