I don't like to pack. Actually, what I don't like is making decisions about what to pack.
Because this has been an unpredictable summer, I am never sure I will have the right clothes for the current temperature. True, since I drive the Madison to St Paul route, I can fill the car with as much as I want, but the excellent laundry facility in the apartment building makes such overpacking unnecessary.
Plus, I tend to wear solid color pants, often black, along with white blouses--I have a closet full of white blouses--and that "uniform" should make the whole process easier, too. For some reason, however, it doesn't. I had an easier time packing for two weeks in Paris using only a carry-on bag than I do for a week in St Paul!
Then there is the books and writing materials problem. That's even harder. Some people are afraid of speaking in public or of snakes. My fear is I won't have the "right" book when I finish whatever I am currently reading. (Ok, I'm afraid of snakes, too.) Now this is truly a ridiculous fear, for the book shelf in the apartment holds several titles I have not yet read and know I will enjoy AND there are good bookstores close by, including Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books.
The writing materials issue makes a little more sense to me. What will I have time to work on? What will I need in order to work on it? If I write a blog post on a certain topic, what materials from my library at home would help me do that? On and on the indecisiveness stretches.
Ultimately, I fill a bag or two with far more than what I will need or have time to use.
Big vs Little Decisions
So what is this all about anyway? It isn't just about not having the right necklace or the book with the right quote for a blog post.
Is this decreasing ability to make a decision an age thing? Have you discovered yourself having a harder time making decisions?
What kinds of decisions?
I think I am still decisive about the bigger things. All of a sudden it was clear--take the house off the market now! I have not vacillated about my father's care, for example. This is what is needed--do it. I didn't spend hours wondering which painter to hire to redo the front porch, for example. Instead, I declared, "When can you get started?"
Nope, not the bigger things, but the little things. What to fix for dinner or choose at a restaurant. "What do you want to do today?" my husband says. "I don't know," I often reply, feeling genuine distress as I say it.
Decision-Making and Spiritual Practice
I suspect my current difficulty about making small decisions has to do with a general feeling of unsettledness. Not only "what next?", but "when?" and even "how?" Making the "right" little decision is a way to exercise some control, false as that may be. I wonder if it isn't also a way to slow down the swirl I feel around me, an unpredictable swoosh of future time, but at the same time a way to fill the emptiness of waiting. Of responding to what feels like slow-motion steps towards fulfillment of our plans. A paradox, the hallmark of later life.
What to do?
Well, I do the best I can. I pack more white blouses than I will wear. My bags full of books and notebooks become part of my weight lifting program, as I lug them from place to place.
And I stop.
I close my eyes and I breathe. I ask for self-awareness for when I most need to be gentle with myself. I ask for lightness of spirit to replace the self-designated heaviness of each little decision. Finally, and most importantly, I give thanks for all the gifts of my life, including the luxury of choices.
I welcome comments from you about the role of decision-making in your life. What decisions are easy for you to make? Which ones are not so easy, and has that changed since you have gotten older? What are your strategies for making decisions, big and small?