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Bad Choices

There was an episode of Doctor Who this season — “Mummy on the Orient Express” — that ends with the Doctor telling Clara, “Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones, but you still have to choose.”  I loved that line despite it being a little pat.  I mean, it’s cold comfort when you’re deciding between shit and shit.

It made me wonder if choice is inherently empowering, or if only certain choices are empowering.  I guess we need to start from a place of agreement, if you have two terrible options, are you making a choice if you take one option over another (vs. if the choice is made for you).  Or is it not a choice if the options are both terrible.  Did Sophie, for instance, in Sophie’s Choice, really make a choice?

So let’s pretend that you said that yes.

If there are multiple options (even if they’re all bad) and you choose one (instead of having it chosen for you), then you made a choice.  It may be, as the Doctor says, that only have bad options, but you still have to choose.  Well, do you?  I mean, there are certain things you could wait out so the choice is made for you.  And then you didn’t choose.  So you don’t have to choose.  Or is he saying that in order to be empowered human beings that we need to exercise our free will?  We need to keep making choices, even when we don’t want to make choices?

I guess I’ve been thinking about this quote this week due to Brittany Maynard.  She only had bad choices, and all of them led to the same place.  The only choice she got to make was how she reached the end point.

I don’t think I would like the alternative; I wouldn’t want my free will removed.  I don’t like choices made on my behalf.  We try not to make any choices for the kids on their behalf unless we must.  But are all choices empowering?  Do we always want to have a choice?

Big thoughts for a Sunday to think about with whatever part of your brain isn’t being used to compile tomorrow’s #MicroblogMondays post.

13 comments

1 Valery Valentina { 11.09.14 at 8:38 am }

mhmm. at the moment I have the choice of leaving my job or risk getting fired. I think I feel more empowered if I leave on my own (and hopefully find a different job first), but neither option includes not changing.

2 a { 11.09.14 at 9:09 am }

I think it’s sort of empowering to choose how YOU want to go down(see Brittany Maynard or Valery V above), but when it a choice for other people, it’s not empowering. Like when you’re ordering carryout and your dinner companions say “Oh, you choose.” There’s no way to be satisfied with your choice because you can’t really know the other person’s mind completely.

3 tigger62077 { 11.09.14 at 10:47 am }

By not choosing and waiting for it to be chosen for you, you ARE making a choice. You are making the choice to do nothing, to wait, to let things run their course, for someone else to take control. It is better, I think, to make the choice for yourself. They may be bad choices but YOU made them rather than letting someone/something else have control over you. Just because we don’t want to make them doesn’t meant we shouldn’t.

This ties in well with the post I made yesterday about choices facing me. Thank you for this.

4 loribeth { 11.09.14 at 11:43 am }

This is something I have struggled with. Living without children was not my choice, at least, not my first choice. But by making the choice not to continue with infertility treatments and not to pursue adoption, this was, effectively, what I was choosing. It was not what I wanted — but I didn’t want to do those other things, either — I no longer had the mental, emotional and physical strength to pursue those options.

I can remember being annoyed when I read the book “Sweet Grapes” about childless/free living after infertility (this was long before Pamela Tsigdinos & Lisa Manterfield & Jody Day, etc., had written their books) because one of its central points was that you needed to make a conscious choice to live childfree, and all would be well. Some “choice,” right??

But as others have pointed out above, there is something to be said for consciously making a decision yourself, instead of drifting aimlessly. I may not have chosen childless/free living — it wasn’t what I wanted. But I chose to try to make the best lemonade I could out of the lemons that life had handed me. (I can accept that as a choice.) And while it took some time to get used to it, the lemonade actually tastes pretty good these days. 🙂

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.09.14 at 12:00 pm }

Along the lines of what Tigger says above, “Not to decide is to decide.”

Interesting you’re musing on this. I witnessed this week a person who went to great lengths to have a choice among bad choices, which caused the person to actually degrade the options. #cryptic

6 fifi { 11.09.14 at 3:08 pm }

I read an interesting book years ago called The Paradox of Choice. The author’s argument was that too many choices can be stressful and overwhelming, and increases the possibility of you making a choice at all, a sort of “choice paralysis”. Each choice takes mental energy. So he recommended that you sometimes need to ” choose when to choose” and learn to look for “good enough” rather than perfect.

7 fifi { 11.09.14 at 3:20 pm }

Oops, that should be “DEcreases the possibility of you making a choice at all”.

8 loribeth { 11.09.14 at 3:37 pm }

Re: Fifi’s comment, above, this is why being infertile today can be so difficult. Years ago, if you weren’t getting pregnant, you either accepted a childless life or you adopted. End of story. These days, we have modern medicine to help us — which is a good thing in many ways and has helped millions of couples to have the families they wanted — but on the other hand, there is always some new carrot (clomid, IUIs, IUIs with injectable drugs, a new drug protocol, IVF, ICSI, donor eggs, FETs, surrogacy…) the doctors can dangle in front of us to keep us going back for another cycle and another and another. It’s nice to have choices, but yes, it can be overwhelming and stressful too.

9 Sharon { 11.09.14 at 4:09 pm }

Even if/when I only have bad/undesirable choices, I still want to have the choice. Perverse of me perhaps, but I’d rather live with the sh1tty choice I made than the sh1tty choice that was foisted upon me, even though it’s still a sh1tty choice.

At the same time, I can see the beauty in not having to choose in certain situations and simply having to accept the hand we are dealt. I sometimes wished to be back in the olden days of infertility back when we were deciding which path to take. But ultimately, for us, that likely would have meant accepting living childless, which was the worst choice of all to us.

BTW, I second the vote for The Paradox of Choice, very interesting read.

10 Mali { 11.09.14 at 8:53 pm }

Being forced to choose between two bad options isn’t really a choice, even if you do have to choose. I guess what I am saying is that having to choose isn’t always a choice. And that feels completely different to a choice you might go into consciously. Also, sometimes not having a choice absolves you of having to choose, and takes away the burden of wondering if you made the right choice. That’s not a bad thing.

In my case, the choice I made was to make the most of my life, and to live it as if I consciously made the choice to be childfree. I want to say that I had no choice (if I wanted to live and be happy), but I guess I could have chosen to be miserable and bitter the rest of my life. Is that really a choice? Such a complicated topic – my head is spinning and I’m trying to write my #MicroblogMondays post!

11 Chickenpig { 11.10.14 at 11:05 am }

I have many times in my life where the choice I made wasn’t really a choice, or at best a really shitty choice. End the pregnancy now or wait to miscarry is one that comes to mind. Do this surgery to remove your fibroid, and perhaps lose your uterus, or chose to never do IVF again is another. The world of infertility is so full of crappy choices it’s enough to make your head spin.

12 deathstar { 11.11.14 at 11:37 am }

Apparently I spend a lot of time in the wee hours torturing myself over my supposed choices in the past, particularly when it came to infertility. Should I have had fibroid surgery and risked my uterus, because it might not have made a difference in the end? Would I have such a wonderful child that I have now? Should I have left my husband years ago instead of living with him for 5 years? It guess it depends on if you really believe all your bad options were exactly that or maybe they were opportunities waiting to be transformed.

13 Kasey { 11.23.14 at 3:27 pm }

I think we do always have a choice. Because even if all the options are terrible and you do nothing, letting someone else choose – you still chose to do nothing or to step back and have the choice made for you. There is a similar line from somewhere – you don’t always have options but you always have a choice.

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