Chapter 3: On Decisions Proving Tough to Make

Years ago I was director of admissions at a small college for six months.  It didn’t work out for the college or for me.  When I left, I learned secondhand that the college president didn’t think that I was “suited for administration.”

That remark stung more than leaving the job.  Once I entered library science, the specter of administration loomed as a career ladder.  Because I have always had way too much ambition, I’ve tried to reconcile innermost needs with that specter many times.  But it can’t be done.  Yet have I really wanted to prove, all along, that my old boss was wrong?  Is that really why administration has been such a bugaboo for me?

Sometimes I think library science as a career just fell in my lap.  In this work I’m able to plan ahead and therefore have few deadline pressures.

Yet my first ambition—journalism—would have been filled with those very deadlines that I most dread.  What benign destiny altered my life plan for the better?  I can claim no credit for this, because I gave up on the idea of journalism and opted for library science for all the wrong reasons.

Many of our life decisions—as we “remember” them—may be based on myth.  The “reasons why” that I’ve told myself may have had no basis in fact.  We construct a fiction in retrospect that sounds more rational than the decision was at the time.  Or am I just more of a mythmaker than the average person?

Individuals sometimes “fight all the way” decisions that are providential.  This learned from reading anecdotal accounts of heavenly guidance.

Is this what has been going on for me as I resist library administration?

Not that anybody has asked.  I say ahead of time that I’m not interested so that I won’t be tempted with an offer I can’t refuse (an offer that “can’t” be refused normally appears, at least for me, to be ego-inspired).

I have to be certain that the ego is not the motivator here.  Perhaps I am destined to be in indecision about this for awhile.  Maybe I should stay in non-resolution until I learn what my soul is trying to tell me.  Yet non-resolution over a long period of time, I have learned, usually counsels “no.”

On a decision proving tough to make:  “Earlier this week I intuited, ‘You’re already made up your mind,’ and I hadn’t (consciously) about library administration.  But then soon I realized that my unseen partners probably know more about my life’s intentions than I do, at least what seems to be the most rational or logical way to carry out the purposes I set before I was born.”

I think I’m finally clear on “no promotions” at my job.  For years I’ve been pushed about by the impetus to succeed in my profession, and there has lately been some spillover in my writing.    It’s what Joseph Campbell calls a “concretized symbol” that will “push you around.”

I had a lovely synchronicity in that I read a journal entry and found total agreement with a passage from Campbell that I read the night before.  Campbell warns the artist (and specifically a writer) not to let his work (the art) get contaminated by his job (his employment).

For people with such impetus, he affirms, “. . .to keep up with your responsibilities and your fitness and still nurture your creative aspect, you must put a hermetically sealed retort, so that there is no intrusion, around a certain number of hours each day—however many you can honestly afford—and that time must be inviolate.”

In my case, my writing is informed by my employment.  At my job, I enjoy the social inter-actions and they teach so much about how people respond in all sorts of ways.  (Not surprisingly, that’s also the greatest personal benefit I got from the study and teaching of literature.)

All second-guessing and other vacillations aside, sometimes just not wanting to do some-thing is sufficient reason not to do it.  And even if it flies in the face of one’s habitual pattern of decision-making.  Maybe that pattern has always been flawed, even though it served in another time and place.

This is a new day, as described in a biblical passage:  “. . .rejoice and be glad in it.”

Sometimes timing is everything.  I was once extremely ambivalent about taking a given job, but the moments in which I needed to act always seemed to arrive when I was in a positive attitude.  I did take the job; it did have drawbacks; but that early contradictory work life made possible the smooth pathway on which I walk today.

Persistence will carry the day (and the goal) when thoughts of indecision and low self-esteem threaten to block leaving the gate.

If the process of making up my mind is unduly protracted and conflicted, I have come to realize that the option I’m considering is wrong for me.

Very high moments create a kind of super-sentient emotional tone from which we can see and understand far more than possible in the routine of daily normal living.  It is a bit of an artificial state of mind, but is nonetheless a better time to suggest new pathways than moments of depression.

I was on a high from successfully defending my dissertation when the dream to publish first emerged.  Years later I can say that the impulse to write was a genuine idea possible of  accomplishment and the instigator of some of my most rewarding hours.

A “godfather’s offer” (one I can’t refuse, as in the classic movie) is at least tangentially related to the fatal flaw of Shakespeare’s tragic characters and, for me, is virtually always coming from the ego.  If one makes the decision not to be ruled by the ego, the whole Force of the universe comes into play to reinforce this truly holy endeavor.

On the unreality of reflection:  “I have noticed a tendency to ‘resolve’ issues in my journal, and then–later–impulsively to choose a different answer.  I think I try to form a certain reality from wishful thinking, but then make a different decision when life seems to suggest otherwise.”

A vacation is not always the best time to make decisions about puzzling problems.  At least twice in one year I made that attempt, only to find when I returned to my normal routine that my decisions did not make sense.

Written upon reflection, two years subsequently, “It is easy to plan when very rested, as I was during that Christmas.  But the unreality of my thinking gives me pause for thought.”

On the impetus not to hide talents in the ground:  “My tendency to find a ‘should’ in life is causing me some problems.  I am too rigid (and unforgiving of myself) when believing that I must always try to do what I ‘should.’  In particular, right now the ‘should’ is taking the form, ‘I have these talents, so I should. . .[whatever].’

“All of this is a monkey on my back that I can’t seem to shake off.”

When I awaken with a certain idea, I wonder if my subconscious has served up a message.

On self-tolerance and self-acceptance:  “I remember waking up one morning with the thought, ‘A lot of us believe in a world where everything is not a matter of life and death.’  It seemed a thought from the Other Side, a plea for common sense in decision-making.  Maybe I need to meditate on why I have such a problem with a ‘should.’

“Am I too irresponsible?

“Am I not dependable?

“Am I innately lazy and try to whip myself into shape by manufacturing imperatives?

“Have I accepted a big challenge in this lifetime and probably take myself too seriously in trying to work it out?

“Do I fear regretting to work as hard as I can?

“Do I just have too strong a superego?”

Later . . .

“I know now that if I forgive more readily, I will realize the world can forgive me as well when I don’t measure up to some standard of unreachable perfection.”

There is a way of living by intuition and a way of living by rational choice (the latter usually called just “reason”).  The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.  But I have found that life is freer, more natural, happier, when I am brave enough to let intuition rule.  And it does take some bravery.

It takes a certain willingness to follow intuition.  Maybe there will always be a question in my mind about whether I am being rational.  But time and again events prove the correctness of following yet another hunch.

Do we have “free will”?  I once read someone’s remark to the effect that we act as if we do when we cross the street, so why not assume that we do?

Many years ago I was in a frame of mind in which unlimited possibilities seemed open to me.  The salient aspect of this period of time was that I was living with an attitude filled with love.  In making decisions, invariably I would come to a fork in the road.  It seemed that I could choose either way ahead and—this the questionable part—that either would be equally “OK”—just different ways to work out my destiny.  Maybe we really do live in a safe universe when we are at home in Love.

Reality offers what I really want–the prayer of the heart.

Sometimes the unconscious guides us to a certain familiar pathway as a warning.  If I find myself gazing vacantly out a window and fantasizing about the future, the future that I see is best avoided.

Remember not to try too hard to predict the future; probabilities change.