On Choices

It’s been a while since my last post, for which I apologize. There’s been a lot happening lately.

In this brave new world of mine, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe how people react to very difficult situations. Sometimes, life sucks. There really isn’t a blunter, or better, way to put it. S*** happens.

“Stuff” happens, but equally important are the choices we make in response to our circumstances. And that is my major realization of late.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to reconcile two different perspectives on choice. Think about illness. No one chooses to get sick, either mentally or physically. This is why saying, “Snap out of it” to someone with depression is just as effective as saying, “Unclog your arteries” to someone with arteriosclerosis. It just doesn’t work. You can’t simply choose to get better.

And yet, saying that never felt right to me. It smacks of defeatism, of surrendering all agency and accountability. No, you can’t always get better by yourself. But where does personal responsibility come in?

We can’t necessarily choose to get better. But we can choose to make the effort to get better.

Trust me, I’ve been there. There have been very dark times, when even with all the love and support I was getting, I couldn’t imagine seeing the light. It really wasn’t until I struck out anyway, and chose to turn away from the darkness even though I had no idea what else might be out there, that I started to “get better.” It’s an act of blind faith, really. Darkness, like anything else, becomes familiar. Letting go and taking a leap towards something else is terrifying, and sometimes, the light is too far away and you need help beyond the scope of this essay.

But you will never get better unless you make the effort to try.

It’s been almost a month since my dad’s passing. I still can’t imagine how this gaping wound will heal. I know it never will, entirely. But I can hope it will ease, somewhat. I obviously didn’t choose this. I am choosing how I respond.

As writers, we have to think about this. Characters reveal themselves through their choices. Reaction drives plot; plot drives reaction. How characters respond to events not only illuminates them as people, it shapes the next set of circumstances, the next thing they’ll respond to. Yes, there are Acts of God, earth-shattering events that are no one’s choice (ZOMG an asteroid is coming!!!), but even then, characters (and people) choose their response.

Do you hide under the bed, drowning in absolute despair? Do you build a laser to blast the asteroid to pieces? Do you make a final phone call to every member of your family? Do you make yourself one, last, perfect sandwich?

When we see our flaws reflected in other people, do we turn away and deny them? Or do we embrace it as a lesson, and work to change ourselves?

We’re all the protagonists of our own life stories. But we’re also the authors. Just as in writing…

Reaction drives plot; plot drives reaction.

S*** happens. We can’t change that. We don’t get to roll the dice of the universe.

But whether we flip the table over, or come up for another round…that’s on us.

Apparently, one of the characters in Strix had this figured out a while ago: “The gods’ games aren’t for us to understand…but that doesn’t mean we can’t play.”

You know, I think she’s right.


Posted on January 13, 2013, in Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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