by Billie Wade, guest writer
Choice is a freedom we all have and exercise multiple times in a typical day—how we want to spend our time, who we want to interact with, what we want to watch on television. Periodically, larger issues arise—where we want to live, what kind of career we want, this person is or is not a good mate for me.
Choice is a supreme gift that we do not always recognize. Seeking help when we do not know what else to do is a choice. Sharing our story is a choice. Greeting each day with a sense of awe and appreciation is a choice, even if our circumstances are dire.
There is much in life over which we have no control. We may be facing serious difficulties with dire implications. Where is our choice there? The answer is that we are always one hundred per cent at choice about our attitude regardless of our situation or what is happening around us. The attitude we choose dictates our feelings and actions.
December 20, 2017, I received the crushing diagnosis of breast cancer. In the statement of two words, “It’s cancer,” my world shattered. I sat in stunned silence, not hearing anything else the nurse navigator said. I wondered how it could have happened, although I knew I was a prime candidate because cancer ran in my immediate family. Despite my journaling practice, I wrote very little that day. Cancer was too big. I could not grasp it. It was huge and electrified. I entered a world where I had no control. It seemed that all I could do was follow the instructions of my burgeoning medical team and hope for the best. I felt numb and hollow. I wanted the cancer out of my body, but I did not like what I had to go through for that to happen.
In the days before surgery, I experienced crushing fear. The future no longer existed for me. I felt somehow cheated out of life by some cruel cosmic joke. I grappled for something, anything, I could control. I paid my bills on time. I balanced my checkbook. I got dressed every morning. I talked to my family, friends, and my counselor at the Center. I shared my experience on social media at significant milestones. I wrote in my journal and worked on my writing projects. I controlled my response to what was happening, after the numbness of shock wore off.
In the days immediately following the January 31 surgery, I learned that the “cell margins” and lymph nodes were clear. When I received those lab results I began to decompress. I began to believe I would be okay. I began to see possibilities for favorable outcomes. I began to breathe. But, I still did not see my choices. My movements seemed mechanical.
My surgeon’s nurse told me that I had found the tumor at the earliest possible stage and that my surgeon thought my treatment regimen would involve only radiation. A couple of weeks later, my oncologist confirmed that I did not need chemotherapy. Following thirty-three radiation treatments over a period of six and a half weeks, I looked back on the previous five months and realized how many choices were at my disposal and how many choices I had made.
As you go through a typical day, jot down in a notebook the number of choices you make and how you feel about them. They can be as broad as “went for a walk” or as detailed as “stood up from my chair, walked to the kitchen, removed a glass from the cupboard, walked to the kitchen sink, turned on the water, filled the glass, walked back to my chair, sat down, etc.” Each of those steps involved a choice. You may be surprised by how many options you have. You may feel better equipped to face choices when adversity arises. Choice contributes to feelings of well-being because we have the freedom to make important decisions about our lives. It promotes feelings of contentment, inner strength, and empowerment.
Choice has a companion: responsibility. We have a responsibility to make choices that serve the good of everyone involved in our situation. We sometimes make a choice that does not serve us. At times, the consequences of our choices are painful and may limit future choices.
Having choices doesn’t mean we will like and embrace the options available to us. We may have to choose among two or more possibilities we would prefer to avoid. During these times, we can reach out to trusted people to be with us through the turmoil. We can talk to people we trust and engage in soothing, nurturing spiritual practices.
Sometimes, we are met with so many choices that they feel overwhelming. We need to give ourselves as much time and space as possible to weigh all the options and make an informed decision.
The right to choose is bestowed upon all human beings. We have the right to choose how we feel about what happens in our life. We have the right to choose our attitude even in adversity. We have the right to choose how we respond to the forces of life. As your days unfold, may the freedom of choice comfort and energize you. Make time in your day to appreciate the power of choice in your life.
Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.