I’ve been thinking a lot about “choice” recently – how it can be option, an alternative or a preference.
Having an option suggests you have a degree of power over the act of choosing, and imparts a sense of control. Even if you are making a choice about something which is unpleasant or negative, at least you can use critical thinking and analysis to inform your decision. A preference allows a choice to be made perhaps based on previous experience, or on a positive (or negative) influence. A choice based on an alternative could be a binary choice with unambiguous consequences, or it could be a stark choice with even starker consequences.
As we begin gradually easing out of lockdown, choice has become a central tenet. Up until now we had no alternative. We had only one choice, which was to stay at home.
But with a routemap now prepared on how we exit lockdown, we enter uncharted territory. We had been warned that the lockdown would be difficult, and there is no denying that the restrictions placed on our daily lives on so many levels have been hard and at times demanding. But, in Scotland at any rate, the vast majority of us realised that we had no other choice, and we have been patiently sitting it out.
“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”
David G Allen
What we perhaps had not fully realised was how much harder it would be to begin the exit process. The government has provided clear guidance, and there is no limit to the sources we can tap into for additional information, advice, data, examples from other countries etc., if we are so inclined. So, now we have more choices, but they are still limited, therefore we can’t exercise a true preference.
Having more choice introduces more uncertainty and complexity. More than ever we need to exercise personal judgement, and common sense. And set in the Covid-19 context, the impact of our choices has an amplified and accelerated impact on other people. The expectations of others also create more areas requiring careful thought and consideration, and in turn throw up more choices for us.
Sometimes choice can have unintended consequences. In a previous blog I joked about the flour fairies (yes flour, not flower) causing my roots to turn white. Prior to the lockdown I had been debating whether or not to stop using henna on my hair and just “let it go.” In one fell swoop the lockdown made that choice for me, and I am surprised to find that I have been fascinated watching the red gradually fade out and I actually like the lighter, softer shade which greets me each morning in the mirror. I also see my late mother looking back at me, and that gives me a sense of comfort and continuity.
I recently made the decision to try online food delivery, and so far this has proved really easy. Its intuitive platform with favourites and last order features help reduce the basic, and let’s face it, boring choices, and let preference take the driving seat.
I’ve been reading a lot during the lockdown, and have just finished “The Choice: Embrace the Possible” by Dr Edith Eva Eger. This true story is the winner of the National Jewish Book Award and Christopher Award. Dr Eger was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 16 with her parents and sister. Her parents were executed on arrival at the camp, but Edie and her sister survived. After many years struggling with survivors’ guilt she made the choice to forgive herself and she turned her own horrific experiences into ways to help others and became a world-renowned psychologist.
This was an inspiring read, with its strong message of the triumph of hope over adversity. And choice was definitely an option for Edie, underpinned by a great deal of courage and critical thinking. But she made the right choice and it resulted in profound, long-lasting and wide-reaching impact which she could never have imagined.
As we begin to rebuild and reshape society through a Covid-19 lens, we can all play our part. There is a rising tide calling for systemic change and a strong reluctance to return to the way things were before the Covid crisis. Individually and collectively we have an opportunity to emerge from this crisis more resilient and with the determination to make meaningful change.
It’s our choice...
“Dr Edith Eva Eger is my kind of hero. She survived unspeakable horrors and brutality; but rather than let her painful past destroy her, she chose to transform it into a powerful gift—one she uses to help others heal.”
Jeannette Walls, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle
Stay safe, take care