I was killing time, watching people as I waited in the grocery store parking lot, when I saw a father give in to his three kids, who were begging to stop by a playpen of puppies near the back of the lot.
One of the kids was still small enough to hold hands with her dad. The other two were likely upper-grade-school-aged. They were a nice-looking family who had been driving a fairly high dollar car.
When they reached the pups, the oldest of the children lifted a fat-bellied brown from the pen, and they took turns passing it from one to the next.
It took maybe a minute before the pleading began.
“Can we, daddy?” the oldest one asked.
Big eyes aimed, hands clasped. There were leg hugs and pant tugs and pleading.
“Is that the one you want?” Daddy asked. “I think the spotted one’s cuter.”
And just like that, in maybe three minutes, they’d entered into a 15-or-so year commitment with a living, loving creature.
I marveled that such a momentous decision could be reached so quickly.
This wasn’t a T-shirt or a pair of shoes they could easily return. It was a parking lot dog. A cardboard sign-advertised, totally free, not-even-a-handshake transaction.
It occurred to me how many major decisions in life are made in a similar, by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of fashion.
The jobs we accept are often nothing more than what’s available when we happen to be in the market.
The homes we live in are our favorites of what’s available and affordable when we happen to be looking.
Our partners are who we manage to meet when we and they are available and amenable.
It’s interesting when you consider how many years of our lives we spend in our jobs/houses/with spouses. How those we throw in with, or are thrown in with, become sort of interdependent on each other. How that house we were drawn to because of its man cave potential and nice shade trees becomes the place around which a pool of friends for our children develops, and from those friends come influences — the interests and skills and personality traits that our children develop as a result.
Even though quick decisions are frequently more foolish than brave, I generally admire the gunslingers, since I’m so slow on the draw. I mull far too long about something as mundane as changing brands of detergent and can get all bunched up over deciding where to go out to eat. Picking between paper or plastic can put me on edge.
“Do you want your milk in a bag?”
I don’t know! Decide for me.
I recently spent more hours planning how and where to spend a five-day vacation than some folks spend planning an elaborate wedding. The bigger the decision, the slower I move.
When complaining about my indecisiveness to a friend, she shared her rule of thumb. She asks herself if it can be undone.
Can it be returned, untangled, rehomed? Can it grow back? If so, she’s more apt to jump quickly. If not, she researches until she feels informed enough to proceed.
“If you try to stay in the middle of the road,” she said, “you’ll get run over.”
Sigmund Freud believed decisions on matters such as mates or professions should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves, suggesting, perhaps, a person’s inner needs could somehow make the best decision for us.
Which is an idea a waffler like me can embrace.
Karin Fuller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.