a choice by any other name…

An article was posted to facebook yesterday. It spurred a discussion.  What I feel like saying seems a bit excessive for a facebook comment.

The author of this post is, in my opinion, equally as brave as the author of my original post to facebook. There are many lifestyles that have rigid rules, some that have none at all, and many in between. But we are able to choose the lifestyle we want to live. And it is a CHOICE.  Buddhist monk, navy seal, catholic priest, vegas drag queen. Yes there is influence by those we have spent time with. Do we not all influence each other’s lives in one way or another?  Is a navy seal brainwashed because he had a military father and grandfather? Is a drag queen brainwashed because he was raised by gay parents? Is a mormon missionary brainwashed because he was raised in a religious home? I do not believe a child’s choices are non-existent just because of their surroundings.

The life I live is full of rules.  Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t.  But I chose this life.  And I continue to choose it.  I understand the rules and when I choose this life I accept those rules come with it.  I could choose a different life, understanding there wouldn’t be as many rules.  A student chooses a life with college.  They accept there will be rules that won’t be enjoyable. Are they missing out on a more fulfilling life if they were not restricted by schedule or professor expectations or a class that required them to suppress some of their inner beliefs?  Perhaps.  But isn’t that their choice to make? A Buddhist monk chooses a life of celibacy.  Does he know what restrictions that life will have on him? Is he living his life to the fullest and being true to himself?  I don’t believe that’s for anyone to answer but him.

There are so many choices in front of us on a daily basis.  Some create small ripples in life and other create large ones.  Sometimes we have all the necessary facts when we make a choice, sometimes we do not.  When new facts present themselves we are also able to make a new choice.  Choice doesn’t become brainwashing or coercion just because one didn’t have all the facts in the beginning.  We learn as we go.  We don’t have a brain full of knowledge on day 1.  Choice isn’t dependent on instruction either.  Just because a child is taught a certain way, doesn’t mean his/her choice is removed.  Consequence also does not negate choice.  If environment, family, society, war, imprisonment, etc. create unfavorable surroundings, choice still exists.  A human being CANNOT have their free will removed from them.  Options may be limited; results may be undesired, but choice remains.  It is the only thing we CAN control.  We do not get to decide how others react to us.  We do not get to decide if tragedy or natural disaster will cross our path.  We do not get to decide if we are bullied or loved.  Those are all for others to decide.  We only get to make our own choices.

I am often criticized or discounted for my choices, as are many others.  Because I do not try to hide my feelings about motherhood and commitment, many are puzzled and believe I have been coerced or forced somehow.  Others believe I have no right to make the choice I made because of how I feel.  Some will say that I am undeserving of the benefits of this lifestyle because I didn’t crave it.  And on the days when I struggle, I believe them.  Do I believe I had to give up part of myself for this choice? Yes.  Do I believe I am good at motherhood and wifery? Not in a million years.  Do I believe that means I should choose something else?  Every day.  Does that mean I will?  I sure hope not (mainly because I haven’t a clue what I would be good at).  Yes, I understood the confines and restraints of this lifestyle when I chose it.  No I could not have fathomed the pain or frustration it would’ve caused.  I am not a fortune-teller.  Can I preach to everyone and say I believe it’s the best lifestyle above any other?  No way.  Am I being “true” to myself? I haven’t the foggiest idea.  My true self wants to yell and scream when things don’t go my way.  My true self wants to have a bottom-less checking account while sitting on a beach getting a tan.  My true self wants to eat french fries and watch tv and never exercise again.  But my true self wants to be accomplished and help others.  My true self wants to be strong and not out of breath.  My true self wants to have little toddler arms wrapped tightly around my neck (on occasion).  So which self do I be “true” to?  Is there more than one self?  How can I be true to them all?  Thus, CHOICE exists.  I have to choose.  And with my crazy, broken, chaotic, noisy brain I have to continue to choose.  Every. Single. Day.  Do not believe I didn’t make a choice because sacrifices were involved.  Would my life have been more fulfilling had I chosen one closer to that of my nomadic sister?  Would I have been truer to myself? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a choice.  Or that the choice wasn’t mine to make.

Of course the discussion on facebook could have turned into a heated one because the initial article had the topic of homosexuality and religion.  But my original point had nothing to do with those specific topics.   When the adulterous woman was brought to Jesus did he look upon her with disdain? Was he afraid to be near her, for fear her choices would rub off on him? Did he sneer at her or ridicule her because he believed her life choices were wrong?  Do we snicker at the atheist because we believe in God? Do we feel pity for the monk because we don’t believe in a celibate life?  Do we mock the navy seal for going without food and sleep and suppressing his basic human desires?

My point was not to debate whether one lifestyle was superior to the other, or which lifestyle is morally wrong, or even which lifestyle is more accepting in society.  Statistics can be shown for these debates.  My intent wasn’t to promote world peace, or eliminate racism, or pretend that humans can eradicate their judgmental opinions.  My debate is about about choice and our reaction to those choices made by others.  Yes, we pass judgment.  But do we have to do it angrily?  Do we have to belittle, degrade,  demean, disparage, mock, snicker,  and sneer?  Do we have the ability to share our opinions with one another and still be respectful?  Can we listen to the opinion of another without being angry because it isn’t the same as ours?  Are we able to hear our fellow man’s story and applaud the courage it took to share, rather than discount it’s validity?

I do not believe in a world with zero bad things in it.  But I do believe we can learn to control our emotions with the goal of creating a little more good in the world.