you can’t make decisions if you don’t have direction

February 5, 2013

I’ve just sung that something like fifty times. It’s catchy. it also goes quite well with have a banana.

I feel like there should be xylophones playing underneath it, too. In any case, it’s a line spooling off from my mental reorientation. It’s been a tricky day today for the thought processes, and it’s not even three o’ clock. Such is life.

I have spent most of today- and yesterday evening- in a state of dread and a hard-knotted, living anxiety, a little Cthuhlu uncoiling in my ribcage*, besieged all round by small terrors. I’m flathunting. Making big decisions about where I’m going to live and the people I’m going to live with for maybe the rest of this year, two things which will significantly influence my mood, my sense of self, how I handle being alive, the stresses of study and the convoluted turmoil of ideas inside of my head.

Now if you know me at all, you’ll know I dislike decisions. Intensely. This is mostly because I hate being wrong, because wrong usually equals pain. It then stands to reason that I hate big decisions because they have in them the potential for Very Big Pain. Nobody enjoys Very Big Pain. Not even masochists.** And so I’ve spent most of today and a significant portion of yesterday fretting myself to small and angsting shreds because I’m afraid of a thousand nebulous things and unsure what to choose and what I want and what is good for me, and I am very afraid of making the wrong decision. Mostly because I don’t know what the right decision looks like. And I think I’ve spent more than just the past few days in this headzone, even though the panic has been less at the forefront than this morning; I’ve been swimming through vacancy and black water with no idea of up or down, knowing only the disturbing brush of shadows underneath my feet, disoriented and distracted by every small fear, every twig, every dead bird. Every cold wave. Nothing to grip onto, nothing to orient against. No stars, no moon, no sun. No landmarks in this indistinct watery mass. Merely the drag of the tide, whose other name is time.

I have been, I think, staring at froth and the tossed grey minutiae of debris too long. Everything becomes a series of small indecisions, a morass of tiny battering fears and the uncertainty that comes with them. This is what happens when you don’t orient yourself against anything. This is what happens to me, anyway. The real issue being, not the debris or the black water or the maybe-there-are-sharks, but forgetting what I was swimming towards. This way I get easily pushed and pulled by every new piece of flotsam that streams past.

All those birds. All that kelp.

Who clambers into the damn ocean, anyway, if you don’t know where you’re going? Then again, I don’t think we get given a choice. (Coastal shelf.)

had a direction. That is the biggest thing about this year; I began it with more of a direction than I have had in- a long while, yes? I have been struggling from sleep for a while, pushed about by currents, and two years of aimless drifting, treading the same water post-university,*** had put me on the edge between a distinct desire to sink and- what was new- being really tired of sinking. So over the Christmas and New Year break, scrabbling desperately for the looming possibility of change, I grabbed for something, held it loosely but held it, reoriented myself and struck out for a direction.

direction. Do you have any idea how much relief that is? I am tenuous and careful and cautious with it, but it- gave me hope, I suppose. Such a bland way to put it, but suddenly, spaceThe world opened up and I could breathe again and I felt less lost and more infinitely hopeful than I’ve had in so very, very long. There was air to breathe and it was good air, and I wasn’t drowning, and didn’t want to drown. Somewhere to swim to gives you that. It became less the long daily grind of treading water, grim and gritty and enduring, and more- somewhere to go. The world suddenly opened up and became vast with potential and promise. I had a future, with somewhere to swim to; a fixed point to trust, however cautiously, to get my bearings from and to head towards. In short, I found a reason- however temporary and nebulous and edged around with my careful boundaries, because trusting is hard– to live, to actually truly choose to live and not just hover in a state of chafed-and-restless dormancy.

And this is how I know it was a good idea: I felt more free than I have in forever. Less stuck, less a victim of time, less choiceless and hopeless and doomed to a fixed failure (because when you are tossed into the ocean and have to tread water in one spot, however strong you are, your energy will eventually give out). I became suddenly, enormously, buoyant with promise and possibilities and the first breath of something vast drawn in, something that always feels like hope. I figure something that hugely spacious inside my ribcage is a good thing. Anything that points me to hope is.

It is reassuring. And I have been looking for a reason to live for a long time, and living without one for longer. Lightly as I am holding it, it is a question and a direction and a thing to test, a thing to extend a trust-with-reservations towards. (A quest? A quest.) It is why I’ve ended up here, fretting about flats and being swarmed by other incipient fears. This year I am moving to Auckland to go study theology at Carey Baptist College, and for many reasons. Chiefmost among them is this one here (if I detailed it now, it would make this blogpost even more elephantine than it already is). It wasn’t the first reason that brought me to this point, but it’s the dominating one. The first reason that brought me here was a realisation that the two places I feel safest**** and most clearly, truly myself are in the company of books, and among the people of God.

And so, and so. What I forgot, and remembered again today, is that I can’t make decisions if I don’t have a direction. If I lose sight of my direction and start concentrating on the bobbing of small carcasses and the drift and spume of faraway shipwrecks, if I become disoriented by all of the places these things push me, I will get lost. What I need to do, then, is realign. Reorient myself. Remember the direction this year is taking, and then make decisions that follow. Things that slot into the larger narrative, that help me towards my direction, that assist in my splashing-forward- those are the good choices, the right options. (After all, what is ‘right’ is a thing that needs context, isn’t it? Some standard to measure other things up against. Otherwise there’s no way to decide what is right and what is wrong; everything just vacillates.)

Question to ask myself, then, the question to hold up against all my decisions and examine all of my choices by, is- will this help me towards where I’m going? Will this take me further towards what I want to achieve, what I want to find?


I’m. just going to go ask myself that now.



*I mean a squidlike, muddy-coloured, amorphous, living eldritch sentience resting and dozing in the state between sleep and awakening. That is what I think uncurls and breathes in my ribcage like tension. Cthulhu will do for a shorthand.
** This is said with the awareness that humanity is Very, Very Weird and there are people who enjoy having pieces of their body cut off and then eaten. But I think even for them there is pain they would prefer to avoid.
*** (which admittedly makes you a stronger swimmer, if you don’t drown. I haven’t drowned yet but at times it was a choice worth debating.)
****  (if by safest we mean a place to go when you feel beseiged and terrified that gives you some measure of rest and some measure of sanity in amongst the storming chaos.)

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