Choices, choices

We are all the time making choices. Even not choosing is a choice. With age, experience and after yoga reached my life, I have learned to understand the importance of being aware of the thinking behind my choices. Am I choosing out of fear? Am I choosing with my heart? Am I avoiding to choose? If yes, why?

With age also, I have gained perspective. I can deal with most of the consequences of the choices I make because I know the intention behind them. Somehow, it is easier to deal with unexpected results when I know that my intention was clear. I always tell myself that I can accept the mistake, or the criticism, say ‘sorry’ and move on.

However, there is an area in my life where I struggle a lot with when it comes to choices, and that is my children’s upbringing. I think many parents can relate to this. I observe other parents, especially those who choose differently than me – us, we are after all two parents – and ask myself, why don’t I do like this? I am sometimes invaded by self-doubt.

Our kids are now less dependent on us, and I have started evaluating many of our choices. I have come to realise that some of these choices were less fortunate than others. For example, we chose to live in a place where we don’t have any family, and even though we managed quite well to get through everyday life without any help, I see now that our kids missed quite a lot that kids who grow up with their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins have. We don’t have a strong network that can support them. I think more and more about the importance of growing up with different role models. At the start of their lives, my husband and I were our children’s world, but little by little, they affirm more and more their personality and maybe (most probably even) our personality, our views, our way of doing things, might not align with them. If they had other adults to connect with, they would maybe get different ideas, different sources of inspiration. Also, they are getting into the age where they stop believing their parents when they say how fantastic they are, maybe hearing it from other adults that have a connection with them would work better.

We have never wanted to push our kids too much with school work either. In primary school, the most important was that they thrive, that they enjoy learning, and that they like going to school. I personally did expect certain effort, but I rarely sat with them to do homework. My explanation was that they went to an international school where they had longer days than the kids going to public schools, and I felt that they should be allowed to do other things in the evenings. They also were quite active with different after school activities and I wanted them to relax once at home. Once in middle school, I have talked about my expectation of them trying their best at school.

I don’t necessarily regret this choice, but I think that I should have helped them set a routine for homework because they will need it once they are in highschool.

Like this, I have quite a few reflections on what we could have chosen that might have meant something different or better for our children. However, I feel that I have made some important choices that I haven’t regretted at all.

I want my kids to grow up as caring, balanced and resilient people. I know they have come to the world to write their own story, and I will have to accept however they develop, but at least I will not look back and regret not having these values as my core values. Therefore, I have made some choices that sometimes have brought self-doubt in other areas like professional development, or even how our home looks like.

I know that I don’t tackle stress very well. I know that I am not good at doing many things at the same time because I don’t like doing things halfheartedly. It has been a priority for me that my kids feel loved, supported and seen in everyday life. That they feel that we are present. Not only physically but also mentally. Therefore, I have tried to not overload myself. I have a job, I have some hobbies, but I try as much as I can that nothing stands in the way for me showing my care and love to my kids. I haven’t always succeeded at this, and I have also gone through periods where I have had to work more or been away some evenings or even days, but I have been present as much as I can.

I know my resumé would look much better and I would have more job opportunities if I had a Masters degree. But I also know that studying would mean take away time from some area in my life, and most probably it would end up being my family. Our house is functional and pleasant to live in, but if we made an effort we could make many improvements. This would again mean taking away time to spend outdoors, or on sewing projects, or just sit and watch a movie with my kids.

I keep telling myself that I still have many years to study, to renovate, and to set myself goals, but the opportunity to spend time with my family will never come back. This said, I see how much people are able to do, and I sometimes do ask myself if I’m not a bit lazy. If I shouldn’t be doing this or that.

But, in days like today, I feel that I have at least done some good choices. That there is no one right answer on how we should live our lives. That we all have to find our way. Our priorities and try as hard as we can to avoid comparing our life to the life of others.

Why do I talk specifically about today? I will tell you a little story. Our youngest daughter is 12 years old. She just started middle school this Fall. On Thursdays, she has dance classes after school, and it has become our little thing to eat together somewhere in town before we take the bus to the dance studio. We then have a lot of time to talk. It is very nice to hear her experiences and her reflections.

Today, she told me she went to the toilet during one of her lessons and she found a girl from yr4 sitting in a corner crying. She immediately sat beside her and asked her what happened. The girl told her that a boy in her class had said something mean to her, and my daughter said something like ‘he must not feel very good about himself and that is why he is nasty to others, you shouldn’t pay attention to that kind of comments.’. She stayed with her until she was ready to go back to her classroom.

When I praised her for taking the time to talk with her and showing empathy, she said ‘I am now one of the older kids in our school, we have to be good role models. I couldn’t just go in, pee, and go out when someone is crying. I would have felt so bad.’

Anyone who knows our youngest daughter knows that she has many colours. She is not the most responsible always, but can be quite responsible. She enjoys learning, but she can also be quite lazy. She is caring, but can often be selfish. So this action only tells me that she is balanced and caring and that makes me happy.

Maybe, some of the choices I’ve made have helped her develop empathy? I am not saying that it is thanks to me that she is as she is, but at least our way of bringing her up hasn’t killed this in her.

I observe other families around us and I see kids developing the same and other skills. Sometimes I do think, why can’t my son or daughter do like that? What have they lacked in their upbringing that hasn’t inspired to that attitude? But then I think that luckily for the world, we are different, grow up in different settings with parents with different values and views, so we develop different skills and assets. There is no recipe. We just have to make conscious choices out of who we are, who our kids are and within the context we live in, and enjoy when our kids display their best attributes for their own benefit and the benefit of others.

Choices

I must confess that, since I can remember, I have had this feeling that someone with superior wisdom than me, would one day come and tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do better.

All my adult life I have been torn between doing what I think is suitable for me (and my family in the last thirteen years) and wondering if I am making the wrong choices. Should I be more stressed? Should I have more friends? Should I go out more? Should I push my kids more to do homework? Should I this? Should I that?

The root of these doubts is most probably fear. Fear of making the wrong choice and regretting for the rest of my life for not making the other choice, the right choice. Especially when it comes to my children and their upbringing.

Then, five years ago, Yoga came into my life and its teachings towards living a spiritual life made sense to me. I continue studying through the guidance of my teacher, Prasad Rangnekar, who patiently guides me but never tells me what to do. Still, when studying the Gita, especially about Karma Yoga, I find myself wondering if I need to change completely something in my life to live a more spiritual life. Am I in the right place? Am I in the right job? Am I in the right relationships? etc.

Luckily for me, I do have some connection with my inner self, with this gut feeling we all have. I don’t always listen to it, but since patience is also an important aspect of the practice of Yoga, I stay mostly put, I observe and I tell myself that when changes need to come, they will come by themselves. Almost naturally. There is a very important concept in the practice of Yoga (as a lifestyle, not only as a physical practice) called effortless effort, and I believe in it. The less we push, the less we fight, the clearer our mind and the more skilful choices we make.

I think I am understanding now that the principles of Karma Yoga are not encouraging us to do something different but do things differently. It is the attitude we bring to wherever we are and whatever we are doing that makes the difference. By practicing these principles, we will then live a more skilful and harmonious life. For our inner peace but also for the peace of our surroundings. It doesn’t mean that I won’t make mistakes, but I will then deal with these mistakes in a more productive way.

Maybe, I need to move away from the idea that there are right and there are wrong choices. There are choices and by cultivating a calm and clear mind I can make more skilful choices. Choices that are appropriate at the moment I take them out of the information I have. It is very possible that not everyone would make the same choice, and that is ok.

Another thing that I have been reflecting a lot about lately is that for every choice, there are consequences, and it is how we deal with them that makes the whole difference. The first one being that I didn’t choose the other(s) option(s). In addition, almost every choice has a pleasant/positive outcome and some corresponding less pleasant/positive or even directly unpleasant or negative consequences. Sometimes, these consequences are possible to foresee, sometimes, they come as a surprise. In order to live a more peaceful life, I benefit from dealing with both the positive and negative consequences of my choices instead of living in regret and guilt for not making the other choice. Fortunately, sometimes, when we realise that the consequences weren’t at all positive we can then make adjustments or even choose again. Sometimes, choices bring mistakes and all we can do is learn, change our course and move on.

Why do I write about this? Because I observe myself and people around me struggling to stay mentally and emotionally balanced with the choices we make. We decide something with what we believe is a clear mind, but we also want that thing that we didn’t choose, and we don’t want to deal with the consequences the choice we made brings. We even sometimes believe the other choice would be better, we would be happier, but still, we stay “stuck” in the choice we made in the first place. Sometimes, we can’t make the most desired choice precisely because we understand that the cons outweigh the pros, and our wants and desires stay in the way for us to skilfully deal with the choice we made. For example, I really want to go on vacation to a sunny warm place, but I also know that I have to save money. I then choose to not go on a vacation and it turns out that the weather is lousy most of the summer where I live. Would it then help me and my inner peace to go around the whole summer complaining about the weather, regretting my choice, dreaming about how good my summer would have been if I had left for that sunny place, knowing very well that I cannot choose differently?

I guess it all sums up to being with what is and not wasting energy on what could be unless we are willing to take the steps towards it. Make choices out of a clear mind, deal with the consequences or choose again, but avoid to be mentally and emotionally torn between this and that. Avoid cultivating feelings of regret and guilt and rather learn from the mistakes we make and correct our course. Stop living in fear of not making the best choice.