Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Information Needed to Guide My Decision...

I realized recently how much my historical approach to decision-making impacts this. It's only recently that I've realized how far back it goes, or to what extent it affects my life.

The book, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy spoke directly to that issue, and made me realize how I've always tried to decide-by-not-deciding. Blind to the fact that not-deciding is a decision too. In this story a man and his young son are survivors of a nuclear holocaust (I presume) and are on the move (the boy born within days of the event). The boy's mother survived the disaster as well, but at a certain point has chosen to opt out of the life that's left. She's deaf to the husband's pleadings saying she'd rather not wait for the inevitable to happen, and that she would have 'taken' the boy too had it not been for him (her husband). It is an unrelentingly bleak book, with a constant struggle for food and shelter. It made the instinct to survive seem sub-human and terrible. Things were going well if they were 'only' struggling for food and shelter. There was constant threat of marauding bands of degenerated humans who'd sunk to cannibalism and other barbarities, such as enslavement. There was no indication that life would ever be different. Obviously the father had made HIS decision (and the boy's), but I questioned it at every step. In such extreme circumstances, wouldn't the most ethical thing to do be to kill the child and put him beyond the reach of the horrors of this world? Is it not a cruel thing to do, keeping him alive and suffering? It seems the father's motivation was to have the chance of propogating a bit of decency into humankind's future. Which trumps which--the present suffering of one's child, or the duty to humankind?

In my mind I could not decide this, and I could see that this was a situation where clearly by not making a choice one is making a choice. Kind of a roundabout way of making a choice, the purpose I guess is to obscure one's own responsibility in a matter. Otherwise, why not just make the choice you'd have 'chosen' anyway by not-choosing?

So I either stay married to Gary, or I don't.

The question I really need answered that I don't think is unambiguously answerable is if it's doing harm to my sons to be in the environment of this marriage. And since it's not possible to both raise them in this marriage, and raise them OUT of this marriage and then compare the two results to see which has the best outcome, I'm not sure. Are they being impacted in insidious ways by the tension in our marriage, the culture they're growing up in? When Scott (6) has been aggressive at school is it due to an internal agitation that he can't name, but still lowers his thresholds for acting out? He was such a sweet baby. Yesterday my older boy, Connor darted out in front of a car. Not close enough that the driver had to slam on brakes, but enough to scare me. He said he 'wanted danger'. He's affected bravado and professed to admire a sort of outlaw lifestyle (such as skateboarders), and is quite fearless skiing and playing sports, but I've never seen him do something stupid like that before. Is this a manifestation of his internal state that comes from exposure to our mutual atmosphere?

I don't expect them to be able to tell me if and how it's harming them. But intuitively, it seems that a culture of happiness would be an entirely different base to be operating from. Surely that would affect their trajectory?

Gary is truly dealing by not dealing. The marriage is mine to leave because he's not going to make a move to leave it, or a move to heal it. His choice is to ignore it and hope it will go away, and even the prospect that it's harming his sons isn't enough to make him take action.

So the choice is mine.

The counseler I'm seeing I saw for 7 years 14 years ago. When we ended it was a very unsatisfactory way of terminating a therapy relationship. We pretty much had no contact for the 14 years, last year about this time I was reflecting on the gift that her therapy had brought me--the ability to 'listen' to internal processes while suspending judgment--and I contacted her. I'd found she was leading a study group of an author I was interested in, and I wanted to see about joining. She asked me to come in for a session first, and to bring my dreams. I agreed, but I thought it was to talk about the study group...I had no sense of a need for therapy.

In the years since I saw her last she became a Jungian analyst (hence the dream assignment). In the dream I brought her my youngest son was in my arms. We were on a beach on the bank of a stream that had cut its way through the sand. I was annoyed with my son who was squirming but fussing when I'd try to set him down. Then he fell into the stream and there I was, poised above, angry, and I couldn't decide whether to jump in after him as he floated downstream, or run along the top calling assurances to him and getting him where the stream met the ocean.

Sharon's take: I'm facing some important decisions, and I sense danger to my son. She feels she has the skills to help me 'have all of myself with me' when I make those decisions. I agreed to return.

I'm still not sure what it will look like to 'have all of myself with me' in making my choices. For again, I suspect this about much more than a divorce.


Lori said...

The decision you face is of a strange kind: the ongoing "yes" or the terminal "no."

Years ago, while my (I could use another pronoun) grandfather was dying, it seemed to take forever. I asked my husband, why the man didn't just decide to die and end the limbo.

My very wise husband said that once Grandpa decided "no," there would be no more decisions about it. Saying "yes" each day was actually a series of decisions, made each moment.

So I think when the decision is about an ending, not deciding also means that you keep deciding, moment by moment.

excavator said...

Yeah, you got it exactly. It gave me a whole new perspective to consider.

I wonder if another face of 'not deciding' is just exhaustion at all the ongoing decisions a 'yes' means.

And, I wonder if it's about a forlorn hope that maybe something will surface that will provide a compelling reason to keep on saying 'yes'. And saying 'yes' in a more positive way, rather than merely deferring saying 'no' in the terminal decision.

Douglas W said...

I was once faced with such a decision. To go or not to go. To fight or not to fight. To stay or not to stay. No matter what the decision it would be a wrong decision. In the end it was decided for me. But that didn't make it any easier. After many years the outcome has been ok... but there have been many times when I wished it had not been resolved the way it was. I wrote about it in one of my short stories called "Courting". You can find a link to the stories from my web page if you're interested.

excavator said...

I'll comment over on your blog.