By Wendi Deines, guest columnist
Today, my aunt Jennifer, your regular columnist, and her oldest sister, my mom, are headed to Arizona. They plan to join another sister and help their second oldest sister, who fell and fractured her hip and ankle a day before her 80th birthday.
Since Jennifer has been a special part of my life in so many ways, and the challenges facing the sisters are monumental, I agreed to write a guest article. Jennifer has enriched my life by lending an ear and voice of reason, countless times through 31 years of my increasingly stressful teaching career, and echoing my mom’s and sister’s sane encouragements to retire five years early, saving me from COVID-19 teaching experience. During several conversations, she led me through the decision-making process I will share with you today.
I mentioned the stress of teaching, but I didn’t say my tendency to overthink, and then become paralyzed when decision making. A crafty kitchen sign explains this well, “My mind is like someone emptied the kitchen junk drawer onto a trampoline.” Gratefully, the technique she taught me has worked repeatedly to combat this junk-drawer effect.
If you have a copy of Jennifer’s book, My Clients . . . My Teachers: The Noble Process of Psychotherapy, look in the “Parenting” section for “Jackie” to read a description of the technique using three chairs and a baby puppet to bring clarity for a pregnant teen about which of three serious options she would not be making. To date, I have only used this strategy to decide between two choices, so that is the setup I will describe below.
My arrangement for a decision-making session mimics a controlled science experiment, though it will work with fewer restrictions. I always use two of my dining table chairs since they are nearly identical. To limit distractions, I find a quiet area of the blank wall with the same color, with the same lighting, where I can place both chairs side-by-side facing the wall. The goal is to meld movement, mind, body, emotions, senses, and story to create a realistic picture and experience of the different features of each choice. The last step of setup is to determine which of the options is represented by each chair. After that, I follow the steps below:
Head for one of the chairs. Visualize the setting and particulars for that choice, and sit and talk. Tell the whole story of that choice. Include what you’ll see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Describe the setting, your actions, your words, what you’ll gain, what you’ll miss, and talk of anyone else involved. Speak about your financial, spiritual, and emotional life there. Be sure you have purged the entire setting. Once there is nothing left to say, close your eyes and tune into your body.
How’s your breathing and heart rate? How do your head, neck, back, chest, stomach, etc. feel? Are there any emotions bubbling to the top? Once you have explored all sensations, slowly open your eyes, move to the second chair, and repeat it.
After the second choice is purged, move behind and across the room from the chairs. Look at both chairs, and sit in the chair that felt best. That one represents the best of these two choices.
So far, this procedure has served me well. It leaves my cluttered, “trampoline-scattered, kitchen-junk-drawer mind” better organized so that I can move forward with my best choice.
I’ll end with a cautionary quote by my aunt Jennifer in her “Lessons learned vicariously” article dated August 20, 2019: “Well thought out choices don’t always prove to be good decisions.” [boldface added]
No matter what, though, remember my aunt’s advice to, “Live while you live.”
Wendi Deines, has an M.S. in Elementary Ed., with K-12 endorsements in math, English, and science. She lives in NE New Mexico where she keeps in touch with her rural roots and enjoys creative interests.. She had the privilege of completing a 31-year dream career as a teacher and is now enjoying creative interests.