(Editor’s Note: Michelle Sinclair is the daughter of columnist Melodie Davis; she is married and works in Washington, D.C . She and her husband have one son, now eight months old.)
Looking before we leap is a wise instinct, but it can also turn a time of joyous, much-anticipated change into a tail-chasing cycle of worry and second-guessing.
As all cat owners know, there is nothing so incomprehensible as opening a door for your cat—who has been meowing, pawing, pleading to go out—only to have the cat poke her head out the door and ponder the relative merits of staying put. This phenomenon has even been immortalized in Garrison Keillor’s “In and Out Cat Song,” which is worth a google if you have a chance.
Humans do the same thing.
No, we don’t stand in doorways letting all the warm or cool air out while we try to decide between an indoor or outdoor choice. But at major life changes—including ones we have longed for and dreamed about—we do tend to linger, to hesitate and even resist the change.
My husband and I have experienced some pretty seismic changes in the last year: welcoming our first baby, buying another house, selling our first one, and coping with work adjustments related to the baby. Unlike with a job loss or a death in the family, we faced these changes by choice, looking forward to them with eagerness—even becoming a bit like the desperate cat scratching at the door.
So when we got to the brink (when each new door swung open) I couldn’t understand why we were suddenly assailed by feelings of panic, of thinking we’d made a grave mistake in one way or another. What if stepping through that door turns out to be the very worst thing we ever do?
Looking before we leap is a wise instinct, but it can also turn a time of joyous, much-anticipated change into a tail-chasing cycle of worry and second-guessing. Managing those worries is probably something we get better at with time and experience. Or maybe it’s just something we weather with our hats held tightly against the wind. I don’t know. More seasoned individuals might have some fascinating insights to share on this subject.
I personally cope with the prospect of change by researching the heck out of something. On a recent trip to Target, I think I drove my dear mother-in-law a little bit batty when I wanted to collapse, set up, and carry every stroller in their display before selecting one for my son. (And then I went online and read enough reviews to convince me my in-store decision was wrong, leading to me ordering an entirely different one, sight unseen. Welcome to my little corner of crazy.)
Research helped me prepare for my son’s birth, both emotionally and factually (I was certifiably clueless about babies), and I found some awesome advice along the way. In life, once I’ve done my research, I typically plow straight ahead without looking back.
But research certainly doesn’t work for everyone—you can always find a dissenting opinion online, and thanks to the relative anonymity of the internet, these opinions can be so virulent they’ll make you feel terrible for considering other views. It’s enough to make anyone doubt themselves.
My husband doesn’t have the same slavish reliance on research that I do—he reads quite a bit, but to make a decision, he prefers to take a long walk or go for a run to clear away the noise, getting right to the heart of how he feels about a particular situation. Talking while walking together has become our go-to method for making big decisions, helping us communicate at a level we might not be able to otherwise.
No matter what we human felines ultimately decide—whether we prance out the door with our tails held high or turn around and head for a sunny spot on the couch—it’s important not to get down on ourselves or lose patience with each other for hesitating. As often as I want to just hold my nose and go dashing into the deep end of the pool, I’m making every effort to appreciate my husband’s lengthier “stop and think” moments. His caution has steered us well so far. So, if all I need to do is provide a little propulsion, I can do that. One is just as important as the other.
After all, as every cat has to learn, no door stays open forever.
So, “seasoned individuals,” how have you dealt with making major decisions, either as an individual or couple? Share your ideas on the Another Way Newspaper Column Facebook page. You can also request the free booklet, “6 Great Ways to Strengthen Your Family.” Send requests to '); , or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.
Posted 7/17/2014 7:00:00 AM
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