About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Choices Aren't Always What They Seem

Lately I've heard a lot of discussion about choice. I've even been told that I've chosen the life of a single mom despite being widowed. I've been told that I've chosen to struggle, to make things hard, to martyr myself. I hear people talk about abortion in this way, too, as if things are black and white--a choice like choosing between an apple or an orange. Life is not that simplistic, I'm afraid.

When I look back to that instant my husband died, I remember being terrified. I had no idea what to do or how to act or what to say. I was literally thrust into making decisions moment to moment. I had two little kids looking at me with wide-eyed expectations that I would somehow make it alright. My life became about that...about making it alright for them. Is that a choice? It sure as hell does not feel like one. I simply lived my life immersed in survival mode while trying to make my kids' lives as normal as possible.

People like to say that my financial struggles have been all about choice, too--as if it is some badge of honor I wear. Well, it's not. I hate it. I get frustrated every month when the bills come. The struggle isn't a choice. I work damn hard running my own business from home. Every day I wake up and bust my ass trying to create the American dream of being a successful entrepreneur. People seem to think that because I'm a writer, I somehow chose financial struggle, which is stupid. Who would choose such a thing no matter the profession?

Life isn't so clear cut. People who work minimum wage jobs and can't afford rent are told "you're choosing to work that job so deserve to live in poverty." Guess what? Maybe not. Maybe that's the only option they have. Not everyone can go to college. You don't know their story. Also, not everyone who goes to college, gets a well-paying job. Careful about throwing that word "choice" around like you're some superior being who knows all.

I work every day, all day, around the clock--even when sick--all in the name of achieving success. How is that choosing financial struggle? It's the opposite actually--I'm striving toward financial freedom. People are stupid if they think that anyone would choose to struggle, yet I hear it frequently.  I chose to work from home because I'm an only parent--as in solo, no safety net, no family around to help--and wanted the flexibility to be here for my kids. Yes, that was a choice and one I'm proud I made. As they grew, I've applied to other positions mainly to combat the intense loneliness that comes from working in a home office in the woods, but those haven't panned out for whatever reason. The business was a choice, yes, the struggle, however, is not. I'm baffled that people think it is.

I've had people scoff when I talk about being overwhelmed as a single mom--they'll say things like, "you chose to have kids." Um, yes, I did with my husband. He died. It sucks. I get scared. I have no one to confide in, no partner, when dealing with the reality of managing a household and a family on my own. Why on earth should I be ashamed to admit that it's hard? I hear married parents bitching about the same things, yet somehow that's more acceptable than someone who's doing it all alone? Don't you think that's fucked up?

Do I want to be single the rest of my life? No. That's why I got married--I didn't choose to be widowed and thrust back into this single life. I love LOVE. Hello! Romance writer here! But I am single--not by choice, though. Next year both of my kids will be off in college--do I really want to be alone? No. Almost every day I think about what life would look like had Sean lived. We'd be at this new stage of our lives where we could travel together and go back to dating each other. I miss him every day, almost more so now when I'm not needed as much as 'mom'. I didn't choose this, you see. I've spent the ten years since he died raising two spectacular kids and rebuilding a career. I've also spent those ten years being told by the outside world that I'm choosing to be sad over my husband's death...why would I choose that? I don't want to be sad or lonely--and I have had a lot of joy in this past decade, too. But grieving and missing someone you loved isn't a choice...it's reality.

So then they say, "you should put yourself out there and date." Right. My dating hasn't gone so well...men have referred to my kids as "another man's baggage" and have looked at me with scorn saying, "you'd be great if only you were ten years younger" or "there's no way you really do yoga" like I'm auditioning to be a runway model at age 47. Fuck that. I choose not to spend my valuable time being belittled by middle-aged men who bore me.

Choices? Define that. Sometimes people make decisions that are the best for them in that moment--but it's not really a choice. It's a reaction to circumstances. It's adaptation. It's sacrifice. Choice, to me, is like going shopping and choosing which shoes look best with a certain outfit or looking at a menu and choosing a dish that satisfies a craving. The word choice itself implies an either or decision--as if there is always an option.

Sometimes there isn't.

Be careful when telling someone about their "choices" because you may come off as an asshole. When I think back on the decisions I made under extreme stress and nightmarish circumstances, there wasn't a choice involved. I reacted. I took action based on instinct because a decision needed to be made.

The night of Sean's death, I remember the Coroner asking me what I wanted to do with his wedding ring that they'd removed from his body. I just blinked at him. I remember this as clear as if it were happening now. People wanted me to make choices, even then, in the heat of the moment, that I still get blamed for--but do you honestly think I was making a choice or do you think I was simply reacting from instinct? I didn't know what the hell to do. I had no frame of reference from which to make a choice...as in either this or that. I merely reacted and made snap decisions that needed to be made.

In my state of shock, I told the Coroner to give Sean back his ring. Does that make sense given that he'd died and they were removing his body? No, but that's what I said. His question had baffled me at the time, you see, even when he followed up by asking if I wanted him buried or cremated only hours after he'd been alive. I heard myself speaking. I heard myself answering. But, in no way during that state of absolute horror, was I making choices. I was reacting.

The word choice has been bantered around so much as almost a derogatory term. I've heard people say that Californians deserve a drought and forest fire because they chose to live there. What? How does one thing equal the other? I've also heard people say that surfers deserve to be attacked by sharks because they choose to surf. Really? Do you think they get on a board and paddle out over the waves because they actually want to be attacked by a shark? Sure, that's a risk, but it's not a choice. 

When my daughter was going on a charity service mission to work in an orphanage, we couldn't raise any money because people said I chose to be a single mom so she didn't deserve to go on the trip. Meanwhile, her counterparts on the trip with big families and two parents were fully funded without issue. (She went on the trip, by the way. I made it happen.) If that's the premise, should I not support Girl Scouts selling cookies because they are choosing to go to camp? Should I not support schools selling giftwrap to fund their music department because the kids are choosing to play an instrument? Why are people so consumed with someone's perceived 'choice' that they toss it around in an accusatory manner? My point here is...we were somehow labeled as less deserving to participate in charity because of a perceived choice on my part. There's that word again...choice.

I had a former friend tell me that women in domestic violence situations choose to stay. Like hell they do. They're afraid. They've been belittled to the point of not having the confidence to walk out the door.

There's a reason that person is now a former friend of mine...I choose not to be around ignorance.

There are choices and then there are reactions. I wasn't making a choice that night when the Coroner asked me what to do with Sean's wedding ring...I was in a state of absolute shock and despair because my best friend had just died and my little kids were suddenly left without a daddy...I reacted. I didn't choose.

Life isn't black and white. You're not perfect and neither am I. Would it be so horrible to start looking at each other through a lens of love and compassion instead of trying to figure out if someone is deserving?

How about we stop misusing the word choice and start thinking before speaking?

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