I have just had a very troubling experience.
So, since today is Mothering Sunday (Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!) I went to the shop with my dad to buy some flowers. Now, he went off to get oranges or whatever, so I was left by myself in front of a wide range of flowers to choose.
It was one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me.
In front of me lay the largest possible range of roses, lilies, chrysanthemums and others which I couldn’t even pronounce in my head. The colours just exploded in my vision and in my mind and it was only a matter of time before they begin to mix and contort before me until all I could see were blurs of pinks and whites and yellows. I had lost the will to speak. I lost command of my mind and – I’m pretty sure – I swear I was ready to collapse right there in the middle of the aisle. It was only when my dad came back over and asked me, “Have you chosen one yet?” I grabbed the nearest bouquet to hand and forced my face into a semi-comforting smile. At which point I concluded only one thing:
Decisions are terrifying.
Now, I’m not talking about GCSE and A-Level options – and yes, they are scary – but I’m talking about more seemingly trivial things, which are statistically less important but practically more thought-consuming. You don’t want to waste £26.99 on the wrong skirt or buy a pair of shoes which you will never wear, even with the really cute outfit which you planned in your head. Don’t get me wrong, GCSE’s are pretty important, being the basis of all educations and careers etc. but GCSE’s can sometimes be changed or altered.
And I promise you, there is nothing more self-reflecting or spiritual than having to choose out of a large selection.
In one of my favourite book series, ‘Thursday Next’ by Jasper Fforde (definitely a worthwhile read!), there is a part when Hamlet (yes, the Hamlet from Shakespeare… don’t ask!) comes to stay with her for a while. They go into a coffee shop and when she orders for herself, she asks him what he wants. It it as this point where he subsequently starts panicking, because, as he later informs the protagonist, Thursday, in the book world, they never have to make decisions. Every decision, the writer makes for you, and even if you don’t like that decision, you’re stuck with it.
I kind of felt like Hamlet today in the shop with the flowers. Sometimes, it’s not the fact that you have to make a decision, but the fact that there is such a wide range to make a choice from, and this in itself is so intimidating. Let’s look at it from a probability point of view:
SCENARIO 1: There are two bouquets of flowers on display. This means I have a one in two (which is a 50/50) chance of choosing the best bunch, which surely would not be difficult. Therefore, I am very likely to buy the most attractive bouquet.
SCENARIO 2: There are five bouquets of flowers on display. I subsequently now have a one in five (which is a 20/80, I think…) chance of choosing the best bunch, which suddenly puts a lot more pressure on me. Therefore, I am slightly less likely to buy the most attractive bouquet.
SCENARIO 3: There are thirty bouquets of flowers on display. Need I say much more?
At any rate, what I experienced today was more closely related to Scenario 3 than any of the others… And it was hardly an experience which I will be rushing back to at any point.
As much as I like to be independent and make my own choices, the overwhelming sense of responsibility and pressure which settles upon me when I have to choose something is scary. I’m not saying I can’t make decisions, because I totally can. But for me, the hardest decisions seem to be the smallest ones. If my parents say to me, “We’re going out to eat tonight, where would you like to go?” my brain will suddenly forget all the restaurants which I’ve been hyping about for the past month and – usually – the only thing which will come out is, “Nando’s.” Whereas, if they say to me, “How do you feel about us moving to a different country?” my response will be very calm, rational and monitored: “I wouldn’t mind it so much, but it depends on x, y and z.”
Why? That’s my question. Why can I make important decisions but get overwhelmed by the slightest ones which won’t actually affect my life in a drastic way?
I’m not sure. But if anyone can tell me, then I would more than gladly welcome their explanation; no matter how bonkers.
Still slightly shocked from the experience, but I’m sure I’ll get over it… by tomorrow.