The Cost of Making Impossible Choices

impossible choices

Today’s big idea is that for the last year, we have all been having to make impossible choices. Deciding between our mental health–which might require spending time with loved ones or friends. And physical health–which could very well be compromised by that time spent with others. 

Or deciding between our kids mental health. By sending them to school to be among their peers and with their teachers and living their normal lives. And their physical health, especially if they have a condition such as asthma or other immune challenge, because letting them out of the house might expose them to the virus. 

Or between our financial health and our physical health. If, for example, you are immune compromised or live with someone who is, going in to work might expose them to the virus through you.

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It’s been a year of hardcore mental calculus, where there are few 100% right answers

Or if there is a clear right answer, it comes with a heavy cost. 

Do you get on your child to do their homework or get better grades when they are depressed? Do you limit their screen time if it’s the only way they’re communicating with friends because it’s freezing cold outside and even going on a walk with someone isn’t a great idea? 

Can you hug your parents? Or even go in their house? What about if they are physically incapacitated and need care? 

Do you let yourself eat whatever you want because you’ve got decision fatigue and are in need of comfort? Or do you try to stick to healthy foods because you want to stay resilient and healthy? 

The short, maddedning answer is, IT DEPENDS.

Two guidelines I’ve used to help me make these impossible choices are: How necessary is it? AND, to make this decision based on that particular day or time period only. 

If it’s Saturday, is my child seemingly very content to stay home today? Or are they retreating to their room and their mood growing darker by the moment? If it’s the latter, I’d say getting together with a friend is super important on that day. And so you might want to spend the time and energy to coax them out of the room and even make plans for them if they’re resistant to the idea. 

If cases are rising and I really want to get my haircut, do I need it? Or can I re-schedule for a few weeks later? Well, if I am feeling bummed out every time I look in the mirror because my hair looks like Phyllis Diller with bedhead. And my local government has said it’s OK for hairdressers to be open, then I’ll double mask and go the appointment. But leave with a wet head so that my visit is as short as possible.

When the need is clearcut, it can get you out of the “should I or shouldn’t I” mindloop and get you thinking about how to do it as safely as you can. When my mom just had knee surgery and needed someone to spend the night with her, I didn’t have to wonder if I should do it. I just started thinking about how to go about it. We wore masks, cracked windows, slept on different floors and used separate bathrooms, which I acknowledge was a very lucky and privileged thing to be able to do. We do the best we can with what we’ve got. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is just to acknowledge the emotional and mental load of weighing these choices in your mind, every day, for over a year now. If you’ve been feeling decision fatigue, well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? 

And the next time you need to make impossible choices, ask yourself, how necessary is this today. I hope those answers will be clarifying and help reduce some of the mental processing required to make the call. 

I just want to say, I see how heavy these choices have been weighing on you, and me, and all of us. And I can’t wave my magic wand and make the need to make these decisions go away, but I can send you an energetic hug and pat on the back right….NOW. 

Come back tomorrow!

When I’m interviewing Beverly Blair Harzog, a consumer financial analyst for US News and World Report, on how to spend your stimulus check. I’ll be asking her about different scenarios. If you REALLY need to money to pay the bills. Or if you’re doing basically ok on the financial front, as well as how to process the fact that you’re being given the money and you didn’t quote unquote earn it. 

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