When did it become socially acceptable to send out a single-spaced, sometimes double-sided Christmas letter about what a fantastic year someone has had and how wonderful their family is?  You find it folded up in a Christmas card with a picture of the perfect American family on the cover:  husband and wife and two or three kids with a dog or two seated in front of the fireplace smiling their over-achieving smiles.

“Oh, uch,” you say, but you open it even though your own finances may be in a shambles, you hate your job, you’ve just had a fight and broken up with your boyfriemd/spouse, and you’re waiting for the lab reports on your colonoscopy.

You sit on your unmade bed and read this endless letter from someone you barely know.  It starts off with Ted having been promoted to CEO.  “He’s worked hard for it!  We opened up the champagne for that one.”  Ted, Jr. “gets a big slap on the back for being accepted to Harvard.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?”

You stop reading for a moment, but it draws you back like a train wreck.  Slumping over now, you read on.  “We’re trying to keep Sally from getting a big head after graduating Valedictorian from her high school!  Just kidding.  She came back from her volunteer work on Habitat for Humanity with her feet pretty solidly on the ground and even more committed to a year’s work in Uganda fighting AID’s.  Teddy Jr. teases her endlessly about becoming the first female president.”

You fall back on the bed and reach for the bag of Lundt’s chocolate balls.  Tearing the red wrapper off on, you pop the whole thing in your mouth, it’s too big, but you roll it around trying to resist biting into it as you read on.  The wife, who’s writing this epistle (you pause, where do you know her from?  Oh, never mind) says that her cupcake business has  become a nation-wide phenomenon, and she’s in the process of selling the recipes for so much “I think they added a couple of zero’s by mistake!”

And, that’s only the first paragraph.  The letter goes on and on through every single fabulous thing they did after the last bragging “newsletter” was written.  Tucked modestly in the middle of this one is the Christmas party they went to at the White House last year.  “I was nervous but Michelle was really down to earth and we’re exchanging recipes.”  As you unconsciously go through what’s left of the bag of chocolate balls, you read to the bitter end.

“Wow, what a great time we all had in Dubai. You really must go first chance you get!”

Last year it was Turkey.  Why do I remember? You ask yourself.  And why am I on their mailing list?  I haven’t talked to them for years.    The bag is now empty.  But, wait, it’s not all good in the letter

“Poor great grandmother, Bella, passed away this year, but it was peaceful, and she was surrounded by family.”  Then, without a pause, “Ted, Jr. is getting a lot of attention with his Youtube videos of our guinea pig, Winston Churchill.  What amazing feats he’s taught that little creature to do!  (Check them out sky diving at Winston’s very own website!)”

You sweep the letter and the empty bag of Lundt’s chocolate off the bed, roll over, fall into a deep sleep praying that it will be Jan 2 when you wake up.


Which action is appropriate in the situation you are facing?

Communicate.  Don’t communicate.
Do something.  Do nothing.
Get going.  Take a nap.
Start.  Stop.
Eat.  Don’t eat.
Pray.  Don’t pray.  (I know.  There are some people who think you should always be in prayer, but suppose you’re accepting an Academy Award.  Do you say, “Let us all join hands and bow our heads in prayer.”  Mmm.  Maybe not. )

Knowing when to do something and when NOT to do that thing is so case specific.  There really is no one rule to follow always.  Many times it is not clear at all and making a decision causes us worry and even panic.

I will never forget a hilarious monologue a student did once in class: she played her upper class British mother trying to decide whether to take some wheelies for her luggage as she prepared for a trip.  “Should I?  Shouldn’t I?”  She kept repeating worriedly in a lovely English accent.  We were falling on the floor laughing probably because we recognized how ridiculously upset we can all get about the smallest decision.

I find that if I Get Present, I will usually know the right action to take.  Getting into my “gut truth” and stopping my mind helps enormously.  So many times I think I should do something or not do something but I’m confusing myself with “shoulds” or guilt.

Sometimes I will consult a method of Divination—like the Runes (kinda like flipping a coin).  Amazingly, that seems to work too.  I draw two Runes (out of the 24 little stones with viking symbols) and ask, “What will happen if I do this?”  and “What will happen if I do that?’  The answer can be very clear forcing me to face a truth that I may not want to face.

Sometimes I will ask a friend’s advice. Fortunately, I have some wise, experienced friends.

It seems as if life is a mine field of decision-making.

Recently, I helped a friend put together a white wooden wall unit from Ikea.  Afterward, we sat together on her new Ikea futon admiring it.  She began fussing a bit about what exactly to put in all the 24 cubby holes.  “This is the kind of thing that is going to keep me awake all night,” she said frowning. I laughed.  (Hey, I don’t have to decide, do I?)

Of course, the size of the decisions we’re facing makes a difference, but the process is the same whether they are large or small ones.  Row?  Let go?

Why is choosing what action to take so difficult?   Fear.  Am I doing the right or the wrong thing?  Will I be hurt if I do this?  Will someone be mad at me if I do that?  Will I be judged?  Will this contribute or harm?  Will I feel better or worse?  So many questions around even the simplest decisions.  I have watched people torment themselves regarding decisions in the Row/Let Go category–arguing both sides ad infinitum until they are literally paralyzed.

Getting Present is so important.  How helpful it is to become conscious of the fear (and attached anger, sadness and guilt)–to feel it until you get to a calmer state when whether to Row or Let Go is clear.

Okay.  Shower now? Or after I meditate?  Eh. Where did I put those Runes?