There were so many choices, so I picked none. It was summer in Paris, and I was spending the month writing, relaxing and exploring the city. It felt like a temporary home, as I had done a house swap with my home in Minneapolis and was staying in a lovely flat near the Eiffel tower. Each day I would venture out and explore from a different angle; a touristy jaunt to a museum or a writing workshop or dance class. As the days passed, I observed all the wonderful little cafÃ©s and imagined how nice it would be to just hang out at one for a while. And yet, I would just walk past them and never stop. Neither time nor money was the obstacle. The issue was about making a choice.
One day, my intention was clear and I was determined to stop. Five blocks passed. Lots of options, but each was promptly ruled out for various reasons. Too crowded, too small, not quaint enough; the excuses continued. Eight blocks passed. “Well, maybe I’m not that hungry, it’s probably just cheaper to eat at home, I don’t really want to stop.” Ten blocks passed and then the real reason emerged: I was afraid I would make the wrong choice. This was clearly a ridiculous notion. We were talking about a cafÃ©, not a job or a husband. But after all of that, I chose nothing and walked home. I tried to chalk it up to the day and not believe that I had issues making choices. But then I remembered the roof.
The roof on my house in Minneapolis had just been re-done. The old shingles were a bland gray color. They didn’t particularly add any charm or character to the house. Though I was frustrated by the need to get a new roof, I was excited by the possibility of making a different choice – something that might jazz up the house. I considered something with a hint of orange or perhaps a red. But after all was said and done, I picked the same bland gray color. Why? I was afraid I would make the wrong choice. So, I just made the same choice.
Even though the roof color was not my pick in the first place, I was accustomed to the bad choice. I knew what it looked like and what to expect. I didn’t have to take the risk that the new color would not actually be what I wanted or wouldn’t look as good. Never mind that my new choice may have looked better. As far as I was concerned, better to keep making the choice that isn’t really mine than to make my own choice and have it be wrong. And bland gray is the winner!
Like many people are currently experiencing, at the time I was undergoing a tremendous amount of change in my life. The responsibility to make the “right” choice felt tremendous and it paralyzed me. I saw this manifest in so many places in my life, and my home was no different. But, it proved to be a wonderful testing ground for moving forward. My house gave me many opportunities to make choices and build my confidence. And it also gave me plenty of opportunities to recognize stagnation.
It’s been many years since Paris and the bland roof. And I have had to make many choices in the meantime. Sometimes it just comes down to making a decision and trusting that there is no “right.” But, it’s also important to identify what you may like about your current situation. You don’t have to change everything just because parts of it are not working for you. What in your life is bland gray out of fear of something bolder?
Things being full circle, we are putting a new roof on our current home. It’s a lovely caramel-colored architectural shingle. We chose to upgrade to something that had a little more character, though ironically, isn’t that different in color, because sometimes you just need a subtle shift.
Decision making continues to get easier with practice. Maybe next time I go to Paris, I’ll even pick a cafÃ©.