This past weekend Devon and I were eating our dinner of roasted cruciferous vegetables (we’ve entered that stage in our relationship where farting is allowed–I’m going to go so far as to say encouraged really–so this was a safe dinner choice despite the predictably gassy results) and we found a tiny sticker on the table leftover from Spiderman wrapping presents for his friends (we wrap presents in this house in inside out Trader Joe’s bags with custom sticker decorations. It’s one of those things I do that make us look unique and creative, but really I just hate spending money on gift wrap. That, my friends, is how hipsters are born). The fish was smiling a big, open-mouthed smile revealing a red tongue.
Who knew that the next comment was going to change my life forever (just kidding. it didn’t really… a least not yet)?
Devon says, “fish don’t have tongues” and I am aghast… mouth agape. I can’t say much, and I’m not sure if I’m breathing. The pause button on life has been pressed. A scene commences where I remain in shocked silence and repeatedly shift my gaze from the fish tank across the room, to the sticker, and back to my beloved’s face. God only knows why this is such a big deal to me in the moment. I mean, it ends up being a really funny and playful scene, and who doesn’t want to be living in one of those… but why was it so enchanting in the first place?
We consult “the Goog” for more information and confirm that fish do not have tongues. Some carniverous fish have tongue like bony protrusions at the bottoms of their mouths… but no… fish do not have tongues.
I am transported from shock to devastation (please tell me you know I’m exagerating here. Lately a lot of my jokes haven’t gone over very well because people didn’t know I was kidding. Talk about devastation). I spend the next several days (yes, days) finding myself preoccupied with this new reality more than makes any sense for a productive adult to be. I lay near the fish tank, gazing in, hoping to get a glimpse of “Willy’s” my one-eyed, 3-pound, poop-machine (aka goldfish) tongue. I think I see it more than once. Devon does not see it.
It’s Tuesday now (when I’m writing this) and somehow I’m still thinking about it. Not actively, but when I clicked on a link promising outrageously awesome photos from my sickbed this afternoon I was immediately jubilant to find this picture of a fish with a tongue. It’s probably photoshopped… but who cares, it’s a fish with a tongue!
I email the photo to Devon with a comment about not knowing why this is proving to be so important to me… must be a metaphor for something else in my life I suggest. Then I go pee. And because that’s where all the good stuff happens… then I come here.
Why? And why am I so insistent that there are fish with tongues even though the universal knowledge delivery service (aka google) has informed me that there are not?
Possibility is beautiful. Possiblity is intoxicating. Possibility is my drug… and just like any other drug, it get me high and it causes me harm.
When I daydream about all that I want and can have in this life I can paint beautiful pictures in my mind where I exist peacefully and contentedly, full of love and lightness. I can make a list a mile long of the things I want to do with my life and be sincere about my desire for each and every one. That’s the drug, that’s what I crave and repeat over and over…
But do I do anything on the mile long lists? no.
Why not? because possibility is also paralyzing.
As you know, Spiderman has been having some trouble getting adjusted to Kindergarten and the number of possible solutions was driving me completely batty for a good long while here. Leave him at this school and help him make it better. Move him to another public school. Try a private school. Put him back into preschool. Quit my job, live in a tent, and homeschool… all options.
With too many options on the table I tend to do nothing for a good, long while.
If the reality was a picture in my head (which it usually is), it looks like this: I find myself standing across from a row of options, it’s almost like a reverse firing squad. They are straight and tall and emotionless, they’re all uniformed and they look the same. And we’re definitely standing inside of some kind of fort with a dirt ground and arches embedded in adobe walls. It’s all of them on one side, and just me on the other… and I’m not tied to any post, and they’re all completely available for the plucking, and all I can see in this row in front of me is that I don’t know which one is “right.” And apparently the fear of being “wrong” is so great, I don’t do anything.
I found a school that I would love to send Spiderman to a few weeks ago. It’s a small private school and it’s expensive. I’m in the midst of applying for admission and financial aid… taking the steps between possibility and reality. I became singularly focused on this as a solution and although there was still a lot of unknown and scary and potentially difficult about it, I felt confident about my pursuit. Yesterday I got a call that a local charter school had an opening for him–he also had a great day at his current school and I was rocketed from my confident pursuit back to window shopping in possibility again and I was shocked by how intense and instant the terror was.
I was never a fan of BFO’s problem solving style. He tends to be able to identify 1 or 2 solutions to a problem and then also identify why both of those solutions won’t work, rendering himself helpless and the problem unsolvable… It’s a very efficient route to the same destination of paralysis. I can usually think of hundreds of solutions to a given problem… and I’ve been pretty proud of myself for that ability… but because there are so many, and I don’t know which one is “right” I am rendered helpless and the problem unsolvable. Hmmmm… that seems familiar…*stepping off high horse now*
Barry Schwartz has written (and talked) about the paradox of choice, particularly for us as consumers…
Whether his facts or figures are compelling enough to support his argument, or you are inspired to consider him credible based on his choice of attire… I’m going to go with my lived experience as proof enough (by the way, I don’t agree with him that the key to happiness is low expectations… no expectations perhaps, but low… no). When possibility becomes too much choice… and too many choices lead to anxiety and paralysis… it’s time to do something different. It’s time to simplify.
I don’t know about you, but I hear about “simple living” all of the time and I’m not sure anyone knows what that means. I mean, it means having less “stuff” which definitely has its advantages… but what else? For me, it means it’s time to know what I want before I seek out the options… to be confident in my preferences, priorities, and values… to go with my instincts and trust them. To rule something out because it feels wrong and to consider something because it feels right.
If I’m going to see possibility as a gift instead of a source of pain, I have to know what I want and need… and I have to remember that there is no such thing as a universal “right” or “wrong” and instead know what is right and wrong for me.
I have a hunch that living simply also includes following through on commitments, like this project (the blog) and it’s monthly themes… and I’ve been really good at allowing possibility to take me off track and haven’t been experiencing the results I want. So, let’s change that shall we?
And if I need to believe that fish have tongues to feel safe… then I can. Goodness knows, people believe stranger things with full societal acceptance.