I’ve been doing some Christmas jigsaws (there’s nothing else to do – all the events/dinners/lunches have been cancelled! Gnnnrrr #Covid). As my latest jigsaw started to take shape, I realised it was wonky. One side was longer than the other. I’d obviously put some pieces in the wrong place. They seemed to fit, I hadn’t jammed them in, but they were wrong. It was only when I could see the bigger picture that I noticed they were incorrect.
So it is in life. As we bumble along, we make the decisions we think are reasonable with the information we have available at the time. As the hours, weeks, months and years progress, we see that some of those decisions have to be revised or even reversed. We make choices with the best intentions and then realise our children, colleagues or partners completely disagree with us, and have actually made a big thing out of it and harboured a massive resentment! Or we ourselves come to believe we made a mistake, or at least a misstep, which is no longer serving us well.
We’ve all probably got some incidents from the past that we still think are unfair. My Mum punished me and my brother by locking us in the bathroom because someone had poured Radox bath foam down the loo. It definitely wasn’t me – in fact all three of us children swore blind we hadn’t done it.
Another time, my Mum trapped my hand in a car door and locked it. Now that was painful. She didn’t seem to care, didn’t apologise particularly, and was generally stressed and crabby about it.
Another time I had to do a school detention for going to look at a mud slide round the back of our school (they HAD told us not to go round there, but I’m nosy, OK?!) The punishment seemed disproportionate – I was generally a studious and biddable child. I am not really festering on this, but it happened and I was upset about it.
And, because life repeats itself, my OWN children harbour resentments about things that I have done. My younger daughter says, “You always put us on the Naughty Step when we were sad.” No, we always put you on the Naughty Step when you were naughty, but with the benefit of hindsight, I suppoose they were ‘acting out’ (misbehaving) to get attention, because they were sad.
So my point is: yes we can only make decisions with the information we have. But DO pause to listen to your gut and ask whether the obvious thing might not necessarily be the right thing. You may still do the obvious thing, and it may be right – or wrong. But at least you’ll have tried to look down the line a little and consider alternatives.
And if you have made decisions which turned out to be mistakes, please be kind to yourself and forgive/accept that you were doing your best. Just as your parents/colleagues were with the tools they had available, and the emotional bandwidth they had available (in my mother’s case with 3 young children born close together and no help in the home, plus a job teaching in primary school).
Here endeth the lesson, from an imperfect decision-maker (and jigsaw-doer).