Thursday, September 04, 2008

Choices


The photograph of me above was taken in a shopping mall in Florida. They have a shop there entirely devoted to M&M candies. For anyone who does not know, M&Ms are a candy – bits of chocolate wrapped in a crispy chocolate shell, sometimes with a peanut in the middle. At least, when I was a kid, they were. The M&Ms in this shop came in every imaginable colour (that’s them in the huge tubes on the wall) with lots of different kinds of chocolate inside. Peanuts were not the only nut variety in them either, some of them had almonds. There were even five varieties of gourmet M&Ms in special wrappers.

We used to buy our M&Ms in small brown bags (or yellow bags if you wanted peanuts). In this shop, the M&Ms were sold by weight. You took a white bag and helped yourself to what you wanted from the wall itself, before having your selection weighed. At one point there were several people just staring at the tubes on the wall. With such a huge variety of colours, where do you start? Like so many things, it’s all about choices.

I’m realising that a lot these days. Over the last few months, I’ve had a lot of stress dealing with many of the government agencies in Canada to do with my parent’s estate, both while we have been in Canada and while I am here in England. No one I have spoken to seems to be able to understand that families do not always live in the same country or share the same citizenship. We’ve lurched from one difficult encounter to another, during most of which I am accused of trying to steal my parents’ identities or worse (the lady in the vehicle licensing bureau implied I was trying to commit grand theft auto). When I insist I can prove who I am and that I have the right to do these things, I am asked to do so in the most complicated way they can possibly dream up. Or I’ll be told to send in various documents, which I will do – only to be told when I call to ensure they have received them that they cannot talk to me as they do not have the document that they need – which is always the document their representative specifically told me it was unnecessary to send. Then, after sending that document in, when I try to call back to ensure they have received it, I get the recorded message saying “None of our representatives are available at the moment”, every call I make – or I call and no one has any idea what I am talking about. AARGH!!

I am having another one of these delightful experiences at the moment. It’s been going on for about a month. Yesterday, in the middle of scanning yet more documents so they could be faxed, I found myself feeling physically sick, and quite simply shaking with the stress and frustration of it all. It took me ages to calm down. This morning, having still not been able to get through on the phone, I woke up thinking, “Oh no, here we go again. More stress.”

And that was when it hit me. I have a choice. I can choose how to feel about this. I can allow other people to stress me out and push me to the end of my rope, or I can choose to take control of the situation. And the huge irony of that is that taking control of the situation actually mostly involves letting go and trusting that everything will come out fine in the end. Because it will. Every single one of the situations we have dealt with in the past has been sorted out in the end. And yet with every single one of them I have gotten upset, lost sleep and worried. What a waste of time.

It’s like when you wake up in the morning and the weather is awful. You can let it ruin your day, or you can choose to ignore the weather – or even go out and jump in puddles if you’ve got the time. Or when someone says a cross word to you and you can either get incredibly angry and have a row with them, or smile sweetly and make them feel like an idiot by being nice to them. Every single situation in life, every single emotion we feel, every single word we say, it all involves a choice. And that – even in the middle of a situation where we feel utterly helpless - makes us more powerful than we can ever imagine.

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