Stay closed, door, plz
December 19, 2020 5:46 PM   Subscribe

When you close a life door (turn down a job, make a time commitment, etc) how do you keep that door closed? What rituals/practices do you use to commit to the life you’ve chosen?

I’m especially thinking of cases where yes, you technically could revert your choice, but at not-inconsequential cost. The metaphor of picking scabs and risking scars is pretty apt here (and kinda gross, sorry).

What do you do? What do you tell yourself, or write, or yell at the sky, or voice to your cat? Very open to philosophical arguments and mantras, too (I find the Serenity Prayer somewhat helpful).

Related to this act but specifically asking about a post-decision/path-walking vantage point.

Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You can't drive by looking in the rearview mirror. You can glance at it every now and then to see what's coming up, or to see if it's safe to switch lanes, but you have to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you.

I also think of my energy being channeled to propel me forward. Spending energy on anger, disappointment, resentment, etc is energy wasted after a while. Take that and use it to go forward on your path.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I ask myself if there is any new information to cause me to reconsider my decision. If there is no new information or evidence then there is no reason to let temporal emotions try to change an otherwise well thought out decision. Then I distract myself with something else.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:51 PM on December 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

Exactly, to both of the above.

I try to be as thoughtful as I can when making choices, so afterward I can say, Hey, I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. And in cases where that turns out to have been the wrong decision after all (and it certainly happens), I try to learn from it and apply that information to future decisions. So even when I've made a mistake, if I learn something from the experience, I will have still gained from it.

And sometimes, when the tendrils of the implications get to me, I like to think of something I wouldn't have had if I'd chosen another path. If I hadn't decided to settle down here in my hometown, for example, I wouldn't have this particular soul-healing house that I live in, and I wouldn't have many of the friends and neighbors who have brought me so many kindnesses during my time here.
posted by mochapickle at 7:34 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm not normally very into ritualistic or spiritual stuff in general but when the mood strikes, over the years I've been fond of writing something on a piece of paper and then burning the paper as a symbol of closure or finality. Add ceremonial formality or contemplative gravity as needed.

(Also, don't burn your house down please: I always do this outside, in the rusting hulk of a discarded wood stove.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:30 AM on December 20, 2020

This week's New Yorker has an philosophical article called "What If You Could Do It All Over?" about roads not taken in life. There are no rituals mentioned, but it summarizes several books for further reading which could maybe offer you some wisdom and perspective on the subject.
posted by Leontine at 6:48 AM on December 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

The second time I lived outside the US, I was convinced it had been a mistake to move and felt angry toward myself and bitter about my decision to move. Nearly 20 years later, I have a very different interpretation of that decision because the repercussions of the move have played out in ways that were unexpectedly wonderful.

Life changes. It is often impossible to know if one has made a good decision or bad decision, especially when one has only bad options. I tell myself that I have decided to do X for now and I am going to give it a fair chance. That’s really all I can do. All I can do is remind myself that I made the best decision I could make at that time, that no one knows what will happen in the future, and that if it turns out to have been a bad decision I can investigate all of my options for changing things in the future. And then I usually give myself a timeline. A short timeline for small things, a longer timeline for more substantial decisions.

If it’s a small thing, like I’ve made a commitment to go somewhere or do something that I no longer want to do, I remind myself that I am trying to be a good friend and better adult than my parents were. Because of my ADHD, I was constantly making commitments that I did not want to honor. Eventually, I did not want to be that person and sucked up my discomfort and just did the thing I said I would do. It was hard at first but it got easier and easier to be more responsible. And it felt satisfying.

We can never guarantee anyone, including ourselves, that we will make the perfect decision. But often it’s impossible to make the perfect decision because we don’t have all the information we need to do that and also we might be us or decision on factors that suddenly change. We can only do the best we can with what we have wherever we happen to be.

I will also note that people who have difficulty making decisions sometimes are people who grew up in alcoholic homes or homes where there were addiction problems. If that happens to be true in your case, I would encourage you to check out Al-Anon, the fellowship for the friends and relatives of alcoholics. It has been a good place for me to learn how to be a happier grown-up.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:01 AM on December 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

When you are in the act of deciding, this often takes up a lot of time and mental space. Once you've made a decision, the emptiness of no longer needing to noodle on this thing you've decided feels very stark, especially if you were particularly pre-occupied. I find that once you close a door on something, the best way forward is to spend time thinking about the other option you DID choose and making plans based on that. Sometimes, I try to place my mental energy towards something else -- anything else -- and it helps break yourself of the habit of deciding, when the deciding is done.
posted by ellerhodes at 10:10 PM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

My inner dialog process will sometimes go like this. 1) Remind self that I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. 2) Ask self how I'm feeling about the decision 3) Ask self why I'm feeling this way 4) Ask self to identify a major reason why this decision was "the right one" 5) Ask self to identify one small concrete step that will increase the probability of a successful outcome and set a time to do it.

I am someone who usually feels better after naming my feelings and understanding why I'm feeling that way. Moreover, I find it helpful to remind myself about the pros of my decision, since they tend to be forgotten when I'm doubting myself. Finally, step 5 is a way to address the concerns or worries from earlier. However, the key is that self isn't allowed to contemplate the decision further until the designated time stated in step 5.
posted by oceano at 11:19 AM on December 21, 2020

I relate to this as well as to your prior question as a recovered overthinker/waffler!

A few things I've done to (re)commit to a path I've taken:
- Put pen to paper in gratitude for the thing I stepped away from (a job, a relationship, whatever). Two examples: 1. sent a thank-you card to a mentor in a field I didn't end up pursuing, which felt like good closure to that chapter in my life; 2. wrote a gratitude list about all the lessons and gifts I'd gotten from a relationship after a bad breakup, which helped me see all the ways I'd benefited from it as well as how I'd grown into someone who was ready for something healthier
- A more recent ritual - write a letter to my future self on each solstice (so I just read the one I'd written to my winter solstice self this past June, and wrote one to my future summer solstice self). This has helped me really step beyond the day to day and see how I'm becoming the person I want to be!
- Look for opportunities to share my experience with others struggling with similar decisions (ex: deciding whether or not to try to get pregnant was a long drawn out one for me... so I am very willing to talk about my experience and how I came to clarity there)

Some resources that have been helpful to me in this:
- "The Ghost Ship that Didn't Carry Us", a Dear Sugar advice essay about paths we don't follow
- The journaling prompts and workshops from The Sunday Soother

Good luck! I think that building in rituals to help with transitions and choices is so valuable. Thanks for asking this question!
posted by pants at 12:41 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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