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Elaine M McManus

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By Elaine M McManus
Thursday, July 05, 2012

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Understanding the power of choice

I believe that we come closest to the fabric of our lives when we become still enough to listen to the "still small voice" within us.

I’ve learned that the very times I feel the need to push harder – to "do" something – are often the times I need to stop "doing" anything at all, and instead just listen to hear the quiet whisper of I want.

On a blistering cold New Year’s Day, my youngest child moved to Toronto in a flurry of canvases, brushes, and artist’s dreams. My son’s move to Japan two year’s earlier had been tough enough, but I was unprepared for the loneliness that engulfed me after my daughter left.

With both children living away, I felt a nearly constant pull to return to the province of my own childhood and to the closeness of my family who still lived there. But that would require another major life change – shifting the dynamics of my job, leaving colleagues and friends, and giving up the bustle, cultural activities I loved, and the beauty of Halifax for the quiet, small-town feel of Fredericton. I was already experiencing transition. I didn’t relish another one.

I decided to move and "undecided" my decision a hundred times. I went over the plusses and minuses with friends over countless meals in bistros and lunch bars. I complained at feeling isolated in being away from my parents and sisters, and I fretted about moving too close to them.

"It’d be too expensive," I argued with anyone who would listen, "I’d cost a lot for movers. And I’d need to buy a car." I practically begged for someone to tell me what to do and take the burden of choice from me.

After several months of to-ing and fro-ing, I was no closer to a decision. In fact, I felt stuck – no longer happy with my life in Halifax, yet scared to go back to a life I no longer knew. For the umpteenth time, I went over the litany with my son in one of our long-distance telephone chats. Patiently, he listened while I let it all out. When I finally stopped talking, there was a long pause. I waited.

"Mom?" he finally said, somewhat quizzically.


"What are you afraid of?"

I was startled. I hadn’t asked myself that.

"I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision."

Another pause.

"Mom," he said after a long minute. "There is no wrong decision."


I was dumbfounded. What did he mean, ‘There is no wrong decision.’ Of course there is a wrong decision. I’d lived my entire life trying to do everything right. I knew firsthand that life was a seemingly unending quiz between right and wrong.

"There is no test."

He waited a minute to let it sink in and then continued.

"There’s nobody waiting to judge you. There never has been. There’s no right or wrong. There’s only what you want to do."

And, just like that, something shifted. It struck home. My shoulders sagged with relief.

Although he might not realize it, my son gave me a precious gift that day. I now remind myself often that there is no test, and that I don’t need to live by anyone else’s expectations. It’s been incredibly freeing. I find that I worry less and relax more – I’m even more willing to take risks. Just recently, I bought a car. I changed jobs – and apartments. And I live in Fredericton.

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