Straight Lines Don’t Exist in Nature

My two best friends are order and control. I put a lot of time into researching and planning  my life. It’s a constant exercise in making decisions that will lead to the straightest line possible from where I am now to the best case scenario. This is completely born out of my visceral awareness of just how near the worst case scenario might be. The real truth is that I spend a lot of time stressing out about decisions because I’m paralyzed by the fear of making a decision that will put a wrinkle in my perfectly laid path.

The more accurate truth of my life is that I have walked something very different than a straight line. I’ve also rarely encountered the best case scenario, nor the worst case scenario that I’ve imagined. My life looks more like an unfinished connect the dot worksheet that is beginning to resemble a picture that I can’t quite make out.

My efforts to obtain order and control are about as real as the imaginary Pokemon war my kids are currently waging in the living room. I’m just making it all up. But I feel good about my imaginary future. It helps me sleep at night, so I don’t really want to give it up.

I’m learning that the straight line I see toward my future will not be straight.

Knowing this does not prevent the period of emotional unravelling I experience when my current situation is out of line with my expected future. I’m not chill enough to go with the flow. I need some time to have an internal freak out. I need to stuff my face with chips and queso. Then I’m ready to accept that the connect the dot puzzle just took a turn I wasn’t ready for.

What I’ve learned from the rhythm of ordering, deciding, unraveling, and eating is that my decisions really aren’t as life altering as I imagine them to be. I have to accept that as true for two reasons:

  1. My life is not substantially better because of the good decisions I’ve made.
  2. My life is not irreversibly ruined because of the bad decisions I’ve made.

I have to accept that straight lines don’t matter much. Maybe I need to make straight lines in my head so I can be free to make decisions. But the important thing is not the decisions I make. It’s actually that I make decisions. Decisions move our lives forward. That, my friend, is important. That’s why I keep making decisions- I want to keep moving forward.

I want tomorrow to be different than today. I want to love my kids better tomorrow than I do today. I want to make my wife happier tomorrow than I did today. I want to be better at my work tomorrow than I was today. I want to be a better friend tomorrow than I am today. Tomorrow is only better if I live more in line with what is really most important to me. And I only discover what is truly important to me by making decisions. So today I’ll probably make some arbitrary decisions so that tomorrow I’ll know a little bit more about what I really care about.

Try to make a decision on something today. It will make things different tomorrow, and it will force you toward a new decision that you didn’t see coming. Keep doing this for a few days and you’ll see the dots starting to come together. The lines won’t be straight, but the picture will be worth admiring.