What will be the best choice? What is the right thing to do in this situation?
Our daily lives are filled with choices some important and others not so important. Lately I’ve been reflecting on how my choices, and the choices others made for me, have formed my life. Sheena Iygar wrote in her book ‘The art of choosing’ that our lives are shaped by the choices we make. ‘We make choices and are in turn made by them’.
The first time I became aware of decision-making was when I was about 6-years old. My parents had to decide if they are going to enrol me in Primary school at the age of six or seven. This is usually a big decision for children (like myself) that are born in December because our academic year starts in January. I remember that I had to undergo numerous tests to see if I was cognitively, emotionally and physically ready for school. We gathered as much information as possible to ensure that we made the right choice. At the end I did go to school at six and whether it was the best choice or the right choice one will never know.
I once had a discussion with a very wise person about the choices I made and regrets I had about some of the (not so good) decisions I made in the past. She reminded me that we all (including our parents, friends and family) make the best choices we can given the information available to us at that moment in time. In hindsight (even if it is 5-minutes after we made the decision) it is always easy to think that we should have chosen something else. But at that point in time within the specific circumstances you chose what you thought was the best. Reflecting about my choices of the past from this point of view really helped me to let go of some regrets. I know that my parents tried to do what was best for me when they choose at what age to enrol me at school. I don’t regret their choice.
Learning: We make the best choice we can given the circumstances and information available to us at that stage.
Healing question: How can I be kinder and let go of the regret for the decisions I made in the past?
When I was five years old I first became aware of the social impact of money and the unequal income distribution in South Africa. The custom in my pre-primary school was that lunch sandwiches were provided on a rotational basis for the class. We all had a turn to fill up the large Tupperware holder with sandwiches for the class.
The kids from affluent families brought polony with tomato sauce sandwiches. In those days polony was expensive and only for the rich. The middle-income group could only enjoy it on high days and holidays. Peanut butter with jam sandwiches were also a luxury but more affordable than polony. The kids from the middle-income group usually brought peanut butter with jam sandwiches for the class. The plain jam sandwiches were from the poor kids.
The sandwiches became a status symbol. On the days when we got polony sandwiches everyone played with the rich kid even though he was rude to others. Sometimes when we got jam sandwiches, the kid who was responsible for the sandwiches was absent (her mother only came to drop off the sandwiches). With the sandwiches feelings of shame, jealousy or pride were (unconsciously) served. Instead of just viewing the sandwich as a means to feed our hunger, it started to distort how we viewed others and ourselves.
At five years old, I knew that my family was not rich because I did not bring polony sandwiches to school. I remember thinking how unfair it was that some kids were admired and others bullied based on the type of sandwich they brought to class. Now that I’m nearly 35 it seems as if the playground has not changed much. The sandwiches are just replaced with other items such as cars, houses, clothes, the area you live in, etc. We still (sometimes more consciously than other times) judge others and ourselves based on the ‘sandwiches of life’.
Learning: It is just a sandwich don’t let it define who you are. You are so much more than a sandwich.
Healing question: How do I allow the sandwiches of life to define me?
This week I struggled to write my blog. It has been on my to-do-list all week. I kept on procrastinating to the next day. The past week all the public holidays made me very lazy. I was not in the mood for writing. I did not want to be productive and efficient. I just wanted to play and daydream.
Lucky for me my brother visited us with his three daughters (aged 5-, 3- and 2-years old), so I could play with his kids. I really enjoy escaping into their fantasy world for a while or colouring with them. When I was four years old colouring, playing with my dolls and building puzzles were of my favourite playtime activities.
We all know that play is very important for the cognitive, emotional and creative development of a child. However, research indicates that play is also important for adults. Play is an essential activity to optimize our brain function and enhance our well-being.
Interestingly Sigmund Freud (1958) suggested that every child at play “behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, rearranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him. . . . The creative writer does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of phantasy which he takes very seriously—that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion” (pp. 143–144).
After reading and reflecting on the topic I realised that my body knew what it needed all along. It needed play time to recharge. So that it could function more effectively. It was not trying to be lazy. It was being creative.