Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Choices. Would you choose to have them?

I've been thinking quite a bit about this stuff.
On the face of it, we seem to have far more choices than previous generations. Where and how to live ... employed, self-employed, unemployed and living on benefits, dropping out, attempting self-sufficiency, living in an ashram in India, in a village in Africa, with a tribe in south America, on a beach in Thailand ...
Of course the first point is that not everyone has those choices. Certainly they're a privilege accorded only to those living in comparatively wealthy countries and to those not hindered by ill health or extreme poverty.
The next thing is that to an extent they are an illusion. Just try doing something 'alternative' and removing yourself from the mainstream. Society doesn't make it easy, believe me. You need incredible resources in terms of self-belief and clear focus. (Not to mention having a few quid - helps a lot ...)
Then we have the whole 21st century selling of choice as the new must-have buzzword. 'Choices' in health, in education etc etc that the government tries to persuade us is such progress. Whereas if you're ill, or looking for a school for your child, it's not choices you want. You want local services of a sufficiently good quality that you would have no need for alternatives.
But even if you get through that lot and resolve those issues, I'm still not convinced that having those choices in terms of where and how you live bring happiness. With more choices, there's always the chance you'll feel you made the wrong one. There'll always be the potential to say 'What if ...?'
Hmmm. Tricky business. I know I don't want us to be living and working in traditional ways for the rest of our lives. I know I want to be part of an alternative community where 'neighbour' doesn't automatically mean 'stranger'. Where our children have significant relationships with other adults that for one reason or other they are unable to get from our own families.
But how? What choices should we be making ...?

4 comments:

Sharon J said...

You certainly know how to get a person thinking, Debi.

Since becoming ill, I've had a lot of my freedom of choice removed. I can't move away from my local authority without the permission of the one I'd be moving to (which is unlikely I'd get because of the cost involved in having me there) and just this morning I spent a few hours feeling sorry for myself because I can no longer go for walks, clean the house, tend the garden and just do the little things that I once took for granted. So what now? I have to look for other choices in order to still feel that there's any kind of freedom in my life.

Yes, we'll always be susceptible to making the wrong choices but rather to have tried and failed... take a person's freedom of choice away and you've taken away their reason for being.

Debi said...

I hope my post didn't contribute to you feeling low! I do recognise our privilege in seeming to have those lifestyle choices. We may be poor but we do have our health and that makes so many more options available.
Having said that, my partner is an insulin dependant diabetic (as well as a runaholic marathon man!). He/we/I try to see his condition in as positive a light as possible (means he eats really healthily, exercises regularly etc etc) rather than focusing on the restrictions it presents and any other negative aspects.
Having said that, there will always be times when it just seems UNFAIR! I think those times are a part of life and should be accepted and even embraced. It's not natural to feel up 100% of the time. And if anyone says they do, I'd suggest they're repressing something big time!
I suppose the cliche that sums it all up is that happiness isn't having what you want but wanting what you have. Though that has to be balanced against the danger of passively accepting your lot and not trying to change ...
Would it be really intrusive for me to ask the nature of your illness? Don't feel you have to reply ...

Sharon J said...

No, you didn't contribute to my feeling low, Debi. Quite the opposite in fact. I had been feeling really miserable but your post gave me something to think about and kick started me into weighing up what I have against what I don't have and realising that life can't be lived around what one doesn't have and can never get back.

About 4 years ago I had a blood clot that led to my bowel rotting. Yes, it literally rotted away inside me. Not pleasant but I'm lucky because I'm still here; most who have my condition never make it out of theatre alive. I'm now fed intravenously through a tube that's been inserted in my chest. I can eat ordinary food but it either goes straight through me (I have about 16" of bowel left) or it comes up again. I also have blocked arteries in my legs which makes walking uncomfortable at best, painful at worst. The large dose of heparin that I take leaves me feeling very lethargic.

I was pretty active before all this happened. I used to love going for walks in the woods; finding a little lake in the mountains where I could sit and fish; training my dog; gardening; well, lots of stuff really, and now I can't do them. But when I'm feeling up I can see that life has changed but that the change has brought with it things I would never have done if it hadn't changed. Like writing a novel.

Phew... that was long. But now you know :-)

Debi said...

Thank you for sharing that with me, Sharon. You just never know what's around the corner, do you? It makes me feel so strongly that you have to live every minute for itself and bugger planning for the future!
I've always felt that everything happens for a reason - although often as not we have no idea what that reason could be!
What your circumstances tell me is confirmation of what I've always felt - that we have no real control over what happens to us in our lives, but we have absolute control over how we react to it.
Is the novel you're writing your first? (I know you do other writing.) When I got my first deal I asked if my age would be a big disadvantage and was told that many people are fed up with the young-author-just-out-of-uni-with-no-real
-experience-of-life syndrome.
I'm sure what has happened to you will inevitably be reflected - even if obliquely - in what you write which will be all the richer for it.
There's a writer in our writing group who has haemophilia, Hepatitis C and severe osteo-arthritis. Although there's nothing explicit you could point to in his writing that reflects this, his work is subliminally suffused with his experiences.
I can't wait to be writing to you congratulating you on getting a deal!