It sounds like a good name for a slightly pathetic country and western song…hang on, I think it is the name of a C&W song, though how pathetic it is would require listening to it and…then I’d never get this written and I’ve already procrastinated enough for a Tuesday, so delete that…

Do you ever get that feeling that you are at a crossroad, that there is a moment looming in the near future that is going to require a decision, one that you feel highly unqualified to make on account of the fact that you don’t know what that moment is going to look like, where the forks in the road are going to lead and no idea at all what that decision even is? Maybe it’s just me then!

Having our first child was a  scary but fairly straight forward decision for us. Our closest friends had just asked us to be legal guardians for their first child should anything happen to them (God forbid!) and we were so in love with this little dot of a girl that we were delighted at the prospect of making her, in some small way, ours. It was our friends’ confidence in us, and our willingness to say yes, that convinced us that it was time to start our own family. So we had our first son, and not without a fair degree of physical damage in delivering a 10lb 12oz(4.88kg) whopper of a boy. We were in love with him, but any parent knows that there is a reason more experienced parents look at you with an expression somewhere between pity and longing. I had no idea what that look meant until I’d had my first baby and realised that there is NO WAY you can ever be prepared for what happens to your life when you have a child. How can anyone tell you that your heart will explode like an atom bomb when you see your baby for the first time, but that your life will look like ground zero! You have no framework to imagine emotions that strong, especially when they are magnified by sleep deprivation or worry, disappointment with yourself or the thrill of being able to fit back into your pre-baby jeans (I’m told that feels pretty darn amazing…will let you know if I ever get there!). Life as you know it ceases to exist and it gets better…and harder…and more terrifying…and more exciting.

Thankfully, the decision to have a second child was out of our hands because he was a surprise, which was a relief really, because I don’t think I could have made a rational decision about it! But the stress is hidden there in the idea that, if you don’t make a decision, one will be made for you, a decision that has more to do with your momentum than what you actually desire. We’ve all been there, at that place where the desire to do something new and daring with your life/relationship/future/chicken salad takes more effort than you feel you can put in because the momentum of your life/relationship/future/chicken salad seems to outweigh your ability to change it.

I feel like that today. I can see this crossroad looming and, this time, I am prepared. Thank God your thirties come with a little more wisdom than your twenties…or your teens…hopefully! I can see that there is a momentum to my life that means I am most likely to roll one way down this road BUT, there is a desire in me to roll the other way, along that higher path that will take me somewhere unknown but not unimagined. I can see myself travelling there, imagine the journey and the other travellers I might meet along the way and the way it will feel….scary as all patoodies. But I’m up for it this time, because I have FINALLY learned that, to say YES to this path, means saying NO to others. The day has come to acknowledge that we are not (not one of us) superheroes, we cannot do everything. We can only choose to do the right things.

I feel freedom in this, not because I am a self-centred hedonist, because I am not- I spend hours each week marrying my passion for helping others, and being a mother, and encouraging literacy with the volunteer work I do. I feel freedom because, when I say YES to doing something, I mean it (most of the time…not perfect, remember?) and when I say NO thanks to something else, I mean thank you, but NO. Does that sound too simple? All I know is that it sounds better than saying yes to something and then loathing every minute, mustering my courage and grinning falsely through the obligation and giving less than it deserves because I wish that I were somewhere else.

The hardest part is learning to deal with not being able to please people. It’s nice to be a person that others can rely on, that they know will do their best to help…but I also know that the appreciation really only lasts for the few minutes during which they write your name next to the tick on the to do list before moving on. I have also seen how, when I say YES the opportunity stops with me…when it might well have found a better home three people down the list from me. As it turns out, I really am not the centre of the universe (who would have thought?)!

So what crossroads are you at? What is pulling you one way while you yearn to go the other? What do you need to say No to, so that you can say YES to the right thing?


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