My mother, when she was dying, said to me, “There are no wrong answers, Kris.”
She was speaking from the vantage point of someone who has nothing left to lose. Someone with the luxury of looking back on a life filled with worry about making the right choices and realizing, in the end, most of those choices become irrelevant.
I was torn between staying at her bedside and going back to Chicago to take care of my kids. I felt I did not have a choice. My kids needed me. I was the glue in our household. But my mother needed me also.
Recently, I was worrying about the right job, the right parenting, the right financial and life decisions. As I’m sure many of you do. Few of us are immune to trying to game the system for the best results.
In most situations, you can stay put until forced to move or choose to venture into a lesser known option. Think “Who Moved My Cheese?”.
If you’ve not read the book, it’s about four characters who strike out to find cheese (which represents happiness and fulfillment). They find a spot where cheese awaits them each day. One day, the cheese is no longer there. Two of the characters set out immediately in search of new cheese. The other two keep returning to the same spot, angry their cheese is gone. The rest of the book is about their ability to adapt or not.
I have never been very good at the art of staying put. I tend to want to act when things are shifting around me—sometimes before things are shifting around me. And yet, despite the moral of “Who Moved My Cheese?”, sometimes waiting is not a bad option. Until life shows us a direction. Until our gut feeling kicks in to give us a clue as to the wise move.
I remember, just out of college, driving my very temperamental old car to visit friends at my alma mater. On the drive back to my parents’ house, the car broke down on the turnpike.
As steam escaped from the hood and trucks whizzed by, I considered my options. I was a young twenty-something alone on the side of the highway in the days before cell phones were prevalent. In the middle of a rural area. And it would be dark within the next hour.
I’m sure many people would have waited for a state trooper. But that could have taken hours and a lot of good luck. And who knows who else would have decided to show up? Possibly less welcome company.
I ran across the turnpike, climbed a barbed wire fence (ouch) and jumped into the cornfield below. As I jogged through the corn, I finally hit a country road. Following it, I was chased by a large dog which I fortunately outran. I finally came upon a house and knocked on the door. The woman who came to the door would not open it but talked to me through the screen.
Her husband was a state trooper. And he was at the family party in the backyard. He was able to call his buddies and tell them the approximate location of my car. He then walked me back down the road and through the field to get to it.
Was it fun, my little adventure? Not really. The barbed wire, dog and suspicious woman were not my idea of a house party.
But was it better than sitting and waiting passively?
And don’t think it was lost on me that the first house I happened upon was a state trooper’s home. What are the chances of that? And of me outrunning a German shepherd?
I think back on my mother’s response to me as I despaired over which of my loved ones took precedence.
There are no wrong answers.
I feel the weight of her words through the years since. They reverberate in my head, almost daily. At the moment, I did not realize she was telling me something I needed to carry with me for the rest of my time here. I’m not sure if she realized it either. But, in retrospect, those words carry a gravitas very few others have for me.
I was raised to worry. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that action is the antidote to it.
We can sit in the car and wait to be rescued. Sure. Nothing wrong with that, if we’re willing to accept that what may come along might not be rescue but something less appetizing.
Or, we can endure some short-term, temporary pain—barbed wire, mean dogs—and strike out to influence the ultimate outcome.
My gut told me to act. I listened. If it had said otherwise, I still would have listened.
There are no wrong answers. They all lead us somewhere—and maybe even to the same ultimate destination.
But the quality of the journey is at stake.
I have been rescued. It is rare that it provides you with the same solid feeling that rescuing yourself does. It’s a wonderful feeling while it lasts but for me, the better feeling is knowing I can rescue myself. Repeated rescues by others breed passivity and a lack of confidence.
At least in me.
I’ll be straight with you. There are days I pray to be rescued from whatever it is I’m facing. And I mean it, wholeheartedly.
But I have learned to act. To be grateful when I do, even if I wait a bit too long.
My journey has been the better for it.
183 Comments Add yours
Reblogged this on Going Out On A Whim and commented:
I tried to convey a similar thought in that we are all works in progress but you wrote this so succinctly and just spot on. There are no wrong answers, really. Thank you for sharing.
I needed this today! Thanks!
The best part about your mother’s advice is that it carries no judgment … People who worry also tend to be people who feel guilt intensely. She not only gave you the tool to stop worrying – she also freed you from fretting incessantly over the results of your actions. We all make mistakes but she advised you not to let the fear of that paralyze you. Great post. Thank you
Really well written, thanks for sharing.
I really enjoyed this piece Kay. I came across your blog on Freshly Pressed. It really is a decision to be made in the moment; take action or wait, do or be. Warm regards Melanie.
Reblogged this on barclaydave and commented:
There is a moral in here, if you look for it. There are no wrong answers…
Thank you for the reblog! I truly appreciate it.
Reblogged this on lellone.
Thank you for the reblog! I truly appreciate it.
I have instantly reblogged this. On very similar lines I keep reminding myself that if I allow excuses to creep in and start blaming situations and people, the power to make it better no longer lies in my hands. Always need external motivation such as these to keep on track! Love it! Please keep blogging.
Thank you! I appreciate the reblog and the kind words. So glad it resonated.
Reblogged this on peekingfrombehindthedoor and commented:
Matter to mull over. Very beautifully written.
Reblogged this on Our Online hacker space and commented:
This was a wonderful read and I agree hole hartedly
This has really related to me lately. Thank you.
One of the greatest quotes I have come across in my life- “there are no wrong answers in life”. Great article, completely resonant with your string of thoughts! 🙂
I think the key is to make a decision and stick to it! I agree with your mom that there isn’t a wrong answer. Each path may lead you down a different road but there is no telling if one is better or worse than the other (unless we can peek into a parallel universe). Like you said, taking action is the important part to me. Don’t wait for someone to rescue you or to make decisions for you. The way we grow is by making these tough decisions and rescuing ourselves.
Action is the antidote to worry. A choice to pursue sparks confidence for the next decision. Complacency is passive living. You managed to articulate what life is all about. I love this post! Thank you
Thanks for the affirmation and for stopping by my blog!
Reblogged this on ceotimeyin.
Thanks for the reblog!
A great reflection. Action *is* the antidote for worry, and it *does* feel better to rescue yourself. Thanks for the reminders today.
Beautiful post. So many times in my life the journey has not been easy, while other times things just fall into place; but either way, things always work out.
Loved the message, that it came from your mom, and the story to follow it up. 💕
Firstly I need to read that book! Secondly, I was raised to worry too, and seem to be a sitter & waiter OR a Jumper. I jump to extreme, often unnecessary action, it depends on the situation. So I enjoyed your post anyway, very thought provoking. 🙂
You do need to read the book! It’s a quick read but the lessons will stay with you . . .
Reblogged this on todaysdiywoman.
Thank you for the reblog! I truly appreciate it:).
Thanks for this lesson. I can’t imagine the barbed wire… Ouch is right!
Great post. One thing I’ve learned in life and at church, is that we may change or choose paths we never thought we’d go down, but none of them are wrong, but our purpose remains the same. Makes me feel at peace know that whatever path I choose, I still have that same purpose.
Nice. Great read and nice lesson. I bet you enjoyed mums time!
Congratulations, Kay. Love seeing you Pressed.
Wow , So wonderful
I love this yeaahh 🙂
Great post. Always good to take some action!
Love this post!
Thank you! Glad it resonated with you.
Beautiful and moving post, action truly is the key
Thank you, Oscar. We’re simpatico in this respect. Better to move than stagnate.
Reblogged this on angelasas and commented:
I love her story and the point she’s making. I wanted to share this inspiration with all of you.
Don’t put your happiness on hold.
Thank you for the reblog! And for the kind words. Here’s to happiness . . .
A wonderful post.
I appreciate you reading! Glad it struck a chord.
Wonderful essay on life and choices.
Thank you, Stephen, for the kind words and for stopping by my blog.
Well, I’m new to WordPress and yours was the first one I read after scanning. Life is all about choices, isnt it. Now, Im tryin to choose a profile picture and figure out how to get my ‘essays’ (s’amusings) seen. My best to you.
You’re welcome. Will be reading more of them. Please check out new essays at my new blog site, ‘http://SrBottch.com’. Comments, suggestions always appreciated.
It can be tricky for me sometimes; knowing when to act and when to lay back. I think no I’m getting better at it though. And your mother’s wisdom is gold. No matter which way we go, we get to where we are supposed to go.
Wise words, even a choice that seems like the wrong one takes us where we need to be.
A lovely post and wise words from your Mum.
I read “Who moved my cheese” over a decade ago and it inspired me and my teenage daughters. We became less worried about changing environments that we couldn’t control, more aware of our reaction to changes, more able to take action. Making a decision is a positive, even if later you need to amend that decision.
Thanks for your post.
That book really changed my outlook also. So simple but very powerful.
Great post! I have been on both sides of this. It is definitely a better feeling when you know that you can rescue yourself.
Repeated rescues do engender a lack of confidence on both sides has been my experience for they can become a way of life. Great reminder! Enjoyed the post, Kay.
Thanks for stopping by! I figured this was one lesson you had down . . . among many others:).
Great post! Very thought provoking. Now I’m going to go back and analyze my life. LOL
Great post! Very thought provoking. Now I’m going to go back and anayze my life. LOL
Good post Kristine. ‘Make a decision, even though it may be the wrong one’ is a good rule of thumb.
I find if I’m too emotional I can’t make a good decision. But if I let myself wait and calm down, even for a few minutes, guidance will come. Thank God you outran that dog and found that state trooper. That was an example of listening to your intuition and it paid off.
Wow. I’m really impressed you managed to outrun a dog! Your mom does indeed seem very wise. Mine just switched from 20 years of saying everything I did was wrong, to saying everything I do is right. It’s very confusing :p
Oh, enjoy that switch:). That’s a beautiful place to be.
A beautiful well said piece of wisdom! Thank you! And, I so agree…follow your gut! 🙂 Richard
So true! By the way, I have agreed with all of your mother’s lessons and advice you have written about. She was one smart lady.
Beautifully written Kay. Wisdom is when we recognise it. Your awareness is growing my friend. Mark
Your mother was a very wise women, as are you! Thank you for sharing this today, as it’s a great day for a reminder that I am an active participate in the outcome of my life, and I need to act!
Great post Kay, and you are very brave! Thanks for reminding us to listen to our intuition and accept our decisions in life, good and bad. Your Mum gave you wise words.
I agree with Mark – this is indeed a moving lesson. I love your mother’s parting words – words for the journey, words of wisdom.
I am perpetually inspired by your step-up-to-the-plate, take-charge attitude, K. I love that after the barbed wire and German shepherd, you “just happened” to arrive at a state trooper’s door. This story reads like a modern day fairy tale. I can’t wait to see what kinds of marvelous happy endings are in store for brave, beautiful you. I’m just certain they’re on their way. xoxox
I love the modern day fairy tale:). All except for the rabid dog bit. I’d be happy to bring Prince Charming in for that! Thank you, Amy, for your kind words. I hope some day I see myself through your eyes. You inspire me also . . . reminding me of the beauty in quiet, simple times.
This is a moving lesson, Kay, in many ways. Life throws so much at us now, it’s so easy to succumb to the paralyis of fear, of the unknown, of indecision, of just too much stuff. Your mother’s parting words that you can’t go wrong no matter which fork you take surely helped you take one of them. And that’s worked out so much better than the wait. Good for you, my friend.