Decision Paralysis: Or…How I cried about my birthday and ate frosted flakes for dinner.
“…What was I…saying…(Are you kidding me?? It’s happening again. Three sentences in and I know I had a point to this story. But what was it?? They’re staring because they probably think I’ve lost my mind. No, they probably just want me to finish my sentence—as one would expect I would and could do after I’ve started said sentence. The words…what were they…Who cares what they were, I just need to choose new ones. Any new ones. ANY NEW ONES WILL DO, BRITNEY. Whatever, I’ll just go with the default.)…I guess I forgot. Sorry.”
You’ve got it. I’ve got it. My mom had it when we were growing up—when I couldn’t for the life of me understand how someone could begin speaking and so quickly have no clue what they were talking about. (The writer would like to take this opportunity to apologize to her mother for the obvious reasons.)
Now I understand. It is not that we are forgetful. It is that we have made precisely 2.7million decisions already today and our mind, in it’s attempt to decide on what word to put next in the cue, has concluded that it has reach level: Nope.
You think your brain is searching for the words to carry on the conversation you can’t remember why you started, but it’s just not. It has shut down, closed for business, leaving you stranded yet again apologizing for bringing everyone down this dead end trail where you cannot finish what you were…what we were…what were we…ughh…
It is a real thing.
Symptoms? Blank stares in the grocery store. Confusion starting about 5:30pm when these mouths need fed and surely some chore somewhere needs to get done. Inability to complete sentences like an adult. Apathy when it comes to choosing restaurants, taking exits, making weekend plans. Forgetting where you put your coffee…if you made coffee…if coffee is a thing or if it’s just a weird word you made up. Eyes darting back and forth. Dark circles, such as these…
It is the reason that I am about 3.5 long pauses away from streamlining some big things in our lives. Like chunking everything in my closet and creating a very minimalistic wardrobe (there are entire Pinterest pages created for this sort of expensive simplicity, did you know??). And like picking 5 meals that we will eat on rotation for the rest of eternity. I don’t know. Maybe it’s extreme. But all the options! They’re enslaving me.
My birthday was two months ago when we were two and a half months postpartum. I don’t know if I will be able to paint for you the level of pathetic I got to, but I’ll try.
All the things were being decided. Like whether this many days of constipation warrant a trip to the pediatrician, and how to handle this new season’s finances, and what time to go to sleep and to wake up for work, and whether my hair could go one more day without washing (we pause to celebrate you, The Pony Tail), and was this midnight cry indicating the need for a tighter swaddle or a bigger bottle, and what should I do if no pants are clean, and how much of a risk would it be to go pantsless in public…Should I go on? Nah, you get it.
And in this life of mine where I march through like one of the CEOs, constantly checking answers to options like I know what I’m doing…my birthday plans fell in the midst. “What should we do for my birthday,” I would mumble quietly into rooms like a zombie, unaware that I was even asking a question.
Your first birthday after your first labor? Who knew it would be such a thing.
I wanted to do everything, I wanted to do nothing. I wanted to see all of the people, but I wanted to be at home, but I didn’t want to clean my house. I wanted to have fun, but I didn’t want to think or plan. I wanted to sleep. I’m getting itchy just reliving the process.
Long story even longer….I decided THE DAY OF that i would just sit outside on my porch and set the ladder ball game up in the yard and tell people that we’d be playing “if they wanted to stop by.”
HAHAHA, can you picture it?? Twenty-eight year old me, sitting on our porch swing, baby in his walker, staring at our ladder ball set just hoping people would stumble upon my “party.” My party where I wouldn’t invite them in (because, didn’t clean the house) and wouldn’t feed them (because, couldn’t decide on food). My party that was barely the celebration level of an estate sale.
Two or three (pitying?) friends walked over and played for a few minutes, and then I went inside, put Bridger down for night time, and cried LIKE AN INFANT.
Luke tried to help pick up the pieces of my existential crises, held me in a long hug and asked what I wanted for supper. As you would expect, the presentation of yet another decision just made me cry harder. So I fixed a bowl of frosted flakes, and cheered year 27 out the door from the floor of our living room, over cereal, mascara running down my face.
Is this not the most dramatic thing you have ever heard? Why couldn’t I just have said, “Mexican food with these 6 people, 7pm”?
Because I was tired of making decisions. And when it came to my birthday, and when it came to supper, it wasn’t happening. In no world was it happening.
If you are currently suffering from the repercussions of decision fatigue and paralysis, if you are finding it absolutely impossible to be assertive with simple choices, if your brain jumps out of your head every time you look at the clothes in your closet or the food in your pantry, if you are dying a little on the inside each moment you find yourself unable to finish sentences, let me help you out…
-Your light jeans and that comfy black shirt
-No, you’re staying in tonight
-Unless it’s with the low-pressure people who like to hold your baby, then in that case, get out because you need to socialize
-But you’re not making apologies for your sweatpants. Or your choice in supper. Which is some sort of sandwich place, by the way.
-Dishes but not laundry.
-HGTV tiny house nation.
-Frozen organic pizza, Annie’s mac and cheese with a kale salad mix. Oatmeal for the morning. Creamer for your coffee. The other groceries can wait.
-Maybe next Tuesday.
-A giftcard for her birthday.
-A stroller walk/jog at the park and 50 crunches.
-“Nevermind…” (was how you were going to end that sentence)
If your answer cannot be found in this line-up, then all I know to do is to send you to this online magic eight ball and wish you the best.
We are in a unique time in history where our culture is saturated with options. The internet (site my sources, right?) says that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions each day. In my personal experience, that number doubled when I became the care-taker of a newborn. No wonder, right? No wonder.
Simplify, streamline, choose and move on. And for the love of all things good, know that you’re not crazy or incompetent. And I guess, even if you are, you’re in good company. Or at the very least nonjudgmental company, since none of us can remember what we were talking about in the first place.