Decisions, decisions, decisions.
We make countless decisions each and every day...every hour...every minute.
And most decisions aren't that hard. We go with our gut, we experience 'behavioral shorthand' and know how, for example, to wind our way to work each morning without even thinking about it or, in the case of tougher decisions, we think, we pray, we seek counsel.
But you know as well as I do that some decisions are very, very difficult. Unimaginably gut wrenching. Consider the sort our President is wrestling with this very week. Or the sort our Supreme Court wrestles with each and every day. Or the sort a grieving adult-child faces as her dying parent is placed on life support.
And some of these decisions are in the oven for months...for years. Indeed, they are very long in the making.
To describe this protracted 'deciding,' I use the analogy Decision Hill.
The first segment of Decision Hill is the ascent. This is the acknowledgment that a decision, generally a complex, multifaceted one (and often an emotional one or one that will have 'tentacles' affecting others or 'collateral effects' beyond our immediate imagination) needs to be made. Consider a neophyte playing chess with a grandmaster or a naive child wandering alone in the dark. Neither is fully aware of the errors of his/her ways, much less the unknown and potentially devastating consequences that might follow an initial, innocent, well-intentioned mis-step. In fact, consider the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy...or the pre-strike intelligence the NSA possessed on terrorists before the horrors of 9/11 in NYC. Neither of these examples represent one huge or glaringly obvious oversight on anyone's part so much as an incremental, microscopic accumulation of residue...of tiny error after tiny error which, in the particulate, seem invisible, yet in the aggregate, seem enormous.
The ascent takes a very, very long time.
We wrestle with complexities. With our emotions. With possible outcomes. We recall the past, we look to the future, we strategize, we visualize moves and countermoves, we think of the people who will be affected by our choices, we fall to our knees, we seek others' counsel, we T-chart the pros and cons, we flip coins, we toss coins in fountains, we wander and wonder, we rule things in and rule things out, we sleep on it, we eliminate outliers and finally...finally...after the grueling and the slogging and the swinging and the fighting and the traversing many meters to the top...we arrive, crestfallen, at the apex of Decision Hill.
And we straddle the tippy-top of this mountain. We feel its enormity beneath and around us. We accept the hollowness within us. We long for the connectedness and renewal around us. And we stare into the fog and darkness and storm and wonder if the heavens are with us.
And we decide.
In an instant.
After the weeks and months or even years that preceded, we finally, exultingly, make a choice.
And this choice brings us -- in that singular moment -- from our ascension...to the second segment of our climb...the tipping point.
The slow boil is now a gas.
And with the clarity that cuts through the night like a knife through warm butter, we turn our eyes finally and fully toward the future.
The angst of deciding is behind us.
And we feel luminescent. And buoyant. And human again.
The weights slip off our shoulders, the bodice around our chest is loosed, the vice around our mind is broken, the chains around our ankles and neck and wrists are shattered, and we fall forward toward our destiny.
Like the child awaking to a pure and powdery snow on Christmas morning, it is the dawning of a bright, shiny, wondrous, clean, perfect day.
And we fall face-down upon our sled, grab the handles with shaky hands, and are restored and renewed. We are officially in segment three: the descent.
Beloved gravity will do the rest. Slowly, crunching...then quickly, now skittering...we gather speed and momentum and inertia and velocity...and we arrive, startlingly soon, at the bottom of the hill and find ourselves rocketing toward our future, snow spraying up all around us, ice crystals stinging our cheeks, laughter peeling all around.
And like the shirtless, sledgehammer-wielding strongman at the summer fair, we are ready to slam forward into all the tomorrows that stretch out before us.
I want to encourage you today: It will get easier. There is a top. There is another side. Even -- especially -- in the darkest moments of the darkest hours of the darkest days of the darkest seasons -- light shines on. It always will. It always has. That's the benevolent nature of light. It travels effortlessly and ceaselessly and swiftly across the darkest regions of the known and unknown universe to warm your skin.
That's all there is to it.
Your charge...indeed, the only toll for your journey is pure -- and simple:
Keep Moving Forward