Choice AND Consequences

I’m undoubtedly dating myself when I say I remember an old game show called Truth or Consequences. Of course, it’s the Bob Barker era of the show that I remember – I’m definitely not old enough to be talking about the original 1940’s radio program hosted by Ralph Edwards. (The only reason I even know about that is from this Wikipedia entry.)

The reason I bring this show up is because I think the game of Life (not the board game – actual L-I-F-E) is a very similar venture. Except instead of Truth or Consequences, the real title of the game is Choice AND Consequences.

In the game show, contestants had to answer a trick question in a very short time frame. The questions were generally impossible to answer, and the buzzer would go off before the contestant could even try to make something up. When the contestant couldn’t answer, he or she would have to face the consequences. Most often the consequences involved some slapstick embarrassing stunt, but sometimes the consequence was a heart-warming reunion with a loved one.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like life?

We are faced with trick questions every day. There are mundane questions, like the one that usually hits me as I’m already en route: “Will I be able to take the short route to Scottsdale or is the Loop 101 Freeway closed today?” Buzzz. You lose. Detour 1 mile ahead.

There are more philosophical questions like: “Can I create my reality with my thoughts?” Buzzzz. Time’s up – you already have.

And then there are the seemingly unanswerable “Why” questions that surround every challenge and loss we face: “Why is my job the one to be cut?” Buzzzz. “Why did I get this disease?” Buzzzz. “ Why did my child have to die?” Buzz, buzz, buzz.

Here’s the thing. In all of life’s situations, it’s not so much a matter of finding the “Truth” OR facing consequences. We’re already facing consequences all of the time – consequences based on the choices we make. It’s all about making a choice AND experiencing the consequences. And then making another choice about how we respond to those consequences, which leads to more consequences.

Of course, I’m not saying anyone consciously chose to lose their job, their investments, their home or their loved one. Usually there are a whole bunch of unconscious choices and beliefs at play. And not all of those choices are our own – after all we each share this planet with another six billion or so conscious and unconscious choice makers. So, as the bumper sticker says, sometimes Shit Happens.

When it does, you can spin your wheels trying to answer the trick question “Why?” before the buzzer goes off, or you can simply CHOOSE to respond – mentally, emotionally and practically – in the way that creates the best next consequence for you.

You see, no matter how tricky the question, no matter how painfully challenging the situation, the choice we make about how we respond makes all the difference. It always makes more sense to choose joy than to choose pain.

So, I guessed wrong and found the freeway closed? Oh well, the extra time on the road can give me just enough time to listen to some of my favorite music. Or I can take a brand new route and maybe I’ll discover a fabulous shop I didn’t know was there. If I CHOOSE to look at this as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience, I completely reshape the consequences.

Sure. That’s easy. But what about the bigger consequences? What about the loss of a loved one? What about the loss of my son? I still have a choice. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would prefer it didn’t have to happen. But it did. Shall I spend the rest of my life trying to answer “Why?” Or should I choose to experience joy and live the rest of my life fully? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no buzzer. But time is very definitely moving on whatever I choose and even if I choose not to choose. It’s all Choice and Consequences.

So here’s your next question on Choice and Consequences. You have just 3 seconds to answer:

“Is anything inherently meaningful, or does it only become so by the meaning you give it?”

Buzzz. Time’s up. Here’s your consequence: a slapstick pratfall or a joyful experience. The choice is yours.

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Navigating Change

I can’t believe it’s November! Halloween has come and gone and a historic election day is behind us, but I’m still wondering where September and October went!

October was a busy month with the release of The Deep Water Leaf Society finally becoming a reality. I attended a writer’s conference in Tucson the last weekend in September and that marked the official release of the book as I received my first box of printed copies just in time to take them with me.

Most of the workshops I attended were about marketing, promotion and branding. One of the workshop leaders began by saying, “Once your book has been written, your fulltime job is now marketing.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear as I much prefer writing to marketing. I left the conference with a list of about 50 “must do” items and a feeling of overwhelm.

Once I arrived home, it was time to ship out all the pre-orders. A GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all of you who ordered the book in advance. I had shipped out or hand delivered nearly 70 copies of the book by mid-October.

I even managed to get one or two items checked off of my “must do” list for promotion and marketing, one of which landed me a feature article in the East Valley Tribune’s Spiritual Life section.

Then it was off to the El Rocio Retreat in Mission, Texas, to present a workshop and hold my first “official” book signing event. This was really special because El Rocio is the home of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts program, which was my lifeline during my journey through grief.

My workshop, “Altared Futures,” focused on the process of transformation. Each participant created an altar in three pieces: the first piece expressing and exploring a current loss or challenge, the second piece identifying and honoring whatever means of support might help them through the change, and the third envisioning the positive transformation that would come from the experience.

The essential message of “Altared Futures” is that no matter what kind of change we are facing, and no matter whether that change was one of our own choosing, we do have a choice about where and how we go forward from the change point.

There was a point in my own healing journey, after losing my oldest son to a drug overdose, when I realized very clearly that I could choose to allow my grief to define me for the rest of my life, or I could choose to define my experience in a new light. I could choose to remain angry, bitter and depressed, or I could choose to reclaim joy. This choice is very much at the heart of the story I tell in The Deep Water Leaf Society.

Here in the U.S. we find ourselves at the doorway of change. Last night, Barack Obama, was elected to serve as the first African American president in our history. For the first time in eight years, a democrat will once again lead our nation. For some of you, this change came by choice – you voted for Obama. For others of you, this change came against your will – you voted for his opponent. For yet others of you, this change arrived by default – you didn’t vote, by choice or because you weren’t eligible to vote.

Regardless of your choice status in the election, the change has arrived. It’s up to you how it comes to affect your life. Senator McCain set a wonderful tone in his concession speech last night. Obviously, Obama’s victory came not by choice for McCain. And yet he immediately began to quiet the “boos” of the crowd and to emphasize unity, cooperation and support for his former opponent. He envisioned a positive future for himself, for his supporters and for this nation. He emphasized moving quickly past the inevitable disappointment into positive, future-oriented action.

Change is a challenge, even when it comes by choice. Obama will certainly face major changes in his personal life as he works to implement the changes he wishes to bring to our country. Serving as president is a huge responsibility to shoulder and carries with it an enormous amount of stress. Obama’s acceptance speech was equally positive and hopeful. Like McCain, he immediately sought to put divisiveness behind us and begin to envision a brighter future.

This is a choice we can all make in the face of ANY change. This is what my grief taught me. Certainly the loss of a loved one has a different quality of pain than the loss of an election. I am not suggesting that you can or should put the pain and grief of the loss of a loved one behind you in a day’s time, or a week’s time or any specific timeframe. Yet, at some point, you will begin to recognize where your choice points are. Every day, you will have the opportunity to choose between focusing on a past that’s gone or focusing on a future that is yours to shape.

Whether this election is a “win” or a “lose” for you, is totally up to you. You can make of it what you will. And whatever losses you have experienced in your life, your future is up to you. Dream big. Choose joy. And to paraphrase Obama’s tag line: YES YOU CAN.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

As always, I welcome your comments and invite you to visit my website,