Last week I was driving from work to meet my husband for lunch in a restaurant in town. I drove down a street parallel to Main Street, the street the restaurant is on.
As I drove, I considered the different intersections I could turn at to get to Main Street.
One has rough patches in the right turning lane. When I make that turn and feel the car go over the rough road, I always have a moment of worry that I’ve hit someone. I drive for a moment afterwards with my eyes in the rearview mirror looking for bodies.
Another way to get to Main Street involves driving in a crowded area beside a convenience store, with people pulling in and out in cars and walking on foot. I worry about running into another car or person.
I thought, What if I take the first way and something happens? I’ll wish I had waited and taken the second way.
Then I thought, What if I take the second way, and something happens. I’ll wish I had taken the first way.
The “what ifs” were valid in that I didn’t know what would happen when I pulled up to either intersection. There was always the chance of an accident. How did I know which way to take to avoid one?
I didn’t. Whichever route I chose, I would have to live with that decision. And wonder if I had made the right one.
Making choices pulls out the old uncertainty quandary. We make choices all the time, some without thinking. With other choices, we ponder which is the best one.
We can’t ever really know which is the best choice. Everything might turn out just fine and safe with one choice. But who’s to say that the other choice wouldn’t have been even better?
So we have to live with our choices. We can do our best in the moment to make the right choices, but we’ll never really know if it was the right one or the best one. Not really.
By the way, I did arrive safely at the restaurant without hurting anyone. As far as I know.
For as Dr. Jonathan Grayson says in his book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty, “while all of us feel certain about many things, the truth is that the absolute certainty we feel is an illusion. An event may be probable or improbable, but neither is an absolute. The inability to feel or be certain is reasonable” (p. 9).
How do we live with that?