Hello again from the land of the Big Blue,
I’ve been thinking about choices this week – the choices we make, how they affect us, how they affect everyone else, and when a choice is really not a choice.
We had a guest from London with us this week, (we’ve had several from London actually, love the accent!), and she was very, very nervous about snorkeling. In the lagoon, just out front of our place, she was somewhat calm. After all, the water is so darn shallow, if you ever start to panic you merely stand up and you’re usually only up to your waist. But she was going out on a lagoon cruise with Mr.Boss, her husband, and two other guests, and part of the tour goes outside the reef. She was certain she wouldn’t snorkel in the open water despite our insistence that she should just “try”, even a little, because she wouldn’t want to miss the eagle rays.
As it turned out, once outside the reef, she agreed to climb in the water and hang onto the swim ladder – that way she could put her face in the water and look but still feel safe. Then Mr.Boss talked her into swimming out just a bit, promising he would hold one of her hands and her husband would hold the other. She agreed. Eventually Mr.Boss let go of one hand, hubby let go of the other, and there she was, snorkelling, which she swore she’d never do. She saw the eagle rays. And she loved it.
Good for her. She made a choice, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but her life is now richer because of it.
People often assume you can simply overcome a fear or dislike of something by just choosing to not be afraid, or not dislike, the thing in question. In the case of the Reluctant Snorkeller, this was true. I have a small fear of flying due to quite a traumatic plane experience I had years ago, my friend Martha can say the same about spiders, and my friend BJ can say the same about water; I doubt any of us could shed those fears simply by choosing not to be afraid. (Although this last flight I was able to shed my fear chemically – thanks again Doc!).
And what about stuff we’re not afraid of but simply don’t like? My thing is finger and toe nails. (Not my own, mind you). If I see someone picking at, or grooming, their nails, (especially toenails – ick), my stomach churns, I have to turn my head and I literally feel ill. Prez is always chastising me for my nail issues. But then, he flees the room if a cat hacks up a hairball while I can pick them up with my bare hands and it doesn’t bother me. Now you’d think I would be able to talk myself out of my nail issue, and I’ve tried, believe me, but it ain’t happening. Why?
I think we aren’t able to choose some of our reactions because we have two brains. We have what I call our Spock brain – this is the part of our brain that says, “Don’t be illogical, there’s nothing dangerous or dirty about seeing someone clip their toenails” (I have a hard time even writing that). We also have what I call our Reptile brain – this is the part which screams, “Oooooooo gross! Run away! Toenails! Yuck!! Barf!!!” And as much as we know our Spock brain is correct, our Reptile brain has been around longer and it’s the boss of us.
Now in the case of the Reluctant Snorkeller, I’m going to make a few assumptions. #1. She probably wasn’t terrified of snorkelling, she just wasn’t familiar with it so she was nervous. #2. She was highly motivated to get over her fear because her husband snorkels and she wanted to be with him. #3. She felt a high level of trust with Mr.Boss, and maybe after talking to us as well. Those are three powerful factors. If I really wanted to work at a spa, for example, I might have to force myself to get over my nail issues – there’s a reason I don’t work at a spa.
But what if the Reluctant Snorkeller had not broken through that wall? Well, I guess her hubby would have been a tad disappointed but that’s about all. Then what about the things that really do matter? Now I’m going to get all hypothetical on you.
Let’s say I’ve always known way down, deep inside, that I was a Muslim. After years of trying to convince myself it wasn’t true, living a lie, the voice of Allah finally became too powerful and I had to confess my Muslim-ness to the world. A painful confession it would be, but how could I continue to live a lie? What a relief to finally be true to my heart, to don the hajib, forgo alcohol, say the prayers, celebrate the holidays, out in the open. Wouldn’t everyone be happy for me and my new life?
Some people would be OK with it, some might even be genuinely happy for me, but many of my loved ones would not be OK with it, and they’d either say so, or find reasons to keep their distance from me. My question is, knowing that my conversion to being a Muslim was something I could not control no matter how much I wanted to, was not a choice, in other words, what responsibility do the people around me have to support, or at least accept, my change? I mean, they could all just choose to accept me as I am, right?
Or could they?
I suspect there would be many who would really want to accept me as a Muslim, who would want to be happy for me, but every time they saw me wrapped in a head scarf, or turn down a martini, or refuse to go swimming because I wouldn’t wear a bathing suit in public, or interrupt our conversation to go pray, their Reptile brain would scream, “This isn’t right!!!! Get out of here!!!” For some, just the thought of those things would be enough to find excuses to stay away from me.
The idea of choice is good – to quote one of my old university professors, “We must believe in free will, we have no choice” – but the idea often falls apart in the real world.
And what does this have to do with paradise? Nothing, just some thoughts rattling around in the old bean. No, I’m not going to become a Muslim (not that there’s anything wrong with it).
Um, paradise, yes, that’s where I was heading. Still hot, though we’ve had a few storms. I’ve launched an anti-mosquito campaign. In the morning, I hit my feet with DEET and try to avoid going outside until the sun is up, (usually not a problem the way I sleep in), and at 4pm I put on a pair of socks and a long sarong to cover my legs, (can you say “geek”?). So far, I’m getting good results – though someone went out and left the screen door open the other day and, consequently, I became Mozzie Chow. Sigh.
Mr.Boss, with many not-so-subtle suggestions from us, has decided to put off building another hut and put the money into a newer, better boat and hut upgrades. (Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!). He’s also planning on moving out in the next two weeks. (Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!).
I’m losing weight without really trying. It’s called the “Food is damn expensive so don’t eat too much” diet.
Our high(er) speed internet has arrived! My inbox is finally getting cleared and I might even try uploading a picture or two to this Chronicle. (Ooooo, baby steps).
I had a fairly unpleasant experience in the bathroom one night. There’s a big spider that lives in there, (sorry Martha), and I’m always careful to bring my book light in and look around for him – which I did on the night in question. Satisfied that there were no arachnids crawling around me, I sat down on the toilet and moments later felt something tickling my bum. I jumped up in time to see a rather large cockroach skitter away. Yeah, like I said, unpleasant.
Tonight we are off to a “do” at the fishing club. There’s going to be a show, and a raffle for a TV and a scooter, (I really want that scooter!). It should be an interesting night and I’ll tell you all about it…next week.
QUESTION: What choices does your Reptile brain make?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and lovin’ life!
Photos shown below (from left to right) are: 1. Lagoon tour to the Maina atoll 2. A friendly islander 3. Prez cracking a coconut 4. Ladies our potluck dinner 5. Main street of Rarotonga