About ten years ago, I was in Austria, walking through a cobblestone lane that was flanked on either side with restaurants of all descriptions, each trying to lure in tourists and locals alike with their promise of a meal to remember. With my husband in impatient tow, I moved from restaurant to restaurant, reading each menu, with the hope that I would find ‘The one’. That one restaurant that was going to fulfil my every expectation of the one night we were to spend in Austria. My husband, desperate for me to choose a restaurant, any restaurant, tried in vain to hurry up the process; but I was determined in my quest to make the right choice....and thus avoid the wrong one.
Fast forward ten years and I overhear a conversation in which one woman laments she had chosen the wrong path and subsequently it had led to an unhappy marriage and an unhappier divorce. This statement catapulted me back to that one night in Austria. The more I pondered on this memory and this woman’s lament, the more I began to see the cobblestone lane as one’s Life Path. Not one of many paths. Just the one. Because that’s all we get. One path and the many choices that influence the direction of that path. So if we only have one path, then can it ever be the wrong one?
And if that cobblestone lane is our Life Path, then the restaurants that line it are all the choices that we can opt to take, or not. Some of these choices lead to happiness, whether it be temporary or lifelong. Whilst other choices can lead to pain, stress or indifference. On the surface it would seem that the former are the ‘right’ choices, and the latter ‘wrong’. But to say that the latter is wrong is to deny the good moments amongst the bad. And whether you choose to admit it or not, they existed, even if only as the peace of mind that comes with having made a choice.
More so, to be wrong, means that there was no value in the experience. No growth, no learning, no glimpse of a profound self truth that slowly unfolds, layer by layer. The fact of the matter is, that you are likely to experience all three to some degree and it is difficult to argue that personal growth or learning gained through experience is anything but right.
So let’s begin by first dispelling the myth that choices can be right or wrong. With your perception fastened firmly on the bigger picture, your choices are always right; however some are pleasant, others unpleasant and others still are a combination of both.
If we were to tell this woman that one, she is always on the right path, and two, there are only right choices; she may with reflection accept this new perspective. But it still leaves her standing on her path in confusion. “How then,” would she say “...do I make a more ‘pleasant choice’... one that is more likely to lead to happily ever after?”
And so we come back to that cobblestone lane (i.e. our life path) and the many restaurants (potential partners in this particular case), with their alluring menus. How do you choose a ‘restaurant’ (a partner) when faced with a path filled with them? This will depend on what type of person you are.
Type 1: The impatient….
Type 1 people would walk into the very first restaurant they see, hardly even glancing at the menu. They are either hungry (horny in relationship speak) and need to quickly satisfy this urge (with a one night stand or fling); are starving (desperate for love), or tired (anyone will do).
Was choosing the very first restaurant you saw a pleasant or unpleasant choice? Well if you were simply hungry....then it would all depend on how good the ‘food’ was. If however you were starving or tired, then there is a high likelihood that at some point you will be standing on that cobblestone lane again having to make that choice all over again; this time more despondent and with the lurking memory of that last unpleasant ‘meal’.
Type 2: The fussy idealist…..
Type two people have a very set, rigid idea of the type of restaurant they want. They will ignore all restaurants (potential mates) that do not immediately meet ALL of their (MANY) requirements. A type two person is likely to want for example, an Italian restaurant. But not just any Italian restaurant. It must be authentic in food and decor, have the right type of wine and atmosphere, with the perfect waiters that speak of course, with perfect Italian accents and tend to your every Italian whim.
Potential problems? Well one, the cobblestone lane is in Austria and authentic Italian restaurants are in Italy. In other words type two people can have not only high expectations but also unrealistic ones. Two, by maintaining tunnel vision of that Italian restaurant, you may overlook a cuisine that is far more satisfying to your body and soul.
Type 3: The pessimist….
Type three people will find fault with every menu and will leave hungry or eventually settle for any restaurant, thus joining the Type 1’s. Short and sweet or long and bitter is the result.
Type 4: The indecisive….
Type four people will go from restaurant to restaurant looking for the ‘right meal’. They will base their decision on the decor (attraction), perhaps popularity, and lastly, the menu (personality). But when they find that seemingly perfect restaurant, they will still continue along the cobblestone lane, just in case there is a better one further along. Unfortunately it may take so long to read the menus of the entire laneway, that by the time they return to the restaurant which appealed to them in the first place, it’s now booked out for the entire evening (i.e. their potential mate is now taken). Some would say this was not meant to be. Others would say, a missed opportunity..... Either way, one is left hungry; or if they later stumbled across a fast food take away, they are then possibly left unsatisfied, guilt ridden or both.
Type 5: The informed…..
Just like type four people, Type five will also go from one restaurant to the next looking for the right place. The difference is that they will take their time to read the menu; and if they like it, they will cease their search and venture in for what may be a pleasant or unpleasant meal, because of course, there are no guarantees in life.
And this leads us back to our path, our choices, and making the ‘right’ choice. Logically, the type 5 approach appears to be the ‘right’ one. But the reality is that as humans, whilst we might lean towards being a particular type of person, we are in fact a combination of all types, depending on the phase of our life we find ourselves in. Does this mean that we make many ‘wrong’ choices before we get to the ‘right’ one? No. We make many choices. Full stop. It is our perception that deems them right or wrong; not the experience itself.
Type 1: The impatient….experiences the many flavours of life.
In the right phase of life, being a type 1 person might lead to a very brief encounter that leaves a lasting fond memory that you carry through to old age.
Type 2: The fussy idealist…..finds clarity in direction
Delving into the fussiness of a ‘type 2’ phase, will lead you to discover what you truly want and don’t want.
Type 3: The pessimist….becomes the person they seek
Exploring a type 3 phase may result in spending time rediscovering ourselves; which leads to self acceptance and knowledge that it is happiness, not perfection that we seek.
Type 4: The indecisive….participates in life
If we find ourselves in a type 4 phase, then our eternal searching will ultimately lead us to the lesson of trust – in life, in others and in our selves.
Type 5: The informed…..is ready
And this leads us back to the type 5 phase. Armed with our (positive perception) of the life experiences from all the other phases, we step into the type 5 phase with no regrets, self knowledge, openness and acceptance, wisdom and trust. One path. Many Choices. And the only thing ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is our perception.