Making Decisions Amidst the Flux of It All


My mood changes. My opinions change, often behind my back (pace Nicholson Baker). Sometimes, I feel edgy or angry but only because I haven’t eaten or slept or because that Ambien hasn’t worn off. Although what does “only because” even mean? Does my fatigue or hunger generate my mood? Or do they fuel it? Or just create the conditions for its emergence?

Often, I am carried along by the mood of the day — the toothy exuberance of the San Francisco sun irritates me while the low hanging grey of fog and cloud mellows me with melancholy. Then there’s traffic and my kid’s issues and the toils, trials, and tribulations of dating and working and heaving this ridiculous body through space and time.

I mean, I can wake up and be so freakin’ angry with someone (usually, it’s a woman). And I think: Oh, I’m so done with this! I’m ending this relationship! And then I go to the kitchen, make my smoothie, drink my coffee and find my anger has subsided. So she’s a little nuts, I think. So what? So am I. My magnanimity trumps my rage — at least for the moment.

Amidst all this pushing and pulling on my entrails and moods, how am I to make a decision? Which mood is right? In which state should I make a decision? How do I make this decision? When I think about it all, it seems a miracle that I ever decide anything. Suddenly, I understand Beckett.

I’ve been rewatching the achingly brilliant Deadwood for the umpteenth time (my unbridled love and appreciation for this show deserves more space and time and eloquence than this). One ongoing issue is that Seth Bullock, played by Timothy Olyphant, has a tendency to fly into a rage, to let his immediate mood dictate his actions and decisions, often fucking things up for those around him. In fact, this is true of many of the characters in the show: they feel something and act in the same moment, usually to everyone’s detriment.

But then there’s Al Swearengen, played by the brilliant Ian McShane, who doesn’t act on his immediate feeling but waits, thinks, strategizes, finds the angle, the best way to play the situation to the advantage of both himself and his community, namely, the camp of Deadwood.  (Watch here >) He continually subverts his immediate drives in order to contemplate the angles so that he can make a good decision (whatever that is).

After all, making a decision based on how you feel right now is often silly. The now may be everything but it is not one thing: it is a juncture, a nexus of everything that has happened and everything that could happen. Yes, right this second, you drive me apeshit. But in an hour, a day, a week you may very well delight me again. So how do I make the move to be with you or not? To break up with you or not?

I, for one, tend to avoid decisions. I like to float along, to drift with the flow of what’s happening. I applied to one college. I applied to one grad school. I’ve never applied for a job. But, working for myself, I don’t solicit work: I let it come to me. At least this is how I’ve operated up to now; things can change. My feeling is: I’m not one to try and dictate the wills and forces of the cosmos. I want to slide into the pocket where I fit best. Even my divorce, like all beginnings and ends of my relationships, happened as it happened. I didn’t bring it about; nor did she. We did it together.

Needless to say, this strategy doesn’t always work out as I find myself at the mercy of events I’d rather not be and in relationships that have long soured. Which sometimes makes me wish I were some alpha dog who knew what he wanted and demanded that or nothing. Ah, but that seems so exhausting to me. It takes so much energy! Such exertion!

No, I prefer to play it loose — although not passive per se, even it often looks and feels and, I suppose, is passive. The fact is I don’t trust my moods. I know they come and go. I know they can be dictatorial, demanding their way. And I know that the tenor of one day is not necessarily the tenor of the next. Somehow, I try to let things happen rather than deciding them, if that makes sense.

The day is filled with decisions, little and big — breakfast, which New Yorker article to read, whether to respond to this or that text, whether to shave, to shower, to buzz my balding head or not. I don’t have a plan for any of these things. I await a moment that beckons me as much as I beckon it. I picture the banana, its taste and texture, its after effect and I see it play out in and over my body and then, in my actions, I say yay or nay.

It’s a funny kind of surrender to the mechanics of the day. Sometimes, it works out well for me. Other times, less so. Sometimes, I miss the opportunities that nudge and wink, kairos passing me by — including financial, sexual, or appetitive delights. But, frankly, often I feel snug and content in the bosom of the universe, even when things go awry. Because what happens happens and amor fati and this is my life happening whether I do this, that, the other thing, or nothing at all.