friendship / Relationships

How Oprah Helps Me Make Decisions

my not-so-nice alias

I just read another thought provoking article in this month’s O Mag called How to Solve a Thorny Problem. Martha Beck provides a convincing counter against either-or answers, suggesting–what if both answers to a given problem are correct? Apparently most of us divide between the black and white type and the greyer sort. I’ve always been a grey area girl. In fact, I’m often plagued with ambivalence, and I don’t mean just in the can’t-choose-between-the-fish-or-the-pasta kind of way, though that too. Here’s a snippit from the article:

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide everyone into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. The tendency to dichotomize is stubbornly pervasive in human thought. Maybe this is because it presents decision-making in its simplest form. In evolutionary terms, this method has obvious advantages. Commit to one choice and you’re done. If you’re an early human on the savanna, you’re better off fearing all snakes than having to closely examine each specimen for venom glands.

I recognize myself instantly as the gland inspector. This article offers some great advice for wishy-washy types on what to do when both things are true. I encourage you to check it out, but in short, I quote:

1. Set boundaries that correspond to the worst of times.
2. Focus your appreciation on the best of times.
3. Remain calm while you explore your options.

Number one was, as Oprah would say, a real ah-ha moment for me. I went to see a psychic awhile back, which is not a new thing for me—thanks to my insightful, inquisitive mother, I’ve always had a stash of healers, herbalists, and psychics in my address book. One of the first things this psychic told me is that I’m too nice and I need to learn to stand up for myself. Partly, I have Canada to blame but I think this so-called niceness sometimes comes from seeing too many sides. Most of my over-nice pitfalls happen when I don’t set my boundaries to begin with, such as counting on a friend for support who has proved herself undependable. My brain goes: She’s great in other areas, and maybe she was just too busy or distracted last time… But guess what happens when I’ve been too nice to begin with? Yup, I wind up being a contentious cow. How’s that for dualism?

I suppose another grey area issue I recently confronted was not being entirely okay with porn and deciding it was cool to have my fiancé filming it. I had many anti-porn sentiments but I could see plenty of pro-porn arguments, even if I didn’t embrace them yet. That said, if I had set my boundaries per the worst of times about the porn job, i.e. when I don’t feel confident, the topic of porn makes me uncomfortable, I may not have learned what I did. Am I stuck in a mind-loop again? Possibly. And now I must figure out what to eat for breakfast. Ay me!

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