On making decisions

I have never really "moved house" before. I did move my things to live with J 15 years ago. But it was a flat he was already living in. I simply carted my clothes and books over. After he died, so many friends have hinted that I should move. But when I finally did sell my flat and when I bought a new one, I had these two questions from friends -

One: "Oh, why did you decide to move - I thought you were not going to? Can you bear leaving the flat?"
Two: "How come you can decide so quickly - and then sell and buy a new flat so fast?"

My answer to the second question is simple. Where I am moving to was a place J and I had always looked at as a possibility. I know what I like. I don’t have grey zones when it comes to things or people I like. 

My answer to the first question is just as simple, but it takes the more amusing form of a dream.

I had just woken up from an afternoon nap. My room was filled with light. The flat has white walls and cupboards, so light bounces around the space normally. But I thought the room looked unusually bright. When I sat up, I realised why it was so. 

Everything - and I mean everything - has disappeared from my flat! It had been stripped bare of furniture - leaving the walls and floor in white nakedness.

Of course a panic set in! I thought I glimpsed two men moving about, carting my furniture off. They had a dark van waiting for them in the carpark. I didn't or couldn't stop them. This happened in a blur. It may even have happened earlier, and I was merely seeing it in flashback. All I knew was that I stood in my empty living room and felt both angry and disappointed. 

Angry that they took my books and this lovely lovely vintage Rosewood bookcase that held mainly Chinese books J bought. Angry that despite there not being anything of value in my flat, I was burgled. Why would anyone want all my books? And the art - not by famous artists, but all by friends and as such, had special significance. My father had once remarked that a burglar would be frustrated if he broke into my flat because there would be nothing worth stealing. In my dream, I had thought to myself - oh dear, I have now proven him wrong! And I was angry that J had left me here alone to deal with this.

But as the anger disappeared, I remembered a distinct disappointment. I had let J down - I did not protect any of the lovely bookcases, books, artworks and knickknacks we had collected over the years. 

My brother soon turned up and we spoke about getting a new door lock. Yes, despite not having anything left to steal, I needed a new door lock. It was a very practical discussion in an otherwise emotional dream.

This was at the start of September 2020. That very day I decided I would move out of my current home.  So during the lunchbreak working from home, I immediately shortlisted some flats online on PropertyGuru to view (I saw a total of 5 flats altogether before my purchase!) I contracted an agent within that week to sell my flat too. I told her that the reason she got the job was because I noticed her WhatsApp moniker was "🖤 J".  This was a decision that had a purely literary logic. Oh, and she was quick. 

Almost exactly a month later, on J's birthday, I made yet another decision with an entirely literary logic. 

I wanted to remember this day differently. So I woke up that morning thinking I would buy myself a new flat. I resisted the conclusion that it was a present for J - it was a present for myself, and if I wanted to feel loved, I would think of it as a present he owed and bought for me. That morning I went to see a flat for the third time with friends JV and YS. We had brunch at my favourite market nearby. When I came home, I made an offer for the flat. Fifteen minutes later, the deal was sealed.

I share openly here this experience of mine for a decision that, for most people, would be a "big" decision - a new home - because I have seen how indecision can grip and trap someone. J was often trapped by indecision. Over seemingly small matters, but also over these life decisions that presented to him an unknown, a risk. I recall the thought of moving out of our current home was a change we spoke about, a change he somewhat wanted but a change he also dreaded because it required decision. It required deciding among options that were in his mind less than perfect, and having consequences not entirely within his control or knowledge.  And I was then indulgent with his fears and certainly indulgent with my own romantic notions.

But between the risk and consequences of making an imperfect decision, or the corrosive consequences of indecision on your mental well being, friends, I ask that you choose the former. 

Because somewhere in our (sub)consciousness, we often know what are our issues - our motivations - our desires - in other words, we often know what we want and why. As in my dream, where I saw I could lose everything but it was ok - we can start again, beginning with a door lock. We are also constantly writing and telling our stories as a way to understand, refine, justify and give form to our motivations, our desires. Our subconscious may do so for us in our dreams - although that can also be a lot of raw, ill-formed logic. But mostly in the stories we tell ourselves and others in conversation, in our IG/FB posts, in our journals, in our prayers... as I am now doing with you. 

In real life not everything will always fall in place according to our narratives  - the plot twists can surprise us. Perfection may never visit us. But if there is something in your story that you can shape and form, that takes you to a new place and it is not a moral conundrum, it often just takes a bit of courage and faith (faith in yourself and in your God who loves you) to act. The gut and the heart, already primed by the head, will know what should be done. Trust that gut, trust that heart, trust your intellect. 

If trusting yourself (your gut, head, heart or - indulge me - your kidneys!) is difficult, I have two consolations for you from my experience on deciding to move:

You don't have to make all the decisions at once, even if it feels like that one decision you are making is going to set off the need to make multiple decisions thereafter.  One step. Allow yourself that one step. You may pause before you take the next. You may even choose to take a step backwards or in a completely different direction. 

A friend had said it to me after I expressed some doubt about the new flat I had bought - "well, if after a few years of living in your new house, things change for you or your view is blocked, you can move again." A space opened up in my mind when he said that. The decision itself was not a trap. I had always thought this would be my home forever. But it may not be. Who knows? And does it really matter? 

When you can differentiate the decisions that affect your eternity (there are not many of such decisions at all) from those that have no consequences for eternity, you may realise the freedoms we actually have. 

You also do not need to make decisions in your alone-ness. Pray, commit that decision to God. He holds you. Invite your friends or family into your decision. While you alone can decide and take action, you can decide and take action while surrounded by friends. Never once did I feel like I was making this move on my own. Friends and family, in small ways, are always holding on to us. 

The sooner we acknowledge this security that we are not alone, the sooner we will understand not only the limits of our own abilities but also the agency we truly possess. 

Postscript - I realise reading this that because everyone has very different circumstances in life, some of you may have way more challenging practical considerations - aging parents, kids in tow, financial burdens, debilitating health conditions, job loss, marriage woes... whereas I am on my own and financially independent, as are my parents. I have it easy. But taking small steps, listening to your gut, and sharing with the ones around you - you can't go wrong with these approaches! 


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