July 28, 2013
“He’ll have the bubbly red, too”
The other day I was out for a lunch bite with Mike. When he’s lunching at the University Café he takes a glass of bubbly red with it. I seldom drink midday, midweek unless on the road as in the Brasserie du Commerce in Besancon two months ago. This time, however, I was free after lunch so I started contemplating a glass myself and got hung up between a house shiraz and the aforesaid bubbly red, which I did not know other than by the repute his use of it lent. The waiter was standing there and I was uhming and awing.
My decision was all that stood between us and lunch starting its trip from the kitchen and I couldn’t make it. I was stuck in the roundabout of indeterminable differences between the options, pedalling and still.
“He’ll have the bubbly red, too”…
… Mike said and I settled in relief, as did the waiter. A classic of the situation where any decision is OK, if someone would just make one. I so much needed help at the moment that I didn’t know it until he provided it decisively. Either would be good for me if I could make the move. Thanks to Mike I was moved. It was an ethically vacuous event, but clear in its agency. I submitted to the push of his action, and needed to do so if the rest of the event was to unfold.
It occurred to me at the time that this was also a major purpose of close relationships – to share the decision load of life as much as the consequential work. And sharing is sometimes to pick up the bundle unasked…which requires a slightly daring arrogation of rights to oneself in the interest of preserving the participation of the other in the shared load!!!
There are two things in joint decision making (which seldom means both coming to the same conclusion simultaneously). It must be right in content and in process: we have to come to decisions in acceptable ways - consultatively, considerately, flexibly…and, we have to make the right decision for the task in question. The process is more important than the product since specific decisions can often be changed modified, adapted (usually do if they are substantive ones) and that requires effective consultation. These are mostly engineering problems, problems of having right tools and flexible application rules. The decision, however, is pure art - intuitive, scatty, quick – in need of a spark and failing the internal one, an outer will do fine. Someone has to move, and a hand is sometimes required.
Two months ago now I had been stuck in a decision muddle for weeks about taking a week to go to the US for a family reunion, or not to. I really was stuck in thinking which was dangling in the branches of multiple considerations of sentiment and logistics until I visited a now dead friend, Barry, who was clearly on the way to dying in his own mind at the time. I stopped by the palliative care place he had recently been consigned to and shared my small concern. “Do it”, he said almost before I got my considerations shaped up for him. His own brother, long separated, somewhat estranged, had just been down from another state to see him and they had talked for the first time in years. He was clear about the relationship priorities of late life. I could feel my mind slip over a cog as he spoke and walked out with uncluttered resolve to go (which I will be doing in two weeks).