As I considered which book to read next (Oh–and I have the new Elder Races novella that was released last week as well–still channeling my inner Carly Simon on that one, too… and it’s scrumptious… but) I had an unwelcome realization: it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Here’s the thing: I have three novels and one novella I am 100% sure I’m going to love waiting to grace my Kindle screen and… I’m not reading any of them. That’s right, I’m reading the latest Sue Grafton alphabet book (X– I guess she got stumped on that one), because I was overwhelmed with the choices in my favorite genre. How can this be? Well it is – and not just in my reading habits. This unfortunate phenomenon shows up in myriad ways in my life, and rarely to the good.
I don’t think I’m adept at juggling infinite or even broadly-defined finite possibilities: I’m guilty of paralysis in the face of too many choices. I’m okay with options A or B. I can be decisive even if we go so far as maybe the letter G (which stands for “gumshoe” in Sue Grafton’s world, in case you were wondering), but I have significant difficulty with the whole alphabet.
For example, my professional work is fairly light right now, only taking up a couple of hours a day, in truth. I have two teenagers, so there is work to do on that front as well, so I’m not completely footloose and fancy-free. But considering how much I used to work and how few free minutes I had in a day or a week, my current circumstances seem positively expansive. Relatively speaking, I have copious free time. And I get to choose how to spend it. I can work out, read, write, do volunteer work, take a class, veg out in front of the TV, take my dogs for an extra-long walk, talk on the phone with my friends, and cook elaborate meals on weekdays (alright, that last one is a stretch).
Which is great. Except when it’s not. I was talking to a friend who recently left her job at a large corporation to take a job with a start up that is very small and not overly ambitious. She went from being a high-powered VIP whose actions affected many employees and government policies to a place where she wondered, “If I didn’t do anything today, would anyone notice?” Ouch. A good, albeit hard, question.
Because there is no one telling me what to do and no accounting for that which I do do, I’m totally free… To do nothing at all. To become paralyzed with possibilities and consumed with utter frivololity or even counter productive behavior. Do I really need to eat a three-course lunch, just because I have the time? Do I need to “window shop” at the Mall, because I have nothing better to do? (I gave that particular time sink up some time ago, thankfully, but still browsing through catalogues is almost as bad, and I’m still doing that).
When I have too many choices, it can feel like I have none. When I have no organizing principle to my life, it’s hard to prioritize options and choose well. How to decide whether to read Cole, Harrison or Ward first? Does it matter? And what happens when I’m finished? I’ll be finished and then what? Maybe it’s best to delay making a start, so that my time with these favorites wouldn’t have to end. You see where this is going, yes? Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.
When I have a bounty of alternatives, I can feel lost instead of blessed. An embarrassment of riches. That just leaves me embarrassed to admit my foolish inactivity. So, action is called for–and then more action. Pick a card, any card. You’ll probably know which book I read first (when it shows up in this space on Monday). As to the rest of it, I’m going to try to get over myself while I still have some free time left to spend.