The Pre-Made Decision
by Jennifer Paros
“Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.”
The other day, I was given an electronic device that included several cords, along with an AC/DC adaptor. I dislodged all from the packaging and plugged everything in, but when I went to plug the AC/DC adaptor in, could not, as it was “male” and the jack was not “female”. Although I could see it was wrong, I tried again. Repeatedly, it would not fit. Finally, I returned the adaptor to its packaging, resigning myself to using batteries instead. This was the reality, after all.
When my oldest son came home from school, he was curious about the new contraption and started investigating. I explained the adaptor situation and he proceeded to remove said adaptor from its box and plug it right into the unit and wall. And my reality was shot. How? I had clear memory of the technical impossibility. I KNEW that plug was “male”; I was absolutely convinced. I had evidence – I thought.
Moments like this—and I’ve had others—amaze me and give me hope. What other unpleasant realities might I be able to overturn? Are ALL the things I am so sure are real, possible candidates for transformation?
I thought back to when I was given the thing. I’d asked about batteries and was a bit concerned (I am not a fan of the battery – although convenient, they do run out and this grates on my cheapness). I remember feeling a bit wary, dubious as to whether there really was an adaptor included. And when I first removed the apparatus, I remember thinking it felt like there was nothing to it, suspiciously lightweight. I found myself doubting it would work.
Maybe those background concerns and negative thoughts set the stage for my perception that the adaptor was no good. Perhaps I had already unconsciously made up my mind it wouldn’t work and so was unable to see how it could - unlike my son whose mind was a virtual clean slate on the subject.
It makes me wonder how many decisions I’ve made ahead of time without realizing it, decisions that have created experiences I don’t particularly want.
For instance, when I first started studying art in college my pre-made decisions had to do with thinking I was not talented. So, in the beginning, when I tried taking a life drawing class, I quit after day one, traumatized. I had stood before the nude model (a striking, muscular man) and a large sheet of paper with a piece of charcoal in my shaking hand, hardly able to breathe. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn, I saw it as a test – a test I was failing. And that was my reality.
Sometime later, I took another art class run by a professor who, as though intuiting the class’s communal fear, announced: “You’re all talented. So forget it!” And that helped me start to change my perception and my reality shifted yet again.
“I reject your reality and substitute it with my own.”
Several years ago, my husband argued we needed to take our car in to be repaired. He said the clutch was “mushy”, that something was wrong with it. But whenever I drove the car, although it might start out soft (if he’d just driven), it would be normal in no time. Back and forth the argument went. And I came to suspect that his frame of mind was some how affecting his experience of the car. I remained committed to my reality and after a while, my reality won out. The clutch stopped being a problem for anyone.
Heresy and hokum you say? Yes, but perhaps, useful heresy and hokum. I have written for many years with many conclusions about myself, my abilities, the speed at which I work, the publishing world, all of which may have given rise to some unwanted realities of their own. Here is an opportunity to return to reality with an open mind, to take a moment and see if our experience might only be the reflection of some pre-made decision. For a new decision can be made at any moment.
“Only in quiet water do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.