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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

WHY LIFE IS A PARADE! (Of Bad Decisions)

Last weekend my son and I went to the Newport St. Patrick’s Day parade with some friends of ours, a tradition now four years strong.  We all enjoy it tremendously, especially cutting out early to avoid traffic and hit a cozy pub for lunch.  But other people are frequently amazed when we disclose this particular outing; the question everyone asks is, “You bring your kid to THAT???”  Or as one person succinctly put it, “You just know some girl is going to show you her boobs”.  HA! 

In three years’ time, I have yet to see a boob (well, not as an anatomical feature, anyhow) but I have certainly seen all kinds of questionable things.  Like people drinking and/or drunk at 11 o’clock in the morning.  Pretty much every variety of bad attire, including the skimpiest of outfits in sub-freezing weather.  And of course, profanity abounds.  I am personally a fan of profanity; however, not everyone shares my passion for it and I get that. 

But you know what else they have?  Bagpipe players and clowns and fire trucks and dogs dyed green and Irish dancers and marching bands and the WORLD’S BIGGEST LEPRACHAUN…just for starters!  The kids have a blast while the adults can enjoy a sideshow of, as my friend Ryan put it, “the parade of bad decisions.”

I love that and Ryan should have gotten a copyright on it before I stole it right out from under his nose! 

It was a great line, especially under the circumstances, but also a great description of life as we know it.  The parade of bad decisions!  I’ve already made a few today, how about you?  The thing is, the majority of us actually make mostly good decisions on a regular basis, with a few bad decisions thrown in to pepper the pot, as it were.  Keeps things spicy, you know? 

We get mad at ourselves when we make bad decisions, but truthfully most of my very best stories have come out of the consequences of some bad decision or another I have made.  Good decisions aren’t terribly interesting and tend to have predictable results.  Bad decisions, on the other hand, are the wild card…probably 99% of our entertainment comes from watching, reading or listening to someone sing about their own bad decisions.  Think about it.
For example, who doesn’t love the “awkward family photos”?  Man, some of those are just priceless!  And the reason we all love them isn’t necessarily because we are “making fun” of the subjects (Although sometimes we are.  I mean, come on!) but more because we self-recognize and are laughing at ourselves.  Who does NOT have awkward family photos?  Ask my brother, the whitest man alive, how he feels about the photographic evidence of his 70’s era fro/perm.  Ask me how I feel about the photographic evidence of my entire adolescence! 

Or how about the problem of the “ex pictures”?  You know, big, happy group shots except for that guy you are all so super psyched is finally divorced out of the family?  My cousin had a creative solution:  a black dot of gorilla tape covering just the face of the offender in each picture.  Ha!!  Seriously brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

Bad decisions are a part of daily life.  Sometimes they are BIG bad decisions and they have far reaching consequences we regret; more often they are small bad decisions that result in indigestion or some embarrassment or frustration.  But big or small, there is a degree to which they are unavoidable.  And a larger degree to which they are beneficial.  Other people’s bad decisions help us practice compassion; our own bad decisions teach us both healthy humility and guide us toward making better decisions in the future. 

Even that person you know, the one you describe as a “train wreck” because of their seeming inability to make a single GOOD decision is contributing somehow to a greater purpose.  As the old joke goes, “Sometimes your life is lived simply as a warning to others”.  Our aim cannot be to never make another bad decision; that would be impossible.  Also: impossibly boring.  Our aim must be to decide what it is we are going to do next.
You ate too much cake?  What do you do next?  Say “the hell with it” and polish off a box of Cap’n Crunch...or go for a walk?  You dated (or married) the “wrong” guy?  What do you do next?  Moan about it until everyone on the planet knows you see yourself as a victim of your decision, or own it and grow stronger?  You took the “wrong” job, moved to the “wrong” place, went to the “wrong” school, were born into the “wrong” family???  WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT? 

The power of your decision is your freedom.  Every day we have a full buffet of decisions to make, and if most of them are healthy you can afford a little dessert.  Your worst decisions can lead to your greatest discoveries, if you let them.  You will know yourself more honestly, more completely and in the most empowering way possible if you own your mistakes and look for the silver lining.  If you decide that WHAT YOU DO NEXT will be a game changer.  So enjoy the parade!  Even the creepy clowns!  There is always a pony there, somewhere.



  1. So I know that this is not really your central point here, but I have to ask anyway:
    What, exactly, do your acquaintances think would be so terrible about your son seeing "some girls' boobs"? Nudity is natural, breasts are beautiful, and children are not morons. They will not break in half if they see breasts.

  2. Loving it! I've definitely had my days of being a warning to others;) YAY profanity!!!

  3. I love your perspective, the stories, and the quotes. Like this one: “Sometimes your life is lived simply as a warning to others." I'll never stop wanting to get it right. It's my strength and my burden. The one who loved me best joked that they would put on my gravestone, "She tried REALLY hard."