Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Impossible Decisions

Last weekend was the first real summery weather we’ve had. It was sunny and warm, lilacs exploding with scent, and blossoming trees heavy with flowers. And then, someone I know- a close friend of a heart-sister- had a massive stroke. In the blink of an eye, life as she knew it- filled with loving family and friends, an exciting new business and seemingly boundless energy- changed. She is on life support. There is brain damage. Doctors are waiting to see what happens next. There will probably be some hard decisions for her family to make. A couple of weeks ago I sat with another woman I admire deeply. Some routine medical tests revealed that she has a brain aneurysm. Doctors want to operate. If they don’t and the aneurysm bursts, she will likely die. But surgery will impact the brain in unpredictable ways. And I think to myself, “We don’t have what we need to make these kinds of decisions!” And yet, there is no one else to make them. The truth is, we can never know all the variables that deeply effect our lives and the lives of those we love. Part of me would like to have a chat Whomever-Is-In-Charge, would like to lodge a complaint: We are not equipped for this kind of responsibility! There is so much we don’t control and cannot know. There are real limits to life as a physical being: blood damages the brain. And yet, sometimes people recover when doctors thought it was impossible, and ongoing research is expanding our knowledge of many areas including neuroplasticity. Our impulse to hold on to life and each other is rooted in our very being. And yet, I think of my father before he died of Alzheimer’s. Over and over, in rare moments of lucidity and in the fog of his confusion he begged me to help him die, to help him escape the daily hell that Alzheimer's was for him. The best I could do for him was to ensure he did not get medical treatments that would prolong his life. How are we supposed to make these decisions that so profoundly impact our lives, when we don’t have all the information, don’t know what is truly possible or impossible. . . . when we would give our lives to help someone we love? But that is not what is asked of us. What is asked is something much harder. What is asked is that we do what we can with what we have to work with- incomplete information, few certainties, limited perception and aching hearts. Some of us have spiritual practices that help us feel held by something larger. Some of us do not.

We do the best we can with what we have. 

Often we stumble in confusion and anguish. Sometimes we are alone with our choices. Hopefully, more often we are held in the arms, hearts and prayers of others. I am in awe of how we do what has to be done, how we make impossible choices, how we hold each other in tenderness.
Last weekend- as is true every day on this beautiful planet we share- some people struggled with life and death decisions; some people had the life they knew changed forever; some people faced unexpected heartbreak and hard choices. 
And still the lilacs explode with scent, and blossoming trees are heavy with flowers.

~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016

Photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming


  1. The Invitation has accompanied me for many years and has again bubbled to the surface, leading me to this post. And the words instantly found a home, sounding a chord with all that i've lived and felt...Thank you.

  2. Oriah, This is so incredibly insightful and tender. I often find myself ill equipped to make big decisions that affect the lives of others. As you said, we can only do what we can do. I pray, offer the situation to spirit, and with uncertainty make a choice and trust whatever happens is for our highest and best.

    1. Thank you Brenda. And yes, acting from love and letting go with trust is the best we can do.

  3. Dear Oriah, here is María from Spain again. I am reading The Dance for a second time, it seems to me that I read the words of the wise woman that lives in me when I am open to see her.
    Reading other spiritual teachers I learnt we cannot control anything, therefore I abandon myself in the Trust (Confianza), knowing that I am being held and support everyday of my life. I am ready to leave if it is the time and I am also ready to stay and live as fully as I can.
    I published a couple of posts in my blog about you and people ask me where to get your books. They are not available in Spanish anymore, I wanted to ask you how we can fix this, because I would have to give up my job to translate all the beautiful things you have written.
    Please, how can we get your books in Spanish?
    If you ever get a chance to come to are more than welcome in my house. I live in the Pyrenees.
    Much love and support to you and your friends.

    1. Maria, the translated version of the books was done by a publisher who bought the rights from Harper Collins. If they have stopped publishing the book(s) there is very little we can do- except perhaps appeal to that publisher for reprinting. The Spanish translator/publisher was Ediciones Urano. Sorry I cannot be of more help. oriah