The Curse of Indecision

​I stand in front of the white wooden wall and stare. It is the most daunting piece of crudely painted lumber I have ever seen, overwhelming me with its peeling text and childish, hand-drawn pictures. There are words misspelled and letters missing; only the discolored sketches seem to be totally intact. Squinting, I read each line carefully, as if in preparation for a test of my knowledge. I compare words with their matching drawings. I take one minuscule step forward, just a tad closer, and then with a rush of panic I hear the dreaded words: “Can I help you?”

​On-the-spot decision-making has never been my strongest suit. In fact, my uncanny lack of decisiveness makes enemies of every ice cream scooper I encounter, as well as waitresses, aggressive drivers, people standing behind me in line, and at times even my own mother. I feel the need to overanalyze every situation, create extended pro-con lists, mull over every option for longer than 24 hours, and ask for recommendations and opinions before I decide on things as simple as which flavor of ice cream to get or what to eat for dinner. Spontaneity makes me nervous; impulses are terrifying and irrational. In my mind, choices should be made through the employment of logic and reason, considering and weighing each possible outcome. Choosing involves much more than just what I “feel like”; it involves “should” and requires an answer to “why.”

​I cannot believe that my extensive decision-making process is entirely my fault, however. I remember family road trips as early as the age of six being unbearable because none of us ever wanted to choose where to stop for dinner. When we planned a “family fun day,” no one ever picked a destination. At a restaurant we would force a waiter to take at least three trips to collect all of our complete orders. From the time my brother and I were toddlers, my parents tried to instill in us the decisiveness they lacked, but we were hopeless. The four of us always employ three words when asked our opinions, and those words are “I don’t care.”

​I stand back from the wall for a moment and let the words surround me, swirling a current of choices around my brain. I feel a tightening in my chest, my pulse quickening with tension. My breath catches as the impatient question comes again. “I said, can I help you?” Her fingers are tapping a drumbeat on the sticky counter, matching the thumping of my heart. I have fewer than five seconds to make my choice. The rhythm of the clicking and the drumming and the pounding clouds my senses.

​“You’ve been in line for, like, ten minutes,” the girl says with contempt. “Can I help who’s next?”

​I am shoved off to the side by a crabby man’s elbow, the jolt to my ribs shifting my thoughts away from my dilemma. All these people have been standing in line for just as long as I have, and they seem to have all made a decision. The wide-eyed woman with the toddler clutching her leg is placing a long and difficult order; the sweaty boys’ soccer team is in the process of tackling triple scoop sundaes. It is my last chance to make this choice today, but the decision will be a trivial one. What flavor I decide on won’t matterin the long run, not tomorrow or tonight or even an hour from now. So why can’t I do it?

​I finally step up to the counter, shaking but confident. It’s time to choose something just because I want to. I haven’t weighed every option or asked for every opinion. But for the first time, I’ve listened to my heart. I take a deep breath. “Peanut butter cup sounds good.”



  1. Right on! I wonder if this is what my friends and family go through all the time.

    I have actually never had a problem deciding what I want most of the time; I almost always know what I want. It becomes a problem when you’re with indecisive people that don’t go along with your decisions. If you truly don’t care if I decide what to do and where to go, don’t go shutting it down when you just told me that you don’t care! I feel like I’m constantly making decisions when I’m with family and friends because I happen to be the most decisive (and probably the most particular one) of the bunch. For once, I’d like to be the one not to make the decision… but I will only allow someone to do this that knows me pretty well to make a decision that I’ll agree with. If I’m letting you choose, it’s because:

    1. I’m having that rare moment where I’m too tired to make a decision and I truly don’t know what I want.
    2. I might be visiting you, and you know the area better than I do as well as what I like.

    Being decisive can be just as much of a pain and a burden as being indecisive. It was cool to read about what the other side goes through, though.

    1. I tend to gravitate toward people like you…I love being around people that will choose for me. Mostly because then I don’t have to change my ways. I just need to marry a really decisive person, and I’m golden.

  2. I understand you perfectly, because I am like that, too. The way I overcome is simple. I stick to what I know. So, the first time at a new restaurant may be slow, since I have to study their menu thoroughly to figure out what I want. However, the second time and after, I only have to check out what’s new and decide immediately what to order. The same goes with all other small things in life. It’s a kind of disorder, I believe, but one that’s too small for a doctor to worry about for me. Your memory seems super good, so this trick should work out great for you. Enjoy your life and save your family!

  3. Whoot! Good on you! There is that balance between mind and heart. The heart is innocent and it is pure. It has a soft voice and yes, it can be scary. Scary because you mind goes “What if?” …then what do you do??

    The answer : Get another ice cream after enjoying that Peanut butter cup 😉

      1. 🙂
        I hope my comment did not come across as trivialising what you experience!
        Your writing is so good and the fact that I could actually feel what you felt…made me realise this wasn’t something “normal” for others.

        I did mean what I said though..

        Also, maybe because believing in what I am about to tell you (even though you have clearly stated for you, you are the person that needs evidence and such) comes natural to me…have you ever toyed with the thought of the thought about seeing if this has anything to do with a past life?

  4. I can completely relate to this. I cannot make decisions either. Sometimes I throw out what I don’t feel like having for dinner, but otherwise I’ll make people choose restaurants. I usually try to find out in advance where we’re going so I can read the menu online and do most of my choosing the afternoon before we go. Or maybe the week before. Take your time. Don’t beat yourself up.

  5. Decisions are just so hard, man!
    Just today I was standing in the supermarket in front of the yoghurts and stuff, and I felt so self conscious because I was standing there for ages without getting anything and everyone else just walked up to it, grabs something and is off again. I just don’t get that 😛

  6. I can’t say I blame you with all the decisions we have in frot of us these days. Hell, just going to a restaurant can be daunting! Hang in there..,it gets easier. Probably.
    Eat more ice cream.

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