Though I never left the table hungry as a kid I was never satisfied when my mom served Brussels sprouts for dinner. Mom was a parent who believed in giving her children informed choices. When Brussels sprouts were featured at dinner I was able to practice negotiation skills even though my best efforts got me no place. Each time I got a simple choice – to torture my palate, or leave the table and and skip dessert. I learned to live without dessert.
Perhaps experiencing these existential dilemmas at a young age helped me develop tolerance for multiple outcomes. Struggles viewed in this way are not catastrophes, bad luck, fate, or events of anguish. They are dilemmas of choice. And how we struggle with these dilemmas reveals who we are deep inside. So as I learned to make choices in little dilemmas instead of launching into hysterics or shriveling into self-pity. In essence I developed a belief about my world that everything works out and helps fuel my attitude as I move along.
Did you notice the “attitude” word? May I offer a definition? Attitude is not a smile or a snarl. Attitude is how we automatically respond to situations based upon millions of tiny little realities we have over time constructed for ourselves. How someone wrestles with little dilemmas tells us more about who and what they are than any psychological test or “facts” you might think you “know” about them. Such facts tend to be items that fit into our own constructs of reality and are generally a poor way to size up a person.
Dilemma triggers attitude. Core beliefs fuel attitude. Despite our desire to think we’re in control of all this we usually just go along for the ride.
Political seasons are a smorgasboard of human attitude. I have a taste for political seasons. As I watch the candidates I look at their style of speech, body language, defense mechanisms and, of course, how they struggle. Yes, I am interested in their policy positions, but I have yet to find a candidate whose policy positions are exactly mine. So instead I focus on their attitude. Is their attitude consistent with their stated positions? If so, is their attitude toward the people and constitution of this country one of respect?
Now I face a dilemma. This January 15th I will be served a plate of Brussels sprouts. I get to decide between voting for a candidate with an attitude I distrust whose name is on the ballot or vote “undecided.” Should I vote for “undecided” on the chance enough voters in Michigan will do the same with the hope that, in such a case, the delegates will vote for my choice of candidate whose name is missing?
Is this a catastrophe? Should I become hysterical and rant and rave at the Michigan party leaders for making this silliness happen? Should I fire off angry letters to the Edwards and Obama campaigns? Should I stay home and give up on the political process? Should I weigh the cost/benefit and focus on the benefits of making a choice? Based upon what you know about my own attitude, what do you think I’ll do? What would you do?
Photo credit: MassDistraction