I have made many decisions in my life, and not all of them have been good choices. The decision to adopt my children was made on the spur of the moment, without any input from anyone else, and after 45 years as a mother, I can say that it was one of the best choices of my life. But, I have also made decisions based on my feelings, such as the fear of being alone, that did not work out well and which left me sad and confused.
So, today, as we continue here in Portugal, I feel that I must use some other more proven means to make this life-changing decision regarding where to live out the last portion of my life. I cannot be vague and unclear; instead, I must be clear and decisive, for I do not want any more regrets at this time in my life.
Decision-making is an art, and, I would argue, that many of us never learn the right way to make a decision. Instead, we go through life by the seat of our pants, making decisions willy-nilly, hoping that everything will turn out fine. But, after a lifetime of doing that, I am ready to change my ways. I plan to use some of the advice I gave my students.
As a professor, one of the aspects of life that I tried to teach my students was that in making decisions regarding who to marry or with whom to cohabitate, examine all the issues involved. First, make a list of the characteristics that you want in a mate, including those traits you simply cannot abide or don’t wish to experience in a relationship. Then, on another sheet of paper, write the pros and cons of being with a particular individual, especially in terms of your lists of acceptable or unacceptable characteristics.
Lastly, take a short trip with them or be sure to go out to dinner with them at least once before the decision is made. In taking a trip with someone, you get to see them out of their comfort zone, and real personality traits tend to come out then. For instance, how does she or he act when getting lost? Are they willing to listen to your comments? How do they treat the people who wait on them, especially women? Do their attitudes make you uncomfortable at all, particularly to what degree do their anger threaten your feelings of safety? These are just a few of the issues that need to be considered. I was speaking from experience.
I once went on a trip with a guy whom I was considering marrying. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that his mother would live with us, but it was not a deal-breaker, per se. He and his mother were football fans, and I was a season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons, so that was a great thing between us. I did have a problem with him wanting to sit next to his mother at the games, but that did not scare me off, because they had a running discussion throughout the games that had developed over time. I liked his mother and I think she liked me, and she wanted to see him married and settled down, as he was nearly age 60. So, when he invited me to travel to see a football game in another state, I was ecstatic, especially as Mama was not coming with us.
When we arrived at the airport, we found that the airlines had overbooked the flight, and that meant that we could not sit together on the flight. That was cool with me and nothing to argue about, because all that was important for me was that we arrived at the same time, but he was livid. Then, on arriving in Tampa, we picked up the rental car and started to the hotel.
He was already mad at the airline, and I kept saying it was no big deal, which seemed to upset him more. As we drove out of the airport, I knew that the hotel was less than 15 minutes away, as I had already mapped the route for us. I saw the exit, and I said to him that we needed to get off the highway, but he decided that the exit was too close. What?! For the next hour he drove through a blinding rainstorm, and nothing I said made a difference. Finally, after getting upset myself, I screamed for him to get off the highway and call the hotel, and he finally did.
They gave us directions from where we were on the highway, and after turning around and heading back the way we came, we saw a sign that said, “Tampa 53 miles! It took more than two hours to get to the hotel from the airport, a trip meant to take less than 20 minutes. I was still okay with him, mainly because many men would have done the same thing. Men simply do not like to be told how to navigate, including the sweet husband I have now. When finally getting checked-in to the hotel, the first thing he did was call his mother. This was a man nearly 60 years old, and that’s when I started to question whether we were a good fit. He explained why he was late calling her, and I heard her say, “I bet you would not listen to her.” So, she knew him well.
After arguing about the amount of alcohol he drank at lunch, followed by his telling me that he did not talk for hours after his team lost a game (and they did), and ending up on the bridge to Tampa Bay with both of us screaming in fear at water on both sides of us because he still would not take directions from me, I knew that the trip was a good thing. It proved to me that we were incompatible. Before the trip, there had been no indications that he was somewhat crazy. Afterwards, we agreed to end the relationship.
When I thought about it, there were signs that the relationship was not healthy for either of us, such as his insistence that I drink alcohol with him, as he hated to drink alone, even as I told him of my fear of becoming an alcoholic like my parents. Also, he displayed many of the cons on my list for a mate, but, I had been overlooking them, just to have a boyfriend. After that trip, I never made that mistake again.
So, over the next 19 days that we are to be here in Portugal, I plan to write down the pros and cons of living overseas. I mean to really list all of the good and bad things that I have witnessed and that others have told us. We have been talking to other ex-pats, mainly people from Britain and South Africa, and they have been very good at relating the good, the bad, and the ugly of living in Portugal. I will examine what I need to feel comfortable at this time of my life and what I simply cannot do without, remembering that there are two of us to consider in this choice.
But, even more important, I will pray and ask God to lead me and guide me in this decision-making process, keeping still so that I can hear him speak through others or in my mind and spirit. It is most important for me to align my heart with God’s will, for I know that He will always lead me in ways that are right for me. Psalm 3:4-5 states, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.” This is too big a decision to make without God’s help and leadership.
Making decisions is hard work, and I do not take it lightly. There is an art to good decision-making, and I have not always used good techniques in making life choices. In the past, I have made some of the most important decisions on feelings and emotions, which I have found is not a good thing at all. Yes, probably my best decision ever was made on the spur of the moment, but even then, I think that somewhere inside of me I knew that the pros of adopting the children far outweighed the cons of allowing them to be split up and raised separate from each other.
I knew deep in my spirit that adopting them was what God wanted for my life, so I never questioned whether I made the right decision. There was nothing vague in that decision, for God made His will known, never even allowing me to dither over it. I am asking Him to do the same thing for me right now. I ask for your prayers for Douglas and me. Thanks in advance.