As romance writer, I’m always on the lookout for ways to mess up my characters’ lives. My brother Dick’s rubric of making the hero choose between the competing demands of honor is an example (does Our Hero save the innocent child or his commanding officer?). That’s great grist for the fiction mill.
And it’s really, really no fun when those types of questions hit in real life. Do you keep the baby or give her up for adoption? Do you pull the plug on a marriage that isn’t working, or hang in there for the children? Take an erring spouse back? Take them back the third time? Do you let the woman of your dreams ride out of your life because political views separate you? In real life, we get into situations where all of our options have significant downsides, morally, practically and emotionally.
This is just part of life, but it’s a hard part.
To help me navigate those hard parts, I have Starfleet directives. They range from “don’t make decisions when you’re tired,” to “if you can sit on any decision involving money for 24 hours, then sit on it.” I’m impulsive and generous by nature. If I can recall that last rule, I can be impulsive and generous without also being foolish.
I think we all have these Starfleet directives, and we adopt them for our own sanity. We pay attention to the behaviors that make us feel good about ourselves, and to the ones that don’t. When we spot a pattern, we form a directive. Trouble arises when a directive outlives its usefulness.
As a young woman, I adopted a directive that if you love somebody, you don’t give up on them. I learned how to stick, no matter what. I had to unlearn that one when sticking became dangerous. My brothers would probably say sticking around a long as I did in some relationships was stupid. I’d let them say it, too…. Now.
At present, my directives are few and very general, starting with: Be kind and tell the truth. Pretty elementary-school-playground stuff, but meeting even that simple standard is enough of a challenge that I don’t think I’ll out grow it. I will test it though, because sometimes telling the truth isn’t kind, and sometimes being kind can involve untruths, or at least, silence.
So there are no perfect answers, but knowing what my answers are for now is part of what allows me to go through life with some confidence in my ability to cope with the curve balls. It’s not too great a stretch to say a good Starfleet directive or two can keep me out of a world of unhappiness.
What about you? Any wisdom you keep in your back pocket for when tough choices loom?
To one commenter below, I’ll give a signed Advance Reader’s Copy of “Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight.”