Choose / Loose

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

January, 2018

By this time in January, many resolutions boldly made on New Year’s Day have already been swept into the dustbin of good intentions.

The failure to follow through on anything is part-and-parcel of life, so perhaps “failure” is too harsh a word to describe a year-round reality. Sticking to commitments is certainly a virtue, but resolutions often feel more like a choice we’d like to make rather than a binding pledge.

Still, our journey is filled with locations where the pathway forks and a choice is demanded of us. In my line of work, I commonly hear laments of unrealized hopes and dreams; of choosing a particular road, then spending life staring back in gnawing remorse for what could’ve been. “I never earned my degree.” “I should’ve taken that job, but it felt too risky.”

My advice for those who know such regret was echoed by my late mother-in-law. It’s also the forward-focused perspective I believe God desires for us. Pauline Robertson died two weeks ago at 95, after a lifetime as an award-winning writer, poet, community activist, and champion of feminism and progressive Christianity. Woven into her jam-packed life was the herculean task of raising ten children. Pauline was something of an over-achiever, and I cherish the gift and impact of her life on my own.

In 2002, she was profiled in a book about influential women, “Let Me Tell You What I’ve Learned: Texas Wisewomen Speak,” by P.J. Pierce. In this compilation of sage advice, Pauline offers gems like: “Be passionate. Think big. Generosity is expected. It’s not the size of the gift; it’s the act of giving. Tell the truth. Be fair. Play nice. You won’t always win, but you’ll be able to live with yourself. Make good choices and then make the most of the path you choose.”

But even Pauline was not immune from having regrets. “As I look back on my life, I see things I wanted to do that are still undone. Because I chose another route, I wasn’t able to accomplish those things. Instead of raising ten children and squeezing in my writing when I could, I could have been a full-time writer my whole life. And while that career would have been fulfilling, I would have lost great joy not having my family.”

To put to rest any pangs of remorse, Pauline developed a “Choose/Lose” philosophy. “The premise is when you choose one thing, you lose another. It’s just part of the package; a given. When you choose to pass up an opportunity, you need to truly lose it. Bid that thing goodbye and put it out of your life, or you will be miserable harking back to what might have been. It helps to realize you can’t accomplish everything you’d like to do in this life. If you’ve missed becoming a singer or a scientist, enjoy and celebrate those who have done those things, while appreciating what you have been able to accomplish.”

Pauline will be missed not only as a loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and a woman who gleefully stomped on the accelerator of life. Her legacy for me will be as an exemplar of living life looking forward to all that God makes possible.

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