I sat in a psycho-education group, a class full of women. It was a rare day on which the class was being taught by a man. He was talking about choices. He told of a friend who had been raped. In talking to her, he'd said that she'd chosen to be raped.
The room went silent. I felt several women around me bristle. I felt myself bristle. But I knew this man. I knew he had a good heart and a wise mind. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and listen to what he had to say. I was hoping he'd give me something to grab onto so that I could comment and clarify what he'd really meant to say to the group.
He'd said that she'd had a moment when she knew that if she didn't allow the rape she would be killed. That she'd chosen life over death in the only way available to her in that moment. It was about the power of knowing that we have choices even when we think we don't. It was about not letting ourselves think of ourselves as victims forever.
This is an extreme case, to be sure. And, choice or not, I don't think I would ever say that she chose to be raped. I would say that she chose to survive.
Maybe our burdens are large. Maybe they are small. We don't choose which burdens enter our lives -- but we do choose which ones stay.
I offer a couple of mine as an example.
I did not choose to get a headache that would last forever, nearly five years so far. But I have chosen what to do about it. I did everything I could to treat it. And by making other choices, I choose to keep it. I could choose to be heavily medicated all the time so that I can't be a mother and wife and friend. I could even kill myself. Both of these are options. But they are not options I like. I would rather keep the pain and enjoy my life.
I did not choose for my husband to leave our faith. Having him leave the church was incredibly difficult. And living with someone of a different faith is tough every day. For both of us. I could divorce him. But that is not an option I like. So we stay together. He's too important to me and my children. He's my best friend. It's a lot of work trying to figure out how to respect each other and be true to ourselves, but it's worth it to me. I would rather argue about it every so often than not have him in my life.
I am not a victim of my life.
Every day I choose to keep burdens. We all do. Maybe it's weight. Maybe it's where we live. Maybe it's our job. If there is something that feels like a burden, ask yourself why you keep it.
Maybe you don't like the other options. Maybe the other options seem harder than just keeping what you've got. Maybe you don't see the other options. But there is always another option.
Knowing that I have a choice is empowering. It's not something I've always known. But it's something I've always had.