When I was younger, a cherubic faced high school lass, I made the fateful decision to let my sister’s friend perm my hair. I believe the term that was bandied about was ‘body wave’ but let’s be real, it was a perm. I wanted full hair, wavy and luxurious hair, like I had just taken out beer can sized hot rollers. Instead, I got a head full of Shirley Temple curls that I had no clue how to style or care for. I got a head full of trouble.
Was that perm a bad decision? Well, yeah. Any fool looking at my senior portrait could see that, But the real answer is no. It wasn’t a bad decision because, while there is such a thing as a hard lesson, there really is no such thing as a bad decision.
It’s chilly this morning. I usually spend my mornings writing while sitting on my porch, but not this morning. The sky is grey and the wind whips up every now and again just to remind us all who’s boss. This is all thanks to Hurricane Irma, or what’s left of her. The storm that swallowed an entire state is making her presence known all the way up here.
Irma had everyone in the state of Florida on their toes and kept me obsessively watching The Weather Channel for a solid week. One day I was fearing for the possible demise of all my east coast friends. The next I was panicked that my daughter would be in trouble. At one point, we were even in the dreaded cone of error.
As her path wobbled and swayed, so did my emotions. I offered up our home to any of our Florida loved ones as a place of refuge should they need to evacuate. Leaving was not an easy solution for so many, as gas was hard to come by and the gridlock on the only two major roads out of the state grew ever tighter with each passing hour. The decision to stay was essentially made for them.
Our daughter is in college at the top of the state, she’s practically in Georgia. For her, the decision to get out could be made at the last minute. She had many routes out and gas was in abundance in the neighboring states. Every single day we had a new plan. Board up and stay. Just get the hell outta there. I think you’ll be fine. It’s only supposed to skirt you. If it goes into the gulf, you’re fucked. You can come if you want no matter what.
In the end, when it was predicted Irma’s eye was headed squarely for her with possible Category 2 winds, we all thought it best if she just came up here. She spent the rest of the afternoon boarding up and left early the next morning as Irma battered The Keys and Miami. Having her, her roommate, and her cat come here was the right decision.
They arrived, after a nine hour car trip, exhausted and hungry. The cat had a bloodied paw from a torn claw. Since my cat and her cat DO NOT get along, we had to sequester our evacuees into the back part of the apartment. There are people scattered here and there, on couches, in beds, on chairs. The cats are not amused. My son lost his ‘man cave’. My daughter’s roommate has broken out in hives from being in such close contact with both cats. And, turns out, Irma won’t be much more than a tropical storm when she reaches our daughter’s place.
Having her, her roommate, and her cat come here was still the right decision.
Hurricanes teach us all a great lesson. Predicting their paths is not an exact science, so you take a calculated risk no matter what choice you make. I know people who evacuated to the west coast of Florida at the time Irma was predicted to make landfall on the east coast as a Category 5 who saw much worse conditions than had they stayed. I’ve done the exact same thing. I’ve also stayed when I spent 24 long stormy hours wishing I had left.
Just before my daughter arrived, in a flurry of hurricane induced anxiety, I decided to get our aquarium up and running again. It’s been a long 6 months without the sound of running water and the serene sight of fish doing laps. It took a lot of trips with a five gallon bucket, back and forth from the sink to the aquarium. No matter how many times my husband offered help, I wanted to do it all by myself.
It’s the fight I’ve had with myself every single day since I woke up from my surgery. It’s a battle I wage with my ego, even though I know any scrap with that foe is a futile one. The minute you make the decision to take it on, you’ve already lost. My back will tell you all about it once the spasms stop and I can get it out of bed.
My body is broken. It will never be the same. I am still learning that. I am a perpetual student in the lesson of acceptance. My heart is big, but my head is hard. Every day I say I’m ok with how things went is often followed by a deep ache for how things once were. I want my body back. I want the curve on my hip that was replaced with hollowness. I want to move without restriction. I want to contribute without repercussions. I want to go back and do it all over again, make the right decision. But I can’t.
No matter how many times I think I made the wrong decision, I have to remind myself I made a decision, one that was right even if it was wrong. While there is such a thing as a hard lesson, there is no such thing as a bad decision.
My perm grew out sometime mid-senior year and I grew to love the same straight hair I wanted so desperately to change. The fish tank looks great, if I do say so myself, and I’m happy to have it running again. My daughter may or may not evacuate during the next storm, but whatever decision she makes will be formed upon what she learned during the last storm. That decision will be the right one too.
My back is on the mend. The pain went from excruciating to tolerable in shorter time than it took Irma to make her way up the entire state of Florida. I’ve learned how best to treat the spasms from all the many questionable decisions I’ve made. My leg is forever scarred and will always be a challenge. Some days are better than others. Today just so happened to be less better than the others.
I’ll likely spend a lifetime swaying back and forth between guilt and acceptance when it comes to my decision to have surgery. I’ll say I’m great, so happy to have learned all I did, and then move the wrong way or push myself too hard and be bedridden for days. That’s when I’ll damn myself and wish to take it all back. It’s a process, which sounds like the most absolute bullshit platitude of all time, but it’s the truth.
While there is such a thing as a hard lesson, there is no such thing as a bad decision, and it’s okay if it takes you a long while to reach that conclusion. If it makes you feel any better, I’m taking a long while too.