Following a maze of choices

At the marking points of life when faced with multiple choices — such as at graduation, deciding on a career goal, or during a health crisis — the task of choosing may be daunting. When you are in the position of making important choices with options that all lead to divergent paths, it may feel like being lost in a maze. Especially if one particular path doesn’t stand out, and all avenues seem somewhat attractive.

Recently, I’ve witnessed family members and friends, in the position of trying to weigh out variables and come to the best decisions. In particular, a friend planning end-of-life decisions, and a grandson just about to graduate from high school, because of his own recent choices had one door close, but others open. What relief I am waiting to hear in my friend’s voice when she has all legal papers in place; and when I heard in my grandson’s young-man voice (his parents’ voices, too) after the decision was made right on the sharp edge of college application deadlines.

Although far less important than choosing a path of study, or a trusted advocate and details of a living will, I experience the commitment to choose each time I focus on subject matter for this “Green Flash” column. On the Garden Island, with its calendar of local events combined with calendar happenings and news, this piles into a bushel basket of choices.

The subject of choices and outcomes reminds me of when I was 7 years old, faced with a birthday in bed after a scooter accident and badly torn knee. I received the gift of a book where children start out on an adventure, come to various junctures and signposts, decide which way to turn, which road to follow. As reader, I made the choice, then followed directions to turn to the appropriate page to continue on, and on again. The adventures were interesting, challenging, scary — depending. The time I spent reading during recuperation allowed me to try all approaches, all variables.

For this column, as always, I was faced with many plummy choices: Should I glance back, honor mothers and mothering/nurturing, Mother’s Day? Also, I was stoked on the fact that our community had just been privy to two very fine band and orchestra (free) concerts through the Kauai Community College music program. Or I could write and recapture the magical feeling of “Tapestry” in the Peace Garden of Storybook Theatre, the evening local poets shared original works, and maybe backtrack to May Day is Lei Day, describing the wondrous lei created by island makers exhibited, awarded and auctioned to raise funds for our Kauai Museum (not to speak of the numerous ways May Day is celebrated within local school assemblies.)

Perhaps I should touch on all the gains accomplished in weeding out invasive plants, nurturing areas of our Kokee forest so native plants may flourish, this after a hands-on experience, as part of Ka Imi Institute’s regular “Pa Hula” program partnering with Katie Cassel and associates. (My thinking went that this ties with the important, endangered forest birds program recently headlining local news.)

Looking forward to next weekend, and Armed Forces Day, how about featuring our brave Kauai veterans — the lei and bouquet remembrances regularly seen at the Hanapepe Veterans Memorial Cemetery?

As my deadline loomed, the one thing that insistently surfaced in mind, overlaying all others, was the Kauai celebration of the National Day of Prayer. The fact that our community leaders and citizens commit to a deeper purpose and expression of gratitude, acknowledging things of the spirit, is affirming. On the flip side, the fact that ripples of dissension about “our God” and “their gods” surfacing in published form around this event seem sad for spiritual humanity, especially in Hawaii, where all land as well as beings are considered sacred.

I hesitated. To address this is to tackle one of the no-no topics of death, politics and religion. But, didn’t we learn awhile back that no one person (action) can be liked by everybody, just as many who follow diverse paths learn that “diversity is the most basic principle of creation,” to quote Lynn Maria Laitala in Meditations for Living in Balance.

Consider that “no two snowflakes, blades of grass, or people are alike.” The Greek teaching myth of Narcissus warns us, revealing how Narcissus gazed at his own reflection in the pool, and thinking it real, fell in love with it. How is it, that we may like the idea of diversity, and yet we want the practicality — or comforting assurance — of sameness, even if the reflection is unreal?

There, I wrote it. As one of the United States’ most popular poets, Rumi, “My head is bursting with the joy of the unknown. My heart is expanding a thousand fold.”

One other thing I know is that, once a decision is made, you should never look back and tie yourself to the proverbial whipping post — easy to know, but a challenge to put into practice. One of my husband’s favorite short and pithy maxims, “coulda – woulda – shoulda,” comes to mind. I try to stick with that when second-guessing begins. And here’s the funny thing, in trying to decide the focus today, I look back to see I did, indeed, follow all the possible paths — at least briefly. Now I’m back to square one again, same as a lifetime ago, when I was 7 …


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, regularly instructs on the topics of history and Hawaiian culture for visitors to Kauai through Hawaii Pacific University’s “Road Scholar” program through Pacific Islands Institute. The writer is completing her second memoir, on the Burma of pre- and post-World War II times. She continues as principal/owner of TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations — Kauai under DAWN Enterprises.


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