Stay, Go. Go, Stay.

Have you ever seen the movie The Man Who Came to Dinner? I’ve never seen it, but I know a Jimmy Durante song from it. It sticks in my head sometimes.

“Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still had the feeling that you wanted to stay,
You knew it was right, wasn’t wrong.
Still you knew you wouldn’t be very long.
Go or stay, stay or go,
Start to go again and change your mind again.
It’s hard to have the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still have the feeling that you wanted to stay.
Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, si, do.
I’ll go.
I’ll stay.”
― Jimmy Durante

I was thinking about it yesterday as it lodged into my brain for what felt like the millionth time. It happens when my brain is fully engaged in two very different emotions: I want to do something, but I also do not want to do something. This song is like a very casual version of my fight or flight response. When my anxiety is really ratcheted up, fight or flight kicks in to high gear and I neither fight nor take flight. I am paralyzed by indecision. My body is flooded with adrenaline, I struggle to keep my breathing measured, I can feel the thumping of my heart in my ears. It is exhausting.

Sometimes though it’s less intense. I’m just holding two ideas, one in each hand, different from each other but related. I look at one hand and think: “This is the one. It makes sense, it’s logical, I know it’s right.” Then I look at the other and think: “But why not this one? It also makes sense, it has many of the same qualities as the other and it might be the better choice.” I cannot have both. Each has merits, each has faults. I want to throw them both into the sun so I don’t have to think about it any more.

We make decisions based on past experiences and that is a good thing because theoretically we are learning from our mistakes. But sometimes those experiences cloud our judgement, they make us think we are making an informed decision when in fact we are making a decision based on fear of pain or additional failure. The greatest lie I tell myself is I only have to fail once to learn my lesson.

In an effort to avoid finishing this post, I did a little internet sleuthing and discovered the reason I know this song is because of an old Dan Aykroyd movie called My Stepmother was an Alien. My brain continues to surprise and mostly delight me.


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