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Zak of All Trades: Choices, choices, everywhere we turn

April 12, 2013

Some things in our lives are so much a part of us that we forget to realize that they're actually happening around us.

For example, breathing is something that we do constantly, but we tend to forget that we are even doing it until something makes it harder to breathe.

Or, perhaps we could look at blinking. We blink multiple times a minute, and yet, we hardly even realize we're doing it.

Desensitization is a normal, necessary part of life, because if we were fully aware of every single thing that we did, we'd go crazy processing all of these things.

The thought process would go something like this: breath, breath, blink, breath, breath, sniffle, blink, sniffle, breath, blink. And that's just sitting still with a bit of a runny nose!

I'm thankful for desensitization, because I really don't want to sit around thinking about these things.

When I have a sore throat, I have to consciously think about every instance of swallowing because it hurts so darn bad.

I would go nuts — even more so than I already have — if I had to do this all day every day.

The only problem is that desensitization isn't always such a great thing.

Some things that we do habitually are downright bad for us.

Ever known anyone — or maybe you are someone — who is an impulsive smoker?

I know folks who don't even think twice about lighting a cigarette.

It's just a part of their routine.

They've become desensitized to it, and too many cigarettes is definitely a bad thing.

The desensitization there is a bad thing.

How about a compulsive liar? Some folks are so used to lying that they do it impulsively, without even knowing it, and as we all know, lying is bad.

OK. OK. I get it. Everyone knows smoking and lying are bad for us, so of course desensitization to them is obviously a bad thing too, right?

But is desensitization to anything good bad for us?

I've already said that things we get used to doing become the objects of desensitization, and this week it became blatantly obvious to me that there is a positive thing in our lives that can become negative very quickly if we get too desensitized: Choices.

My thought process, as is often the case, started in church last week with the title of the most recent sermon series: Chosen.

The point is that God has chosen us and has a purpose for our lives, but the word "chosen" also stuck out to me.

I started thinking about choices.

Monday morning, I awoke with a favorite line from a poem stuck in my head. It was Robert Frost's line: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

Why that poem was stuck in my head, I have no idea, but it got me thinking about the crossroads we come to in our lives and the choices that we have to make. (Maybe God's preparing me for my latest crossroad. I'm not sure.)

Tuesday afternoon, I stopped into County Market in search of some variety in my diet. I've lately become obsessed with pierogies, and in the frozen foods aisle, I hit the jackpot.

I was greeted with at least a dozen options in the pierogies section.

What a glorious country we live in! And I mean that.

I get to choose between 12 types of pierogies — potato and cheese, mini pierogies, sauerkraut, the options are endless. I get to choose what I want to eat.

The grocery store makes it quite easy to realize just how much a part of our lives choices have become.

Spaghetti sauce? Seven choices — per brand. Potato chips? An entire aisle. Macaroni salad? Grandma's or "Our Very Own?"

In our lives, we literally make hundreds, if not thousands, of choices each and every single day.

But when we desensitize ourselves to the fact that we're making that many choices, we really put ourselves at risk!

If every time I'm faced with a choice between a donut and a handful of pretzels when I'm hungry for a snack, I choose the donut, I'm making choices that are unhealthy for me and are ultimately leading to the problem of being overweight.

If each time I'm faced with a choice between going outside of my comfort zone — as an introvert — to interact with another human being, I choose to stay inside, I become a hermit.

I think we get desensitized to the fact that there is such a thing as a bad choice.

Oftentimes, we think only of the people who end up in super bad binds as bad decision makers, but we all make dumb choices each and every single day.

Maybe it's time — and this is a message I'm preachin' to myself here, too — to start being more aware of the choices we are making and the consequences that they have.

Some decisions, I spend months thinking about and pondering if there are any better options, but when I act impulsively, I make bad decisions and do so quite often.

One of my biggest flaws is that I get too fired up and respond in haste. If I get a nasty email, I fire one right back with more sass than you could possibly imagine.

The other day, we were experiencing some Internet problems at work, and while they were working on the server, one of these emails bounced back to me.

When I read it, I was shocked at how rude I was being. In my haste and frustration, I had sent an email that cool, calm and collected Zak would not have sent.

I re-read the original email, realized it wasn't as biting as I'd initially read and responded with a more appropriate tone when the server was restored.

I wish I had a built-in filter — and not just in my email account — that bounced back all of my bad choices for re-consideration.

Don't you?

Won't you join me in resensitizing ourselves to the fact that we're making choices — and important ones — each and every day and make sure that the decisions we're making aren't made in haste, but rather are made for the benefit of ourselves and those around us — both short- and long-term.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit and chose to wear a red shirt, eat a salad and sing in the car on the way to work today.

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