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September 23, 2022

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

It has been said that all stories are just a version of the classic tale The Odyssey written by Homer.

I find myself right in the middle of a journey that is similar to a chapter of that tale of Odysseus, as he finds himself forced to make hard choices.
He approaches 
the narrow waters between two immortal monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. If he sails too close to Scylla, she would suck 6 good men from the bow of his ship. If he chooses  the alternative, Charybdis, he risks his whole ship being taken down by the raging current.

It is believed this is where our modern phrase “stuck between a rock and a hard place” originated.

In the tale, the hero chooses what he considers the best of two evils, Scylla, thereby saving the ship but  sacrificing a few of his men.

As I face my own confrontation with these two monsters, needing to make a choice between two equally terrible and potentially devastating alternatives, I find myself wondering how and why Odysseus made his choices.

His motivation is getting himself home alive, no matter the cost. He was willing to lose the 6 men in order to keep his ship afloat and continue his voyage. Was this a completely selfish act or his basic human right to take care of himself? This is an age old question that asks “Is it better to sacrifice a few to save the many, or is it more noble to take the courageous risk with the possibilities of either winning or losing it all?”

If I choose the raging waters of Charybdis by telling what I know, the whole dynamic of my relationships could change- and possibly not for the better. If I choose Scylla my sacrifice would be my silence, loss of my integrity and possibly the health and welfare of some of those I love. I would, however keep the peace and status quo and sail on.

There are thoughts on the merits of both choices. Some would say it is more noble to sacrifice the few, bargaining with the devil so to speak, for the good of the rest.

The other school of thought , risking it all, says this route takes more courage and hard work with the possibility of great rewards or total devastation. 

I am sharing my own struggle of being caught between my own rock and a hard place with you in hopes that as I put words to paper, I will discover the best way for me in my personal dilemma. As my mind wages war between the choices, I reflect on lessons I have learned to help in making hard decisions.

  1. Slow down or pull over- difficult decisions should never be made in a hurry. Give yourself time to process the choices.
  2. Make a list of pros and cons – it might help you better visualize the direction each choice could take you.
  3. Consult on unbiased source- sometimes a different set of eyes can help you see a clearer picture. Just be sure your source does not have a stake in your choices.
  4. Meditate – clearing your mind and allowing the voices in your head to quiet down will give you clarity.
  5. Journal- writing this all down is already helping me! I feel lighter and more receptive to ideas. 
  6. Research the neutral ground- maybe you don’t have to pick one monster over the other. Maybe you can just dock your ship away from the storm, ask everyone to get off your boat and then turn yourself around and sail away from the drama.

Choices are never easy; especially the rock and a hard place ones. Sometimes the best choice is to make no choice at all! Sail away from the monsters towards calm seas and blue skies. Some might call that the cowards way out- I call it choosing a peaceful life.

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