Mindful with Irene (3)

Irene Smit (46), together with Astrid van der Hulst, is the founder of Flow Magazine. Irene lives with her children (9 and 13, co-parenting) in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Each week, she’ll be writing about how various Mindfulness lessons apply in daily life.

A while back, I went to buy a bicycle. I had already almost ordered one online, when my new-love (how long will I call him that?) pointed out that I should really test-drive it first. And of course, even though I knew he was right, I didn’t want to admit it. Because one of the advantages of being divorced is that, nowadays, I can make decisions quickly and—more importantly—in my own way. Before, with my ex, purchases were preceded with endless comparisons and reading consumer reports to find out which product was the best. And then came the research into which shops offered the best price, and then we weren’t sure anymore and so decided to “still think about it some more.” Finally, when we did make the purchase, it never felt that satisfying: it had all taken so much time and effort before anything was bought.

I became aware of that pattern, and how much stress making a decision caused me, in one of my Mindfulness classes, so I resolved henceforth to do things differently. So, when I went to make a “big purchase” by myself for the first time, I did so with great enthusiasm: I googled “wooden floors” and “residence”, wrote down an address, drove to a shop in an industrial estate, and bought a wooden floor. And I felt very satisfied.

Therefore, it was with the same amount of enthusiasm that I trotted off to the bike shop (the closest one that was open on Sunday), but when I got there, I was faced with a dilemma. I tested three bikes, and it turned out that the one I wanted cost 700 euros, whereas I had determined that 600 was my limit. When my attempt to barter the price down failed, I didn’t say, “Well, I’ll just have to think about it some more then;” I invented a new phrase instead: “I need to discuss it at home first.”

It felt weird, because there was nothing to discuss at home, but the guy in the shop knew what the average “co-decider” at home would say: “Why don’t you have a look somewhere else then?” And of course, he wasn’t going to let that happen, was he? So, all of a sudden, he agreed to my offer. I swiped my card through the machine, and made my way home with a contented smile on my face. And as I cycled along on my brand new bike, I contemplated my new insight into making decisions, and how it had worked in my mind and in the mind of the shop assistant.

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Illustration: Marloes de Vries