Yesterday, I went to the drugstore to buy some Ben Gay.
I imagine most of you have seen this ointment with a distinct odor sometime in your life. My mother used it on me as a child, I used it on my children and now I use it on some of my arthritic aches and pains.
It took me at least 10 minutes to find the Ben Gay. It was surrounded by no less then 50 other preparations for pain. They ranged from semi-hot to really hot to hot that also could get cold. Then there were the ones that lasted from four to 24 hours. Patches have become a big item. They come in all sizes and widths—anywhere from petite to extra large. So if you start out heavy with pain, you can get thinner knowing you can find a patch that will fit you.
The point is, what's the point? Why does choosing something have to be such a burden? And why do we need to have so many choices?
You could answer that you can ignore everything offered and just get what you set out to buy. Logically, it makes sense to ignore unwanted options. However, it isn't psychologically true. Too much of a good thing can create a lot of dissatisfaction. It forces you to put extra time and effort into making decisions about trivial things.
Even the simplest things become a problem. Water can now be bought with added vitamins or supposed metabolic enhancers.
Restaurants have so many different items on the menu that you grow older while you're choosing. And then the waiter gives you the specials, which go on and on and on, and then you have to choose.
If you're anything like me, you feel like you've missed out on something that might have been better. Or you're thinking that what you've chosen had better live up to your expectations.
What if the Ben Gay doesn't do the job and some other concoction just one shelf a way would have been better? What if the prime rib weathered in a Tibetan smokehouse for 30 years isn't as good as the Maine elk and fingerling potatoes from London that the waiter said was his favorite.
Expectations can get so high that no result will meet them, no matter how good it is. You wind up blaming yourself for the choice you made.
Maybe it's time for all of us to start practicing knowing when enough is good enough, and to know that when you finally choose something and it's okay, you now have a lot more time to feel content rather than frustrated.
Published on July 15, 2003