Decide or Decidir – a small evening thought

by Helen Barker

There’s a word written in chalk across the top of my blackboard, above my computer, that has been looking at me for some time. It was chosen quite at random, but it seems to want to say something tonight. The word is Decide (Decidir in Spanish). It was written as part of my ‘7 words to learn in Spanish’ one week, only I haven’t yet rubbed it out. I know it now, that’s for sure. But tonight I seem to find myself glancing at it and seeing something else.

What is the difference between decide and decidir? Two things: e and ir. Decide and Decidir.

e: The most common of our vowels. According to its etymology, could begun life as a praying human figure.

ir: In Spanish, this is the verb meaning to go.

Two things intrigue and please me about this speculative logic – firstly, that the definition of to decide (decidir) is to do something (To settle conclusively all contention or uncertainty about that something), and that to do something one must actively go (ir) somewhere (move from here to there- make the decision). Secondly, the image of a human figure praying conjures up the very nature of what it is to get to that place – to decide, to go, to decidir – to call, plea and pray in order to make that move forward.

Sometimes in life we find that we get stuck inside a word. Whether we find ourselves in the language of praying or the language of going, we can still feel stuck, unable to unfix ourselves from the etymological root of a decision: unable to cut off (de) our difficulties.

Sometimes we make decisions to move, sometimes we make decisions to dwell. But whether we feel sure of our decision or not, we must make it. One of the most common causes of anxiety in today’s world is the fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision, which is born out of an overwhelming sense of choice. We have more choice about things today that we have ever done. What to wear, who to see, where to live, what job to do, when to do it etc. Go or stay. Move or pray.

But sometimes we move in prayer, or we pray as we move. Sometimes we both decide and decidir. The uncomfortable feeling of being stuck can open up a reliance on something we never knew we had. There’s a rather famous Biblical quote that I am beginning to learn to lean upon: that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. When the way forward seems to crumble into a calm, unsettling blanket of fog, I persevere in order that hope may be produced within me – and the decision, whatever it might be, suddenly seems much smaller and simpler to make. Because although the journeys may differ, both paths have the same ending.