Choosing Teakettles

1. I can never decide about things, really. Every choice feels bigger than it is. For instance, the choice between staying at home, in the garden, reading a book in a the sunshine, or going for a walk along the river, meeting friends and having a cider. Two good options. But as the afternoon cools in preparation for night they both become less good, less ripe; at the centre they start to have the stench of missed opportunity. I spend so much time not deciding that it is often like running and running down a funnel, everything always narrowing, until one day, I suppose, I will wake up and my life will simply be what it is, and there will be no other option.

So choice starts to seem impossible, because it starts to seem so impossibly important. Even to buy a teakettle becomes an arduous exercise, a prolonged ordeal that ends with the purchase of the shiny red one I knew at the start I wanted. But in the hours between deciding emotionally and deciding actually, I trawl through hundreds of options on Amazon: stovetop kettles, electric kettles, electric kettles made to look like stovetop kettles, stovetop kettles made to look like electric kettles, electric kettles that change colour when the water has boiled, electric kettles that double as a washer/dryer, stovetop kettles that are actually time machines. I read reviews of teakettles (reviews. of teakettles.) and discover, for instance, that certain of the stovetop variety are deemed to be clunky and even dangerous. And I am swayed by colour and capacity but also by something harder to categorise: I imagine what this kettle that I might decide to buy says about who I am and the kind of life I have built for myself, I try to choose based on how closely it matches with how I would like to imagine my life looks from afar. I discover it is difficult to imbue a teakettle with so much meaning. But I try my best anyway.


Perhaps it's because I find it easier to commit in a broader, Romantic Comedy sense. I do not really find it that difficult to say to someone that I want to be with him for ever, that I want a life together, a family, a future, because I do not really overthink that sort of thing, it's probably the only thing, in fact, that I do not overthink. But I cannot be that intuitive or impulsive when it comes to committing to anything else. I spend literally months agonising about whether or not to buy a certain pair of boots and then one day I suddenly do buy them and I am instantly unsure again, though it doesn't matter anyway because the purchase is not reversible.

But anyway the issue is never actually do I really want this? It's always but is there something better out there? Would I find that something better if I just waited?


It's like my book. Would I find the perfect structure for it if I waited a little longer? I have been thinking that for several years now; I could go on thinking it for several years more, or for forever, and let the project languish simply because of the possibility that there is a possibility it could be better another way.


Then there's the fact of things moving ceaselessly and constantly forward. It's so easy to feel left behind, even while you yourself are also moving forward, getting older. Things only ever happen in the same order - in the order they're happening, in fact. But they also don't stop. They don't wait. And I hate to be rushed. I often want to pause everything for a few hours while I catch up. But you can't do that, and everything of course goes on going forward (irreversibly) - "...till there's no time left. That's what time means," as Tom Stoppard's Valentine Coverly says.


There's this book sitting on my bedside table (it's not particularly significant, there are eighteen books on my bedside table) called What Now? It's by Ann Patchett, who supposedly "offers hope and inspiration for anyone at a crossroads" (it's based on a commencement address she gave at Sarah Lawrence College), and I think my mother gave it to me after I graduated from college, but I'm not sure I want to read it; it seems to promise not answers, but more questions, in the guise of "opportunity". And sometimes I'm not sure I actually want to see the opportunity in "what now". Sometimes I think I just want to be able to buy a teakettle without having a complex emotional reaction to the shape of its handle and what it means in relation to my life.