I Made the Best Decision I Could With the Information Available at the Time

Hannah’s Gift was written by Maria Housden, the story of her daughter Hannah, who was diagnosed with a kidney tumor as a toddler. I read it when it was published in 2002, and it has had a lasting influence on my life. It’s a short and worthy read, if you’re so inclined.

I encountered today’s title phrase for the first time in Hannah’s Gift. It was spoken to Maria by a pediatrician who was also the parent of a child with cancer. He was speaking to the challenge of making decisions as to treatment options and care in such a high stakes environment, where it may seem that each choice will be the one that results in your child surviving her illness, or dying. I can only imagine the pressure a parent would feel, and the imagining that there is, somewhere out there, a “right” answer, the choice that will ensure the desired outcome.

I made the best decision I could with the information available at the time. Wise words for all of us. I have found that when I trust this and work from this perspective, life gets easier. I may still not have my desired outcome, and I may need to revisit the original decision in light of new information, but I find it much easier to bring a curious rather than a blaming approach to the issue. Curious: “What worked, what didn’t, how can I learn from this?  “Blaming: “Somebody (me or outside of me depending on your makeup) screwed up, they are a bad person and they are gonna pay”.

Curiosity allows for learning and growth, recognizes that sometimes honest mistakes occur, and that often there are more components to a problem than initially recognized. What if this is normal, that not everything is controllable or predictable and that unforeseen events and outcomes are not necessarily “terrible”? Curiosity looks at facts: What’s the weather outside? Sunny and 40 degrees F. Blame/shame finds fault with the fact, or the bearer of the fact: “Its too cold for golf, you ruined my day”. There’s a phrase around this, too: Don’t blame the thermometer for the temperature.

The temperature is the fact, the meaning or emotion you have around it is an opinion. You can make the best decision you can with that information. For me, 40 and sunny might mean a lovely morning for a walk, and that my light gloves and ear band will be useful. For someone else, their response could be “too cold for me, I’ll walk at noon”. Same fact, two different interpretations. What happens after that decision point is another story.

Maria Housden’s original opinion when Hannah got sick was that this was a horrible thing. On one level, it was. Very few parents will be cheerful when their child is gravely ill. As the title of her book suggest, she came to recognize that Hannah, even with her illness, was a huge gift in her life, providing the opportunity to learn and grow on a very deep level. Hannah’s illness and short life was life-changing for many, including me. Facts are important, and what we do with those facts may be even more important.


Words Along the Way: This is an intermittent series in which I will explore various phrases that have had meaning for me on my own journey through life.

8 thoughts on “I Made the Best Decision I Could With the Information Available at the Time

  1. It’s very difficult to understand that a fact has no emotional content. I was lucky in my father who was a scientist and who had MS. Until the last few years of his life he countered despair with curiosity.

    Speaking of facts, if you wanted to you, you could go take a hike at Mission Trails. It’s the most beautiful season there now. The wild lilac might be blooming — thousands of purple bushes. I never understood why people didn’t go look at that the way we look at aspen. Also, the visitor’s center there is amazing. The visitor’s center at the Garden of the Gods was influenced by it. There is also a famous historical site — a dam built during the Spaniard times, and leading to it is a wheel-chair accessible, guided interpretive walkway that I designed and raised the money for.The first ranger of the park and I came up with the idea — he in honor of his aunt who raised him and who had MS and me in honor of my dad. Mission Trails is REAL San Diego landscape and ecology. http://mtrp.org

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So sorry I didn’t make it this time, Martha. With any luck, there will be a next. What a lovely way of honoring your relatives and their journeys with MS. One of my brothers has it, too. And BA’s sister worked for the WI state park system on accessibility issues for years. Many connections

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What always bothers me is when the decision I made was NOT the best one I could have made given the data available. I want to think I always did my best, but I think it’s not quite true. Mostly I did, but sometimes … I didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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