Decisions Not Taken

Life is sometimes shaped by the decisions you don’t make. At least that was certainly the case for me recently.

A few months ago, while considering how to celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary, my wife and I enquired about taking the family to the location where we spent a couple of weeks on honeymoon in 1996.

That place was the Pacific island of Samoa.

While I didn’t think so at the time, hindsight shows it was good fortune that work responsibilities intervened and the family break had to be put on hold. Had I finalised those arrangements, it is quite likely I wouldn’t be writing this today.

You see, 13 years ago, we stayed at the newly opened Sinalei Resort for 10 wonderful days from 23 September.

Last week, a tsunami destroyed that same resort and a great deal more on a number of Pacific Islands. Of course, resorts can be rebuilt but nothing can bring back the near 200 people confirmed dead in the disaster.

It is a tragedy for the families of those who lost their lives – some holiday makers, but many of them local villagers, all of whom had little or no warning of the events about to unfold.

The memories of Samoa are still etched vividly in my mind.

I recall waking one morning to the gentle tapping and muffled cries of ‘warrior’ as a local villager received his customary tattoos. And being invited to share freshly-caught seafood with a local family in their open-sided ‘fali’.

I also recall meeting an Australian man from Berry in NSW who, over a post-dinner drink, used the word ‘vicissitudes’. At the time I had no idea what it meant and he kindly explained that it referred to changing phases and conditions. He specifically used it to describe some of his experiences during his successful marriage of more than 30 years.

For some reason that word has stayed with me (and my wife) and today, when reflecting on the highs and lows that we all go through, we simply accept that they are a part of ‘the vicissitudes of life’.

This is a particularly important contemplation when one enters public life.

There are many ups and downs that are often exaggerated under the microscope of public scrutiny. In politics there is spin and counter-spin where reality usually lies somewhere in the middle of the competing arguments.

With every policy decision, one can wake up feeling battered and bruised from newspaper reports or joyous at achieving a particular outcome for constituents. It’s all part of the vicissitudes of being a politician.

But sometimes, as I said earlier, life is shaped by the decisions you don’t make. Last week, the devastating tsunami was a stark reminder of just how important some of those circumstances can be.

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