Panic and Decision Making

Panic and Decision Making

We had a nasty life lesson at our home recently. The girls and I went outside to the garage and noticed a female cardinal sitting on a shelf. We’ve been feeding a stray cat and my guess is that the bird saw free vittles on the ground and swooped in for a bite. Something spooked her and she bolted inside the garage. Once there, her instinct to fly up and away worked against her and she was stuck. Every time she fluttered to make an escape, she ended up on the ceiling. We tried to be quiet but it didn’t help: she started flying like a crazed pinball until she went headlong straight into a beam that drops down in the middle of the room. In a sputtering of feathers, she fell to the floor with a broken neck. We rushed to her rescue to no avail. She was alive for seconds and expired in my hands. We buried her and hoped that she had many chicks to carry on her life.

One of the girls asked why she just didn’t fly right out? The door is right there and takes up a whole wall? But the cardinal couldn’t see it. She’s not made to see her way out of a box or a door. Her entire evolutionary past was forged in open fields where up-and-away solves almost every problem. So she panicked. And who of us makes good decisions when we panic? It’s why we think about things beforehand. It’s why businesses run drills. It’s why you talk to your kids about what to do in case of a fire. It’s why we write wills.

So stop. Take a deep breath or three. There might be hell to pay with whatever decision you make but things will get better. Make your decision. Then move on.

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