Deciding to Accept My Indecision

Discovering strength in ambivalence

Vivian McInerny
6 min readDec 9, 2022


Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash

I walked barefoot along the water’s edge where the sand and the sea and the sky blurred to gray. Cracked crab shells and jelly fish littered the beach. I kept my focus on my feet but sensed a slick dark figure bobbing in the breakers; a body surfer in a wetsuit, I figured. I turned to look. Muted light on the waves bounced and rolled like pewter coins. I shaded my eyes.

“Hey,” a stranger on the beach called to me. “Do you know you have a seal following you?”

“Yes,” I said, though that became true only as I said it.

The seal raised herself from the water then, head, neck, and sloped shoulders bared. Her eyes, wide set and watery black, stared straight into my own.

My husband jokes that I am part selkie. In Celtic legend, selkies are curious seals cursed to live as humans. Or sometimes they are described as fallen angels condemned to live as seals. The mythology is fluid. But the recurring theme is of a tortured soul torn between two worlds, unable to settle in either.

In one tale, an emotionally detached young mother spends hours staring longingly at the Irish sea while her neglected brood run wild. The children discover an old trunk and, inside, a shiny seal skin. They present the found treasure to their mother who wraps herself in it, kisses each child goodnight, and is never heard from again. But every so often the children spot a seal with eerily familiar eyes staring longingly at them upon the shore.

Some people know their place in this world. Whether they stay put, follow a clearly marked trail, or forge ahead on their own, they have total confidence in their coordinates. They feel certain.

I envy them. It seems wherever I am — physically, personally, professionally — I feel ambivalent. It’s not a bland wishy-washy, meh, whatever, feeling. It’s a heart-wrenching internal tug-o-war between yes and no, high and low, stay and go. I am unsettled.

The selkie is practically my patron saint.

The man on the beach said he’d heard of tales of seals following people but he’d never seen it before.



Vivian McInerny

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.