What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
2010 did not, and does not, even after some separation and reflection, feel like a very wise year. A hard year? Yes. A stubborn year? Most definitely. (The stubborn nature of the year is most likely what also made it hard, but try telling a stubborn person that. Just try.) So I suppose, given this, the fact that I eventually made the decision to leave Scotland and come back to Canada — to turn away from the hardship and give in — ranks as the wisest decision of the year.
But see — it still doesn’t feel like much of a decision, insofar as I feel like decisions tend to be autonomous, fully participatory things. I did not decide to move back to Canada because I wanted to. I merely acknowledged the fact that staying in Scotland had become too hard, and faced up to the knowledge that my visa was set to expire on the 18th of November, I couldn’t afford to pay for a visa extension, and I wasn’t even making enough at my job to qualify for a visa extension anyway. I did not decide to leave Scotland — I had no choice. My gut reaction to this — keeping in mind that my gut reactions as regards Reverb 10 have so far mostly turned out to be wrong — is to say that following the only path available to you at a given point in time isn’t really making any kind of choice. Isn’t really exercising any wisdom. Animals do this. An animal, when faced with enough of an obstacle, will turn around and go back the way it came.
Now. Here’s where wisdom — or that wry little inner voice that an acquaintance once pointed out as being a good sign of maturity — starts to kick in. In her wonderful memoir, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about a moment of sheer despair she experienced on her bathroom floor. A moment black and utterly deep. A moment when she literally had nothing else left to her but the knowledge that her life couldn’t continue as it was. She didn’t know what she could do to fix it — she only knew that there was a barrier in front of her that resisted any and all types of climb. And that, according to Gilbert, is when she first heard the voice of God. And what did the voice of God have to say? Go back to bed, Liz.
I laughed when I read that. And then, when I read what followed, I stopped laughing.
[T]he voice said, ‘Go back to bed, Liz’ … [and] it was so immediately clear that this was the only thing to do. I would not have accepted any other answer. I would not have trusted a great booming voice that said You Must Divorce Your Husband!, or You Must Not Divorce Your Husband!, because that’s not true wisdom. True wisdom gives the only possible answer at any given moment, and that night, going back to bed was the only possible answer. Go back to bed, said this omniscient inner voice, because you don’t need to know the final answer right now, at three o’ clock in the morning on a Thursday in November.
And so. And so. If we accept the possibility that there might be a God (and I, for one, believe very strongly in that possibility, so much so that it is part of the reality that is me), then it stands to reason that that God, being somewhat bigger than we are, is also somewhat wiser. And if, as Gilbert states, the true voice of God gives you the only course of action available to you in moments of duress, then perhaps it also stands to reason that my (eventual) acknowledgment of the unsustainability of Scotland was in fact the wisdom/voice of God, as leaving Scotland and coming back to Canada was really my only option, aside from finding a bonny Scottish lad and getting myself hitched tout de suite. (I found the bonny Scottish lad. He had a girlfriend. Option? Not so much.) And if that truly was the voice of God speaking through my frustration and my despair, then maybe … just maybe … my “decision” to leave Scotland was in fact not just a wise decision for 2010, but in fact, the wisest decision of my life so far.
Maybe it was, like, the wisest decision that I’ll ever make. The wisest decision of my life!
Of course, now I’m unemployed and deeper in debt than I was when I moved to Scotland 3.5 years ago. Living with my parents, at the grand old age of twenty-eight. Sleeping in my sister’s room. Going slowly mad from cabin fever, and trying to revise this gosh darned novel. It could definitely be so much worse, but in many ways it could also be so much better. Some days I think all that decision did for me was to swap the stress of paying rent for the stress of Figuring It All Out. Rent, at the very least, does not change. Rent needs to be paid on the same day of every month. Figuring It All Out, on the other hand, can happen at any time, over any length of time, and doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll emerge with your soul intact. At least when you pay rent you know you’ll have somewhere to sleep at night.
Anyway. Tonight I’m well fed and feeling productive after what I hope (I really, really hope) was a good day of revising. The dog loves me. My parents love me. And God has a Twitter account.
Maybe wisdom doesn’t show its face right away. Maybe wisdom unveils slowly, like a season. Maybe, in a year’s time, I’ll recognize that moment of realizing that Scotland was unsustainable as a true moment of calm and insight. It still doesn’t feel like it, not really — but I’ll get there eventually, I’m sure.