Wednesday, February 17

‘Whenever we need to make a very important decision it is best to trust our instincts, because reason usually tries to remove us from our dream, saying that the time is not yet right. Reason is afraid of defeat, but intuition enjoys life and its challenges.’ Paulo Coelho

Ah, it’s been a while. Let’s see if I remember how to do this.

I came across this quote last night and fell in love with it, especially in light of some recent decision making I’ve had to do. I’ll try to provide some brief background to put some of this in context.

I’ve mentioned before that, about a year ago now, I quit my ‘good, solid career’ at a casino in Alberta, sold or gave away almost everything I owned (except the laptop, climbing gear and the library, of course), and took a job care-taking a remote ski lodge for the summer and fall. I did this so that I could finally, finally, finally write the novel I’ve been putting off for, oh, the last dozen years or so (145,000 words and counting, so it’s at least really long).

It’s been a liberating experience in far too many ways to start listing here, one of which is that I’ve had the time and freedom to start listening to my intuition again; to start paying attention to the intrinsic me that I’d effectively buried under the excuses of being too busy, too successful, too focused, too material and too completely unhappy with all of the above. I chose to pursue being a ‘me’ that I preferred to the one I’d been living as for the previous decade, even though that ‘me’ was only hypothetical then, a distant memory of me that I kept polished on a shelf like an old trophy.

I should say first that I’m a fan of using a reasonable logic tree to make decisions and always have been. My brain works fairly well most of the time, and I enjoy the process of turning the Rubik’s cube of a problem around in my hands for a while so I can really know all of the sides before I start. What I’ve started to notice and appreciate this year, more than ever before, is that I usually come back to my instinctual preference in the end anyway. And while it could be argued that I’m engaging in self-fulfilling prophecy, the logical part of me double checks for that too, so I think I’m being relatively accurate.

Rarely in life do we come across a hard decision that is clear cut or black and white. They usually involve permutations and dynamics that leave us with a choice to make, and usually a hard one commensurate to the nature of the problem we are facing. The pros and cons sometimes just don’t reveal a strong enough advantage for either option to make the decision easy. But I’d relied too much on the ability to reason to make decisions for the first ten years of the 21st century. My reason and the accepted measures of North American consumerist culture had conspired to lead me into a string of decisions that looked good on my CV and revenue stream, but were making me unhappy, unfulfilled, a bad friend and a bad son.

And then I dropped out. That decision, back in February of ’09 was an intuitive one. The care-taking position was in the tube, a possibility but not a guaranteed bridge yet, and then a few circumstances conspired to allow me the moment of clarity I needed to make the jump. According to reason and societal matrices it was the wrong decision at the wrong time, but it was instinctually correct and it proved very, very right for me.

It was a challenging experience, breaking out of that rut. I found that the writing process I’d longed for was hard to establish, that I had a deeply rooted fear of failure to try to dig my way around (I’d known it was there, but foolishly thought it would just run away crying when I finally made the ‘big move’). Focusing more on family and friends came easily, fortunately, and that was an anchor while I floated around trying to find my groove. So I spent large pieces of the summer hiking and being quiet, alone in a beautiful lodge on top of a mountain with the trees, pine martins, eagles and Harriett, the lodge cat to divert my attention when I needed it. It was the best thing that could have happened, and that time and solitude was invaluable in my personal journey from the self-inflicted constraint and restraint of my professional career to a new freedom that could be, and is, liberating and productive at the same time.

I wanted to value creativity. I wanted to prioritize writing. I wanted to focus on the close and valuable friendships I’d been fortunate to cultivate and maintain. I wanted to be there for family. I wanted to live a life with as few compromises as possible. I wanted to make a difference somehow and not use a foolish responsibility to a corporation or lifestyle that didn’t care for me or anyone else at all as an excuse for not chasing my dreams. I wanted to achieve escape velocity and pursue a better version of myself; one that I knew was in here, somewhere.

Just last week my father, who lives in the UK, was rushed to the hospital with a cardiac arrhythmia. I found out about it four days later, by which time he was hours away from heading home with a new regimen of medication to control it, so it wasn’t an emergency by then. I had been planning a visit to him this spring already. Much of the timing of that trip was dependent on when or if I would be needed back up on the mountain and I’d been wrestling with the itinerary for several weeks, waiting for word from the lodge about whether they needed a care-taker this year, trying to figure out how to make the trip and avoid as much sideways rain as possible, wanting to fit my visit around my dad’s busy schedule so I could spend time with him. All of this was swirling around in my head for a few days after I heard about his condition and I was getting nowhere.

Then I stopped and asked myself, “What was your first inclination?” It was, of course, to rush to him and help. And I knew what I had to do.

Racing across the pond isn’t required, but there will be a period this spring during which my presence in Jolly Old will be helpful. It isn’t at all the most convenient time for the lodge or for me, and might just make the lodge impossibility this year, but it is the best time for him. That’s the priority and that was my instinct in the beginning. Reason led me to worry too much about my summer job and become distracted from that priority, if only for a few days. I was distracted by that cultural conscience that tells us, especially those of us in North America, that we have a duty to our society to work hard and be busy beavers. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but it’s not a priority that can compare to family or friends. My decision became very easy.

So I’ll be posting blogs from the UK for a few weeks this spring, later than I’d first intended, when I might have been on the mountain already, and I’ll be as happy about it then as I was the moment I stopped reasoning and trusted myself. Instead of hesitating in a sub-conscious nod to reason, I’m enjoying a life of making the right decisions without compromises. My bank account might suffer, but my heart is singing.