What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
(Prompt Author: Susannah Conway)
Anyone else feeling the urge to self-harm in the face of such relentless urging to self-help? Only when I was going through the worst relationship of my life did I want to gouge my eyes out as much as I do now. And that’s what this is starting to feel like – getting into a relationship that seemed like a good idea at the time, but, with every passing day, feeling more like I unwittingly accepted an invitation to join a cult.
I went through a period in my 20’s when I’d just abandoned religion and was looking for something to replace it, something less damning, less blind and rigid, more truthful, joyful, real. I spent a few months reading new age and self-help books on numerous subjects which I have since blocked from consciousness. Thankfully I didn’t find what I was looking for and am much happier for it. But now I am having disturbing flashbacks. I’ve since guarded my suspicion of self-help gurus rather fiercely and I haven’t yet found any evidence not to.
If I’d known that reverb10 would turn out to be SUCH a schmaltzy lovefest of self-appointed self-help gurus, I would have run the other way. I had such high hopes of being challenged as a writer and a person. And in some ways I have been, but it remains to be seen whether those challenges will ultimately be enriching.
So I am wavering. There’s a fine line between sticking it out to see what’s still to come and wasting my time. I do, after all, have other writing I want to do. For the moment though, I’m still on the sticking it out side of the line (though the perusal of the websites of the prompt authors to come do not give me any hope), if only because I hate to be a quitter but also because I feel the need to dig my heels in and rebel (or throw a tantrum) against the all the cheese that is oozing out all over the shop. If I’d had any doubts about the extent of the oozing, reading the reverb10 team’s three favourite posts from the project so far (links were emailed to us this week) completely extinguished them. All three posts were full of gushing admiration for the reverb10 team and how wonderful the whole project is. If they are going to continue in this vein, they really ought to be providing us with sick bags.
And now to today’s prompt. I find it, in a word, facile. First because, if anybody knew they were making a wise decision when they were making it, then it follows that they can only have believed that it panned out for the best.
Second, I don’t believe anyone but the grossest narcissist makes decisions thinking that they are wise. (And I am not talking about the use of the word wise to describe a thrifty purchase or some such act.) You can delude yourself into thinking that your choices are full of wisdom, or you can desperately hope that they are, but that’s not the same thing. I’m inclined to believe that you can only see wisdom in retrospect, and furthermore that you can only hope to call it wisdom after a lifetime of dedicated, true and mindful inquiry and practice. And even then, you would probably not be rushing to label yourself or your decisions as such, though others might. Do you think any of the people that have been held up as wise over the years have done so – Confucius, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, to name a few?
I also don’t believe decisions or the decision making process is that black and white. Even if you sit down and make a list of all the things you must decide, there is a backdrop of angst-ridden uncertainty and grey thorny emotion (or at least there is for me), behind all the ones that really matter. Also, every act, thought, desire, decision is interlinked with ones that have gone before (as well as all the might-have-been's and weren't-meant-to-be's) and once actions or decisions are carried out, they go on to affect and be affected by the countless acts and decisions of others. How can you single one out and name it wise? And why would you want to? Whatever you describe your actions to be, they remain what they are. You aren't the only judge. Can you truly see and know the full repercussions of your actions?
Finally, if it were possible at all, I don’t see how reflecting on a wise decision is supposed to be helpful, except as an exercise in public self-congratulation. Wouldn’t it be a better learning experience to reflect on an unwise one instead?
So here’s one of mine – the decision to continue to participate in this project. Will I end up regretting it? Or can I reverse it from an apparently unwise decision to at least a not-as-bad-as-it-could’ve-been experience? Perhaps I can. But there's only so much schmaltz a person can take. And at xmas time to boot. Please oh please let me be proved wrong about my gut-wrenching suspicion that the 25th day prompt will be about how Santa Claus really does exist and how he’s there every day of our lives and not just for xmas.
I'm clearly going to have to fortify myself with large doses of darkness and depravity. Fassbinder or Lars von Trier movie marathon anyone?