Friday, 27 January 2017

How do you know when it's time to get out?

A friend is thinking of leaving a very unhappy and abusive marriage after about thirty years invested in it, but she keeps putting off the date, postponing the break, giving it one last shot. Repeatedly finding reasons to stay...until the daughter's wedding is past...until the son graduates from university...maybe in the spring...

A colleague daydreams about quitting her unfulfilling desk job and opening a flower shop. But there's never time or money or energy to do it. It's never the right time. So she stays in her desk and keeps dreaming. While another person I know of quit his job as a paediatrician and is now living in a yurt in Nunavut, making ceremonial masks. I guess something finally snapped!

What was the final straw that told some people to get out of Germany before WWII broke out? Why do some refugees flee Syria while others hold out so long in incredibly difficult circumstances? Why were the people on the last flight out of Saigon not the first ones to go? What factors prompt people to uproot their lives today instead of yesterday, or hold out until tomorrow?

How do you know when enough is enough and you've reached the tipping point where you simply have to get out? It's like that old story about the frog being slowly boiled; by the time he finally makes up his mind that he's uncomfortable and should do something about it...he's cooked.

For the past couple of decades I've fine tuned my homesteading skills and practised growing vegetables and grains and collected information up to my eyeballs on farming and survival. (There's a quote that says when you look at someone's bookshelves you don't see who they are, you see who they want to be. Very true.) But when do I say it's time to drop everything and head for the hills? How bad does it have to get in the city before I dash for the country? Or will I talk myself into tolerating just one more day...and then one more...until it's time to go into a nursing home? And what do I do if my spouse has a different tolerance level than I do? ("Sorry, dear, I'm heading into the bush. Feel free to join me when you get to that point yourself...")

For several years I've thought about renouncing my U.S. citizenship (partly just because I don't intend to live there again and it would be easier not to have dual citizenship, paperwork-wise). But now with every ethical and ideological part of me being challenged with what I see starting to happen south of the border, do I finally renounce? It sounds, especially when you consider that presidential terms are only four years. I don't want to be too hasty or act for the wrong reason in the passion of the moment. I want to show more hope than that. So I will hang onto my citizenship, all the while wondering if it's the right decision... (Well, and it's $2400 a person to renounce, which admittedly is a deterrent when you have a family of five!) There's always that little question in the back of my brain that asks whether I could do more good by keeping it instead of renouncing it.

It's an interesting phenomenon to consider further. I don't think there's a single answer -- obviously the breaking point is different for everyone. Each person has their own tolerance level for discomfort and their own private dreams for a better way of living. As a writer, I want to crawl inside each person's head and find out what makes them tick, what makes them make the choices they do, Maybe if I understood other people's motivations better, I might understand my own better too. Then maybe I'd know whether to keep dog-paddling or to hop out of the pot.

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