Almost a year later, I wish I could say unequivocally that my risk paid off. I wish I could say that the house didn't feel so small after all, that the winter was mild, that Henry never resents getting up before dawn to feed the animals (which today include two horses, two geese, a pig, a cat, and a now adolescent dog) and I never resent relinquishing my office at 8 P.M. for his youngest son to go to bed (which means turning off the ringer of my private phone line, a gesture that feels like the ultimate act of self-created isolation).
But I can't say that. Risks don't always present you with results that can be read like test scores. We tend to think of a risk as something that will either completely succeed or completely fail. But sometimes the outcome of the risk takes the form not of a final verdict but of a pendulum that shifts daily, maybe even hourly. Some days, when the cloud formations are particularly stunning and the FedEx truck brings me new shoes and Henry and I spend the evening sipping wine in the stock tank that doubles as a wading pool, I know I was right to move to this farm with him. Other days, when it's 30 below zero and I have to go out to the barn every hour to break the water that's frozen in the animals' troughs and I miss four business calls because I forgot to turn the ringer back on, I can feel regret coming on like a flu. But like a flu, the doubts pass just as mysteriously as the fleeting assurances. Moving here was no more wrong than it was right. It is simply what I did. And so I live inside my risk, with good days and bad, which is pretty much how everyone lives.
In the end, there's strength to be gained from an ambiguous outcome. It gives you more to think about. It gives you some mistakes over here, some triumphs over there, some setbacks to keep you humble, some strides you didn't think you were capable of. One thing I've learned is that when you take responsibility for the choice you've made, when the person you've kept up at night is yourself, even the worst outcome won't make a victim out of you. You're only a victim when you're reducing your risk to a zero-sum game, when you're not respecting its subtleties and hidden corners, its remarkable ability to restore your faith just moments after it has ripped out your heart and tossed it into a cornfield. There are people who still think I'm crazy for trying to juggle my writing career with activities like cleaning out a pigpen and playing junior Yahtzee with someone else's child. Oftentimes, I'm one of those people. But I also know that I've learned so much more from this than I would have if everything had gone smoothly. I've learned that there's a middle ground between success and failure. It's called real life. And that's always worth taking a chance on.
Ready for a Change?
We Hear You!