The Heart’s Choices; the Mind’s Battles

At various times in our lives, we all face really big decisions. How do we make them? Do we create elaborate lists of pros and cons? Do we flip a coin, draw a name out of a hat, or pick a number between 1 and 10? Maybe we consult with experts, or if we’re inclined, consult astrology or a psychic. There is always that moment of reckoning though when we must either choose A or B or accept the consequences of our indecision.

In my last post, which was actually quite a while ago, I wrote about the confusion that Stuart and I, a newlywed international couple, had entered regarding “where to land”: France or the US. We had, a couple of months ago, decided upon France, and then Stuart proposed that perhaps it would be easier for him to come here instead. We started to re-think.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though perhaps a bit taxing on energy reserves. It’s what the mind does. It’s function is to reason, to keep us “safe”, to foresee and solve the problem. So, in that, it was just doing its job and doing it with the usual fervor. The mind is not a terrible thing, though there are those who would make it out to be; it is a miraculous and necessary thing to take action in the world. That said, when not tempered by the heart, it can wreak havoc on all that remains “essential and invisible to the eye” as St. Exupery put it. A list of pros and cons in a fickle mind can go on and on. The debate inside can outlast infinity…if we let it.

I started to wonder whether Stuart really wanted to come here, to the US,  instead of me going there, to France. Of course, I still really wanted to go to France (God help me). But neither one of us would ever want to deprive the other of opportunity, so we had stymied, unable to make a decision, each of us waiting for the other to proclaim his or her heart. That made me start to doubt my own decision about France too. My mind began to reel: If Stuart has doubts, maybe the US is better. Maybe he is genuinely tired of the red tape over there. Maybe I am being selfish and need to detach from what I think I want.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that how I’m thinking not only colors my world, it becomes my reality. If I’m in a sour place, the entire world turns sour. If I’m feeling open and receptive to what is, beauty reveals itself in everything. If I allow my mind to take over this decision–any decision really–I will be handing the reigns over to an insane thing as moveable as the clouds in the sky, incapable of really “seeing”. And to quote Exupery once more, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.”

Stuart is visiting the states right now, and we have since reaffirmed our decision to settle in France, and yes, that’s the final answer. The heart is back in charge. We are proceeding with plans to get me over there as soon as possible…one step at a time.

What’s one of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever had to make? How did you make it? Did it turn out the way you expected?

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The Pendulum Doth Swing – Revisiting Our Relocation Decision

Today, Stuart popped the question.

Since we’re already married, you might be wondering “what question?”

“Might it be better, less stressful, if I were to come to America?”

Stuart and I are now both wondering if we aren’t totally nuts planning on living in France. Life has become so complicated! France may be beautiful. It may be cultural heaven. It may be close to everything we want to see and do. It may even hold untold gifts for us. But even running a business, let alone two, over there is getting a bit daunting. I won’t go into French business structures and taxes lest the eyes with which you are reading this roll back into your head and never return; suffice it to say, “Merde!” Stuart also brought up the unthinkable,”What if something were to happen to me? You’d be stuck in France alone with no income and no home to return to.” Apparently it has been weighing on his mind, and I can’t say it hasn’t crossed mine.

Ironically, for several months, we’ve tossed this decision of where to live around and around until we finally began making moves towards the realization of living in France just a few weeks ago. It felt good. It felt right. It felt “verified” by Spirit. It was a relief! And now? Now neither of us are so sure. France once again presents the extraordinary challenge of daily and business life in a nation that speaks…well, French!

Our choice to live in France all made perfect intellectual and heart-felt sense. Stuart was settled there making it easy for me to go as his spouse. It was a gateway to the UK if necessary. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. But what if it isn’t for us…not yet…and maybe never? I’m having to really look at my attachments to living there: “Oh, Europe! Far from Fukushima, nonlabeled GMO’s, and American stupidity”…and the assumptions I’ve made about it: “My true destiny awaits!” What if all moving there served to do was complicate our lives in irreversible ways?

What are the consequences of altering our decision? I’ve quit my day job and put my house on the market. I’ve organized all the forms I need to close my business in December, turning away opportunities and not bothering to cultivate new ones, started changing my domicile to Florida (opened a new bank account there, got forms I needed from the post office certified, purchased a mail forwarding service), gave away a bunch of my belongings, and have been doing research about France to the point of turning purple. So, if we brake and reverse course, what happens next?

  • I’ll have to undo everything I can undo including taking my house of the market and buying things…like a hammer…that I really don’t want to have to purchase again.
  • We’ll have to now initiate the CR1 Visa process with a 6-month-average wait time and burden family with sponsorship.
  • While we wait, we have two households to pay but I’ve quit my day job and Stuart’s income remains capped due to all that stuff I didn’t get into that would have made you blind a couple of paragraphs ago.

It isn’t too late to change direction. It isn’t like I’ve had offers on the house. I haven’t sold my furniture. But it is so disorienting…like some kind of creepy fun house that  isn’t really all that fun. Every corner provides some new “pop up” obstacle or consideration making me drool and make musical noises with my lips. Can the straight-jacket be far behind?

I’ll have to deal with the, “I thought you were moving to France,” comments and explain to people…wait…forget that part. Romantic notions about living in France are all well and good, but this is a decision with just about the biggest ramifications imaginable. Do I really need to explain anything? What’s really important here? We want to be together.  We want to be happy. We want to create and prosper. Where’s the best place for us to do that???

I feel utterly, completely, entirely torn apart because I want it all and want it NOW! (A Veruka Salt moment brought to you by Youtube.)

It has made me call into question this so-called gift of free will. For one thing, it’s an illusion. For another, I don’t want it anymore! Would someone up there please just tell me what precisely it is we’re supposed to do in a clear, irrefutable language that even a very stubborn human can understand?

My head hurts.

A Hard Choice? Selling My Home

One of the big decisions that comes with relocating is whether or not to sell my house. In 2007, right before the plummet of the US housing market, I purchased my first home. Now, several years later, it has lost 16% of its value. It is a common story many people share these days and one complicated by my sudden international marriage. So much for the American Dream!

The fact that I even have a home is somewhat of a miracle to me, one I worked hard for. You see, my home was purchased through Habitat for Humanity. In addition to income qualifications, it took me 200+ volunteer hours of building houses and working in their retail store. I did all this despite 8 weeks of mononucleosis, my father’s death, and then shingles. It was quite a year. Though I’ve often wanted to pull my hair out, homeownership has been an incredible journey of personal growth and inner strength.

I am so grateful to have a mortgage without interest. That’s the Habitat deal. However, if I am ever to leave this house, I have to pay back both the 1st mortgage and the 2nd mortgage… the interest I haven’t been paying. If I were to sell now, the good news is that I might just about break even.

This is yet another big decision in a long list of decisions I now have to make as the new spouse of a nonresident alien.

“So don’t sell. He can move here,” you might say. There’s much more to that decision, such as tax implications and culture shock, which I addressed in another post.

“Then rent it out while you are in Europe,” you might be thinking. “Create an income.”

If only that were an option! You see, under the Habitat agreement, I am bound to live in the house two weeks out of every month or risk default. Renting it out is not allowed. While I understand the importance of having such provisions, it all rather sucks now that my life has taken a totally unexpected twist. I’ve fallen in love with my book designer!

The first hurdle we had to face was me being able to travel to Europe for six weeks in the first place. Fortunately, I suspected I’d be traveling earlier in the year due to the recent publication of my book, so I had already spoken to Habitat about the possibility of traveling. They graciously agreed to make allowances for me to be away longer than two weeks providing I met certain criteria, but I suspect it isn’t an exception they would repeat.

So now we must decide whether keeping the house and all it provides is a good enough reason for Stuart to uproot his entire life to apply for a CR1 Immigration Visa or whether to sell and lose not only my home of 6 years but the nest egg it was supposed to hatch for me.

Certainly the standard of living we’d enjoy here in the US in an interest-free mortgage home would be much better than what we’d have overseas. And in a couple of years, we might even have enough equity in it to actually make a profit if we wanted to sell.

But do I want to be so attached to a house here when my life might actually be waiting for me over there? Do I want to make a decision based solely or mostly on economics? Do I want to subject Stuart to US taxation? Or do I want to dream big and dare to fly? Cautious and smart or carefree and wild? Will I come to regret my decision? I guess that in itself is a choice. So whatever we decide to do, I’m deciding now to be at peace with my choice…today, tomorrow, and forever.

My life has taught me that there are no mistakes. Regret only occurs when we believe our own stories, when we are hooked by the thought that we should have done “it” differently. We fail to embrace the reality of what is and move further from truth as a result. I just need to keep remembering this.

And as for this “decision”, I can spend all the time in the world weighing the pros and cons and get worked up into a mental frenzy, but there is something far more intelligent and peaceful poised to deliver the right choice at the right time if I just get quiet and create space for it. So while I allow my mind to do its protective thinking thing here, grateful for it, now…I think it’s time to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight!