Friday, March 03, 2006

Is it Gonna Kill Ya?

Many years ago, I got incensed about how a letter to the newspaper editor rebuked a buddy of mine. So, I looked up the writer's number and called him to tell him what I thought of his frigging letter.

But before I could call, I had to ask myself a question: "What's the worst thing that can happen here? Can he kill me?" Not unless he can find my house. " can survive anything short of that." I took a deep breath and made the call.

I think I was shaking all the way through the conversation, but he didn't know that. I don't think I was brilliant and I probably didn't make much sense, but the bottom line was, when I got off the phone, I felt great.

And I didn't die.

It's kind of amazing how small our world can get. Picture a bull's eye. This is your life. Now, envision a really wide center circle. That's where we spend most of our time doing routine, predictable stuff with a bit of room to try some new stuff while stakes are low.

There's a thinner outer circle on your bull's eye and that's your "risk" area. We don't go there very much. This would be like learning how to ski, sky diving, changing careers, falling in love, starting a business, going back to school, etc. It takes energy and courage but no real physical harm can come to you. And the remaining edges are "death" where we truly can lose everything (I'm thinkin' bungee jumping).

Notice a couple of things about the circle:

First, the rings are next to one another and although it appears that we can easily slip from one zone to the next, most of the time, the chasm feels impossible to cross. Risk is hard, scary, and usually comes with a cost. It's so much easier to turn on the Home Shopping Network and light up a fattie. Or...stay in the marriage for appearance's sake and get so busy you don't notice how unhappy you are.

Second, we may have no idea which ring we are in at a given time. Twice a day, I get on the freeway for a commute and, in theory, I am risking my life, but it seems routine to me. What might actually be "living on the edge" feels predictable. So, the whole concept of risk being separate from our daily routine might be an illusion. It might be closer than we think.

When the challenge looks scary, I have two good strategies that seem to work. The first is to breathe my way through it ("in" through the nose and "out" through the mouth). The second is the "can it kill me?" question. 99.9% of the time, I figure I'm not gonna die if I do it. When it's over, I feel brave and every time I do something scary, I become more convinced that I can depend on me. Hot dog!

It might all be in my head, but it beats getting stuck in the middle of the bulls eye forever.


At 9:22 PM, Blogger Baby Chronicles said...

Funny that you wrote this entry. I was getting ready to write about ... "is it a 10 or a 2?" I just haven't had anytime to write lately. People are forgetting I'm only one person. Anyway... I LOVE your blog again. I'm so glad that it is not filled with articles from the NYTimes but wonderful thought that come from your head.

Love ya

At 7:41 PM, Blogger mary matalin gisher said...

i really like this post. you really nailed it. the analogy is an angle i hadn't considered. nicely done.


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