Be your own Change Agent

Embracing Risk

mountain stream

Even water abandons the gentle current to embrace the risk of rocks and eddies. Separating, coming together, and moving along, only to find a quiet spot to drift.

“Take risks. If you’re lucky you’ll be rich; if you aren’t you’ll be wise.”  – Ancient Chinese Saying

rock tunnel

When the road turns, are you ready for the risk of the tunnel? If you aren’t ready, your only other choice is to stop or to veer right into the whitewater below.

I was raised in a culture of risk avoidance, and I was well into my adulthood before a counselor suggested that I needed to learn how to take risks. Risk is no stranger to me; I took some early risks that didn’t turn out so well (yup, two failed marriages). Yet even those misadventures had beneficial outcomes in several important ways and were followed by a time of growth.

rural road; hills

This road looks monotonous, but eventually, it nears the hills. It looks like it’s headed toward a pass, avoiding changes in terrain. Yawn.

Well-meaning family members advised against having children and, later, going to law school, yet these risks had large rewards for me. Then a few things got difficult, and I stopped taking risks. Stressed, I began choosing the safe routes. Generally, if I was afraid of something, I avoided it. I thought safety was what I needed, but I was unhappy, unfulfilled and dissatisfied with my life. I didn’t see that safety wouldn’t get what I wanted. Protecting what I already have meancs that I never reach for what I want; growth came from facing and overcoming my fears. My first act as my own change agent was to start taking chances.

Gold aspens

Were the aspens afraid to change colors? Were they excited? And yet, the change is inevitable. Rest will come soon thereafter.

Eventually, I opened a small weekend business, which I had to report to my full-time employer. I was afraid my employer wouldn’t approve, but I did it anyway (a risk!). My employer reviews my business every year and passes it every time. I see now that all the times I fretted and worried about that situation had been wasted time. My business has been a large step toward a fulfilling life. I’ve helped many people find relief from their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and the spiritual nature of my business balances the analytical nature of my full-time job. You would think that more work is more effort, but being unbalanced was really a harder way to live.

lenticular cloud

Do the clouds feel that they are taking a risk to form and drift? Are they scared? Thrilled? Blissful? They always flow, never at rest. How does that feel?

I took even more small risks, attending classes on intimidating subjects that I didn’t think I could learn. I surprised myself by doing well. I made new friends and tried new things; these actions enhanced my life more than I expected. As I look back, I saw few risks I’d taken that didn’t have sufficient pay-off for me to see it as a benefit. There were no failures, no ridicule, no shame. I hate to think what my life would have been like had I always stayed with what’s safe.  

antelope and llama

This wild antelope and domestic llama share space peacefully and don’t seem to mind the risk of another animal sharing their prairie grass.

No risk has caused more joy than choosing to love; whether it is a pet or a person, there are always hurts that go with these relationships. Pets have enriched my life so much, but their lives are always shorter than my own. I grieve these endings, but the pets continue to live in my heart. Friends can move physically or emotionally in a way that ends the relationship. Yet in the end, the risk was worth it. I see opening to new pets and friendships an act of personal courage.

orange and white cat with pink tulips

We lost Russell Sprout to lymphoma last month. I can tell by how much I miss him that our relationship was rich and absolutely worth it.

This article was first published in Sibyl Magazine, December 2017, page 22.

11 replies »

  1. Now you’ve got me thinking about if I am still taking risks in my life. Hmm, I think I always will, but need to ponder this more. As you said, the marriages were risks, but most people feel, rightly so, that divorce is the bigger risk, and stay in a bad situation for fear of the unknown. (You know, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post. I am sorry about your sweet kitty ‘s passing. I think the bigger the risk, the bigger the payoff in all things. If we do not risk, we are not truly living.

    Liked by 1 person

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