Gold aspens

Embracing Risk

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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.


  1. Love this post and love that it was published! Congrats! I’m sorry to hear about Russell Sprout, but that photo is lovely. Risk to love, yes, I heartedly agree. I’m proud of you Karel xoxo Keep your heartlight shining as we are all watching you and being inspired by you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I miss Russell Sprout, but I was glad that he let me comfort him in his illness. I take a lot of risks for love, some of which pay off.


  2. You certainly don’t sound like you are averse to taking risks. Quite the opposite, the things you come up with in just one post show that.

    Also would like to offer my condolences for poor Russel Sprout. It’s hard to let them go but when they are sick, I always take one positive, that they’re no longer suffering. I had to watch my poor kitten suffer with asthma for 1.5 years before it took him. It’s one of the most horrifying things I ever had to live through, but when I’m feeling strong I’m able to tell myself that life must have just been too difficult for him.

    Best wishes and a happy new year to you and yours 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think my ability to accept risk ebbs and flows. I have been in an ebb and pulling myself out. Thank you about Russell Sprout. He was quite stoic and accepted his illness up until the moment that he just couldn’t. That’s when I stepped in to help. It still hurts. I’ve never heard of cats with asthma, but since I am asthmatic, I can see how hard it was for you all. It’s so difficult to treat, as an attack can happen At any time. It must have been hard to ever leave his side. Thank you for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry about Russel Sprout. That is great name. Our furry family will always be our furry family in person or in spirit. I miss all my kitties till this day.

    I like to joke that I have a fear of everything. Well not everything but I have a lot of fears and phobias. It’s taken me a very long time to get out of my comfort zone. It started around 3 years ago with a swim class (still can’t swim but it’s allowed me to do more water oriented things), go hiking, indoor rock climbing to work on my fear of heights, etc. I feel like my life is so much more now. I feel like more for the world has opened up to me. I’m not the kind of person that likes change so it takes me a looooooong time to make adjustments.

    I get what you mean about having to go back to “safe” zones. I can’t go after risks 100% of the time and I’m ok with that. Sometimes things just need to be a certain way until you’re ready for the next leap 🙂

    Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 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

    1. There are so many ways to take a risk and some are bigger than others. Everyone fights their own battles there, but taking no risk anywhere is a path toward stagnation. I took another risk and married again 22 years ago and still going strong. It was a good risk with a big Pay-off.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 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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