Risky Business

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Risk taking
Ever heard the joke about the woman who took a risk? Of course you haven’t! Because it’s no laughing matter. Whatever hazardous journeys our female forebears took usually stayed within safe places where they could weep for their lot and no one would see. And today, much of the half the world’s population that’s female still has little wiggle-room to think about taking risks.

Since bold chicks like Eve and Pandora knocked it out of the park with their top notch trips to the danger zone, the rest of us might as well don shirts that say: “I was born female and all I have been given to believe is this cautionary tale- Lifetime Channel- foolish woman died from her mistakes- horror story!” – and avoid as much risk-taking as possible.

Yet often, when your own life’s changed for good or ill, haven’t you had a risk-taking woman to thank, and didn’t the risks she took help make you who you are now?

It’s true, most of us ain’t out walking on soaring airplane wings. We’re not Marie Curies waltzing around with Radium in our pockets. But women who’ve taken high-Richter Scale-upheaval risks have forced growth and individual responsibility on us all and bettered our world.  And they’ve challenged us to consider:

Without taking risks how will we ever fully know ourselves, grow confident in our self-esteem and learn when to warn others they are in danger of crossing it? Without plunging into giddy peril now and then, we’ll always take others’ word for what we should fear – and what we deserve.

My Risks

Have you ever wanted to dodge a risk you knew you should take? I know that feeling all too well. And I had to fight it and move on. Less than five years ago, my spirit rallied against a mentally abusive relationship and said, “No more!” I gave up a beautiful home in the ‘burbs and divorced the unloving father of my children. I hurt some loved ones along the way; I even euthanized my old, sweet dog I couldn’t take with us. Then past 40, I remarried, a man nearly three decades older. That was risky then and I’m facing fresh risks now.

For some nights lately I was attacked by inner “No-See-‘Ems” – those ugly, nasty insecurities that rise up when you’re all alone with your bullying thoughts. After everyone else in the house hit the hay, I sat alone and felt the No-See-Ems swarm about this big poetry manuscript contest I wanted to enter.

I came tearfully to bed at last, and though my husband Nick consoled me I almost willed myself not to win. Why? Because the top prize includes a six-week residency in Italy, where I’d be surrounded with strangers, and even worse – poet-strangers. What would I say ? Though my work’s been well-published, I don’t really know how to “talk poetry” with sophisticated people! What if they’re snobby, and/or I use shitty grammar and the wrong spoon for soup? What if I get wasted on Italian wine, slap the renowned poet/contest judge on the back and slur, “ALL RIGHT, SHOW ME THE GENIUS FUCKERS WHO STOMPED ON THESE HERE GRAPES!”

What if the trip’s during a son’s birthday? Without Nick and my boys, will I dissolve into blubbering tears every night? How will I sleep alone? Worse: what if my old dog gets sick and dies while I’m gone? How silly, right? At bedtime one night I ran my hands through my dog’s fur and thought, “Wait another year or two, then maybe enter this contest…”  But that was no answer to the No-See-‘Ems. Next morning Nick finished final-formatting my poems and we sent them off, to whatever’ll be my fate. And that’s as it had to be. I had to stop putting myself last so everyone and everything else would be honky-dorey while I died inside.

Why Avoiding Risks is Too Risky

Think about it: To cautiously side-step all risks and their messy mudpie implications would be like letting Eve’s forbidden fruit rot on the vine, or Pandora’s box stay unopened to collect generations of dust. Diss all chances to seize scary opportunities, and they eventually dwindle down to zeros, and before you can say “Rosa Parks,” you’ll echo the general consensus that risks are completely unfemale.

Consider the prime example: Legendary performer Tina Turner.  This warrior got sick of being knocked around by her punk husband.  As in many cases of domestic violence, hazards thrived on both sides of stay or go. But go Ms. Turner did and  when she emerged on the other side of that vast river of risk, our sexy, successful, smiling sis asked “What’s love got to do with it?”

Indeed, Tina. Indeed!

Sister-Woman, your gutsy choice to embrace risk has much history behind it, and you can make its cumulative worth even greater. One gamble can lead to generating tsunami-like momentum. Should we ever set quotas on which long odds we’ll defy? Life’s no “take a penny, leave a penny” game. Sure, you may need a risk-refresher course and exercises to remind your muscles of how to step off your risk-edge.

But will you join me – even to risk for the first time all over again?

Hand over that penny dish – I’ll take. Take with me.

This post was published originally on Hormones Matter on October 22, 2015.

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