Leonard Cohen was once interviewed on the radio about the meaning of his song, “Chelsea Hotel #2”. In that interview, he was asked who the song was about, and he answered, “Janis Joplin”. Later, he said he had no idea why he had said that, and that “the Devil made me do it”.
A Very Weathered Stop Sign
Sorry for the long absence: I traveled across the country again and now am sitting in oh so sunny Southern California, recovering from a nasty case of sunstroke. Turns out that I no longer have the magical heat tolerance that becomes an inherent part of life in central Texas. Turns out that a year and a bit of life in the Northeast makes you into a delicate, cool weather flower.
Red Flowers on the Highway
I have been mulling over the idea of Risky Business for the last few days: how we handle risk assessment in our lives and what we do about it. How do we know how to manage risk, especially in affairs of the heart and the guiding decisions that effect what we do with our time. I had breakfast the other day with an old friend and we got to talking about the dark spots inside your heart and how navigating them can be oh so difficult. Sometimes you fall in love with a person who seems like your ideal on the Earth only to find out flaws within them that make continuing the relationship a high-risk situation where your heart is most definitely on the line. Making the decision to say: this risk is too high is one that is immeasurably difficult when one is already in love. In other ways, managing risk in your life can lead to beautiful things like friends being supportive of your decisions and strangers coming out of the woodwork to surprise you by helping. New friends can drive around new towns in their truck and tell people what a great person you are, while old friends may completely cut you off because they cannot deal with the darkness of your heart, or your inherent vulnerability.
There are so many planes here that the sky is striped
Sabotage, that pesky action when you see what you should do, what you can do, and instead do the thing that will intentionally bring about a negative result, or at least an ending, is a funny aspect of our emotional life. You may ask yourself: why would anyone assess the risks of a given situation and choose to destroy it on purpose? But yet, people do all the time. I am never sure, in cases of emotional sabotage, whether it is an unfair test or simply a way to guarantee a result in a world where paths ahead are inherently unclear. In my life, I take risks and put my feet upon the path, but for others, the risk of happiness or sadness, of fulfillment or disappointment, is too high and therefore, they create a way to know what will happen by destroying the possibilities. Fear is such a foul emotional state; so difficult to keep at bay, but yet, the opposite of love, the opposite of what I would hope the purpose to life truly is.
I went to one of my favorite people the other day for some Cranial Sacral Therapy and I told him that, lately, I have been very afraid of people and their capacity to hurt one another. He told me, “But Patience! The only thing to fear is fear itself!” And he is right, of course.
A Golden Afternoon
This decision of mine to not return to teaching, to forge ahead and become a jeweler, artist and writer instead of what I have created for myself as a sure path of security and stability in this uncertain world, was a huge risk. I can calculate the obvious risks to situations very well: I consider myself to be self-reliant and analytical in many respects. These skills have contributed to my successes but also to my failures: to the sadnesses and disappointments that have coloured some of the time over the last four years. I know now that I will always be ok, but I also know now that just because I can see the path ahead and have a plan on how to do something, that unless I really think it will lead to happiness or at least contentment, that I don’t need to take those risks to prove something to myself or others. The place where I consistently fail, or at least mis-judge, are the more secreted risks, the skeletons in the closet. I consistently look for the best in people, and ignore or potentialize their best qualities to a point of blissful ignorance that results in my pain or disappointment.
Feet Crawling Around on Big Rocks
So how do we manage risk in our lives in order to keep growing and changing while managing the fear of failure, the fear of others’ capacities to affect us?
One of the greatest thing about traveling for long distances over quite a bit of time is the moments of moving from place to place when you are forced to, usually, sit in one place or another for quite a bit of time and either read a book, knit a shawl, or write page after page, noting as much that has happened as possible in the gridded pages of a Decomposition Book. During these times, I keep finding that ideas bubble up from deep inside my mind to the surface and are understandable. I find that I am intensely creatively inspired by this time, and actually have the mental space and physical time to write things down, to take notes, sort out ideas and concepts.
Maybe the risk of time off is that you spend a lot of time inside your mind, especially if you are lucky enough to travel from place to place alone. But the opportunity afforded to create artwork, take photographs, write, simply just look around while walking, is a priceless benefit of taking the risk of being true to yourself.
Oh Desert…Vazquez Rocks
I sometimes, a lot of times, take huge risks. My family always jokes that I don’t know the meaning to the word no, and I personally believe that if you want to do something, you just should go out and do it and see what happens. For the most part, the risks that I have taken have been hugely beneficial to making me the person I am today. I believe in risk-taking, following your heart or being true to yourself, or however you want to phrase it: the idea is still the same. Calculate your risk, make your choice, live with the results hoping that they are good. Some people look at me and see a woman in a whirlwind, one that has been spinning now for four years, and is just now slowing down.
Southern California Sky
Some of us, all of us at one point or another, get stuck in gilded prisons of our own making. We let the fear of the risks associated with a decision overwhelm the realities of it. Some people stop in their tracks and don’t make dangerous decisions. Some of us create a test of failure. Some of us abandon, and some of us destroy intentionally. Whatever type of wall we put up serves a certain, individual purpose. However, these walls are dangerous when they keep good people out, or bad people coming back through the same gate. The problem is that at a certain age, these cages are easy to disguise and only appear from time to time, betraying the fears, the insecurities and the stubbornness that comes with a sizeable chunk of time on the planet.
Lately, I am very confused by many decisions that people make, especially in terms of daily happiness and love. We all make mistakes, we all learn every day, at least I hope we do. We all repeat our mistakes over and over again, until we actually can see them like other people do. We deny our role in the breaking apart of people or life path. We beat ourselves up for mistakes made instead of saying: that mistake happened and now it is time to learn from it and move on. We sometimes choose to surround ourselves with people who can hurt or spread their disappointment to others, and then think that we can fix them with our love, when we know clearly that the only person who can change you is you, yourself.
Risk is taking leaps out into the world, knowing all we do and more importantly, all we don’t.