I was having a conversation recently with my hubby about the subject of taking risk. Earlier in the week, he had been driving home on our road and noticed a car slowing down in front of him and then eventually coming to a complete stop. He decided to pull up and ask the guy if he was okay. The guy, looked at him with a scowl on his face and replied “does it look like I’m doing okay?” Being a nice person and a retired health care professional, my husband was not deterred by the rough response. “Do you need some help?” Again he was met with the scowl and an even stronger reply, “Why the hell would I need any help from you?” Not looking to push the issue any further and frankly taken aback by the rude treatment he was getting while trying to be a good Samaritan, my husband drove off. Later when he shared the experience with me, you could see the frustration and even a little anger in his face and body language, recalling how badly he was treated. Then, the next morning he shared with me what he called “a nightmare” he’d had about driving past a house that he recognized that was now abandoned. He decided to go in and take a look wondering why the residents were no longer there. He met a guy and asked “is everything okay?” The response was familiar and chilling, “does it look like I’m doing okay?” quickly followed by the man’s hand reaching toward hubby’s neck and grabbing him tightly. He awoke with a fright, throwing the covers off as he swung back at his attacker.
When I asked him about the dream, he said, “it must have something to do with that guy on the road”. Why was he so upset about the reaction he got from the stalled driver? I shared with him the idea of taking risk, of putting ourselves out there, not knowing what the response is going to be. Did he think he was taking a risk? His answer was that to him the word risk brought up visions of life and death situations, being at the edge of a cliff and your rope is fraying (he’s a rock climber) or being close to the peak of the mountain and you step in a crevace. You know, real honest to goodness, “I’m gonna die” chances you take in life.
But, what I explained to him was that I believe that taking risk can be as common as sharing our feelings with someone we love. What if they think I’m stupid or don’t acknowledge the seriousness, the emotion or the real depth of what I’m saying. That feels like being dropped off the cliff by someone else, yes? Or if I have an idea, like starting Life Lessons with Horses, and when I share it with someone else, they look at me with a blank stare and have no idea what I’m talking about. What if no one cares about my ideas. What if I put myself out there and no one responds? THAT’S REAL RISK and VULNERABILITY RIGHT? At this point, my voice has gotten louder and he’s softly and lovingly reminding me to take it down a notch.
As we continue, he admits that over the last four years he’s been putting himself out there more and more with his efforts to contact high schools, where he volunteers his time and gives a 40 minute talk on Cancer Prevention and Healthy Living to all the students. In the beginning, he was not willing to take a chance that someone would say no or that the kids would not be receptive to his message. The risk was too great, I said, right? It doesn’t feel good to be shot down, to be told no, to be vulnerable. It’s true, being vulnerable, the uncertainty and the risk and the emotional exposure…it takes real courage. Now he speaks at over 10 different schools in WA and OR and he loves it. He’s making a difference. But he had to take a chance, he had to risk getting push back and for him, it has been worth it.
He and I have both been learning and practicing this work, alone and together. And we’ve learned that to get to the real good stuff, what some people call “the juicy, juice”, you have to be willing to admit your struggling first and then THAT YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Because my hubby’s definition of risk was initially so extreme, referring to literal bodily injury and death, he didn’t recognize it in the everyday things that we do. Also, he’s grown up believing that to express your fear of being rejected or made to feel less than, is a sign of weakness and so has adapted the “what’s the big deal” attitude. But knowing that EVERYONE and I mean, EVERYONE struggles with these feelings, makes it less daunting to share. And it’s important to share with the right person, the person you know who will be honest with you and hold your feelings with the same care as they would a fine porcelain doll. It may be someone who you sense would understand, who you know has been there. Sometimes you open yourself and it doesn’t work! That doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid or real. It means you may have to find another time or place or another person with whom you’ll share.
It may not be life and death in the classic sense, to open ourselves to others, but it sure feels like it sometimes. After all, it feels like we’re risking our identity. Truth is, it’s just their perspective, their thoughts, current mood or beliefs and it takes practice to understand this. We can’t lose our identity because of the thoughts and feelings of others. It’s not theirs to take! You build the courage and the strength to believe this by taking risks, small steps in the beginning and feeling better each time you progress. Sure there will be setbacks, but that’s what it takes to climb a mountain! Maybe it is life and death…
EXPLORE, DISCOVER AND MASTER the skills necessary to take risk in your life. THE FIRST LESSON IS FREE at Life Lessons with Horses!