Saturday, March 09, 2013

Every day is an act of faith

photo by me: seen in my travels

This was the sign outside a church near my bank. I had to stop, dig out my iPod and snap a photograph. Something in the saying: "The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf" really spoke to me and it's taken me more than a week to figure out why.

I'm not sure how much of a risk-taker I am by nature. Certainly people who know me would describe me as cautious--a thinker more than a doer. Spontaneous is just not a part of my inborn nature, though I love to have friends around me who are spontaneous.

And yet, I take risks every day in my writing. I risk myself in this blog space, by sharing my inner thoughts, by being honest and open. Anyone could stumble across this blog and read about my life. Surely, there is something of the risk-taker in me.

If a risk is doing something, even if you can't predict the outcome, then every choice is a risk. But I think it's more than that. I think to be willing to take a risk is to be willing to walk forward into the unknown with some degree of joy and anticipation in addition to the fear.

And really, isn't that what we do every day?

I have been thinking of my teenage sons. My eldest, a 19 year old college student, is in the UK for the next two weeks. While he's traveled quite a lot through the US and abroad, this is his first trip on his own. I'm sure he's a little nervous. He's encountering so many things for the first time as he moves into the adult world.

But here's the thing: so am I.

I've never been the parent of a 19 year old before. I don't have a map or a guide to know how to parent an emerging adult. As new as it is for him, it's also new for me. When I realized this, I started laughing. It meant that it was okay if I didn't know all the answers--not in my parenting, not in my writing.

I am doing things I never, ever dreamed I'd be doing. I just finished editing and revising my 8th novel. In the process, I opened myself up to an editorial process that made me feel as awkward and as tentative as a beginner again. It was a huge creative and personal risk and yet I took it, eagerly (though I may have had a few inner tantrums along the way).

Now, having completed the revision and the difficult work with a tough-love editor, not only is the story better, but I am a stronger writer. I took the risk because to choose the safe and predictable course will not lead to growth and change: it leads to creative death.

Children have some great advantages over adults: they don't expect to know everything. They don't expect to be experts. They don't expect to be perfect. But somewhere along the way, we delude ourselves into believing our growing days are over. That all the risk in our lives is outside of us and something to be managed or tamed.

It doesn't work that way. Especially not for artists and creators.

Embracing risk and the possibility of change is the hard work of living. There are no shortcuts. There is only the work and the stubborn insistence we have of taking another step forward into uncertainty.

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