I used to have this recurring image in my head. I was outside, on a deserted cobblestone street, in a very dim light, hemmed in by thick fog. I couldn’t see anything except gray. There was a strong current in the air – like a riptide. It was scary. I’d wrapped my arms around a thick concrete post, my feet having already lost touch with the ground. I knew with absolute certainty that if I let go, I’d be swept away. Not into darkness, but into . . . the unknown, and what the hell would I do then?
Holding onto that post made me feel safe. Then one day I saw a drawing by Guy Billout in Atlantic Monthly. It was of a cobblestone courtyard surrounded by brick and stone buildings. Fortress like. Impenetrable. Safe.
Except for a lithe green snake that rose and fell through the cobblestones as if they weren’t even there.
The caption was, “There is no safe place.”
For a moment I couldn’t breathe, because I knew it was true. And if there is no safe place, what was I doing standing still? And what, exactly, was standing still keeping me safe from, anyway?
That drawing liberated me. If it’s all a risk, if it’s all a challenge, why not embrace that, instead of a stupid post? I let go. And the amazing thing is that although it was really scary to let go — I’ve stumbled all over the place, and made a major fool of myself more times than I can count — it was scary in a good way.
Change is scary. All change. Even good change. Because it means leaving something familiar behind, and that’s hard, even when that familiar thing isn’t working for us at all. It’s why we stick with the devil we know. It’s not that we’re masochists (I hope), it’s just that we know the drill, and that makes us feel safe — even when we aren’t, even when that familiar drill is the very thing that’s keeping us from getting what we really want. The irony is that our “comfort zone” is often anything but comfortable.
My motto became: if it’s not at least a little bit scary, it’s not worth doing. I’m sharing that thought with you now for three reasons: [Read more…]