In light of these thoughts, and my recent decision to jump in the waters and trust that the current will carry me safely through, I have been thinking about chances that I have taken in my life. And coincidentally came across this image recently on Face Book. “Take at least one.” It is good advice.
If someone would inquire about my native way of being in the world I would describe myself as somewhat conservative (or maybe even the “somewhat” needs to be dropped) – in my style, my mannerisms, my fiscal approach, although I am liberal in my way of being in the world with regard to welcome, acceptance, my understanding of the ways in which abundance should be shared. And I am quick to add that I am not perfect (in any aspect of my living) – particularly in my liberal leaning ways. That said, I have torn off tabs throughout my adult life and taken chances.
In 1979 I left New Jersey where I had lived and established myself for nearly all my years and accepted a job in Massachusetts – because it “felt” right. And it has been good. I moved up over the years in a tech company from entry level accountant to management level. After twenty-two years with that company I was laid off; thankfully I stayed until the bitter end (as a friend always said “the accountants are the last to go so they can put out the empty milk bottle”) and so had a nice “stay bonus” and for years of service and lengthy severance package.
From there, after spending many months thinking about what I might do next, reading, taking interest tests on-line and talking with others, I took a job as office manager in a church. I had after all always been a “church lady.” In doing so I took another tab, with a 2/3 cut in salary from my earlier work.
I worked there for four and a half years and came to see that while it was nice, it was not good. I lived alone and for the better part of my days I was working along. It was time to take another tab. After talking with a number of folks to ferret out my next career, I enrolled in a study program at a local hospital – Clinical Pastoral Education. In my denomination people who are on track for ordination need to complete one unit of CPE. It is a combined study and practical program, visiting people in the hospital, being present, observing “everything” in the room and about the patient (those challenging verbatims came from this), processing our experiences in a small group, and writing reflective papers. So convinced was I that this was the right thing for me to do that I chose to live off of my savings in order to pursue this course of study. And I did it for one unit, then another, and then a third: I was learning a great deal about myself. I supported myself for a year and a half…
Once I had completed the three units it was time to pull another tab – to find a job. And I did, a half time position with a church calling on and visiting the elder, frail population…for two thirds of what I had made at the church.
A year ago next month I retired from that last job after almost four years, enriched by my experiences and the people I had come to love. Now it’s time for another tab – I have signed paperwork with a local realtor to list my home for sale the third week of June. It feels right. I am trusting once more in the current. Fear has no place – occasional anxiety, yes.
Curiously – or not! – a daily devotional from the United Church of Christ (the church to which I belong) by Peter Ilgenfritz addressed taking chances in the guise of the topic, “How to Hold a Boa Constrictor.” I am sharing it below…
"Fear not!" - Isaiah 41:10
"There's a six foot boa constrictor at the farmer's market down the street!", the couple called out as they drove past.
Although I am afraid of snakes, this time I did not walk away but walked over by the four-year-old boy to stand and stare, hands in our pockets, at the great snake on the ground with the twitching tongue.
I snapped a few pictures from a safe distance and soon wandered off past the sign "Hold the Snake for $5" wondering who would do that and I with more sensible things to do. Only to come back, as the little boy wandered away, hand in his mother's hand.
Why is it that I sometimes can't be content to just sit by the pool? To do common, everyday things? Why is it that I must sometimes do the very thing I do not want to do, that won't let me go until I do?
But "almost" and "thought about" do not make a story and I am here to tell one.
So I ask the questions:
"Do they bite?" (Yes)
"Does this one?" (No)
"How do you hold a boa constrictor?" (Be a tree)
And having no way out but through I stand, arms outstretched, silent and straight, eyes shut, holding my breath.
And find wrapped around my neck and arms 6 feet, 80 pounds of pure muscle and strength.
And I break out laughing, trembling with delight at what has been found on the other side of fear.
So yes, of course, ask "why?" but then, "why not?"
Drop the five dollars into the can.
Empty your hands.
And find the life you now can call your own.
Take a chance. Pull a tab. Trust the future. Hold a boa constrictor. Empty your hands so that they might be filled anew.