Posted on July 28, 2010


I’ve been thinking all day about taking risks. My boys are on top of a mountain, which is a good thing for boys to do, under certain conditions, because it stretches them in all kinds of man ways. It’s also a big risk, because it seems every week someone falls off a mountain here and dies. My boys are too young to die.

Overcoming an anxiety-based disorder means a life of having a lot of stern talks with oneself. Rationality is your friend in this overcoming. “This is not being careful, this is fear. That is being careful.” It’s learning step by step to evaluate with reason and to retrain your gut to make better calls. When the clutching feeling starts swelling and I feel my lungs compressing, I take another look at the situation. My reaction time isn’t near what it once was, but I overreact less often. It’s a trade-off.

So, even though I came home from the temple Monday morning to find a camelbak on the living room floor instead of on Child 3’s back, meaning that he had no water reservoir and no daypack on a very hot day, I knew he would be fine, once I iced the inflammation that immediately started inside.

It would probably be a big surprise for some people with whom I share the neighborhood to know that I have such an overactive sense of caution. We tend to live dangerously, doing things that others find uncomfortable. It’s a conscious decision to beard the lion fear in its den, an effort to wake up one day and be finally free of the clawing.

Today has been a hard day, because a friend’s son will be buried in a few days. He and his friends were doing donuts in a school parking lot after football practice. That’s it. No drinking, no wild behavior, no reckless abandon. Like a misstep hiking a mountain, he’s gone. Her boy was too young to die. The lion is clawing, and I want to tie all my kids to a chair, and I’m fighting it by gritting my teeth and telling my boys through the miles of thinning air, “Climb that mountain. Kill the lion.”

Risk is essential to living a full life. It’s not a bet, it’s an investment, but any financial analyst will smirk at the difference. I believe in believing … in deciding what to embrace and beginning to create it long before it can be seen, and that the universe and a kindly God will add to our vision the pieces we can’t quite reach. I suppose that’s a gamble. To me, faith is a shadow of risk, and risk is a shadow of faith. Inherent in both is the very good chance that things will not go as we hope, and a life fully lived means accepting that with grace.

I am not willing to be too careful, to be overly troubled. Not with my life, and not with my boys’. I will send them up a mountain again. I’ll probably go with them. They will still get in cars with other boys, after we’ve talked a lot about knowing what you can handle and speaking up if you feel uncomfortable. We may pack up everything we own some time in the future and move across the country again and we may do a thousand irrational things because they feel like the right thing to do. The lion will claw up my insides again and squeeze my lungs, and I will fight back.

And we will stand on mountains.

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