I quite literally bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen since college. After sharing the big data points in our lives, she said, “I remember you as fearless. Remember when we met a guy who flew a glider plane and you were the one who took a ride? And then you hitch-hiked to Canada because you’d never been and spent a summer rafting white water. Are you still fearless?”
For a moment, I actually wondered who she was thinking of before I remembered those stories. After 35 years of the bumps and bruises from living with chronic illnesses, I’m not that person anymore. I told her that I don’t travel much as I’d like because my health is so unpredictable. I described how during this past winter’s intense cold and snow, I didn’t leave my house for days at a time in fear I’d fall on ice and break another bone. I become anxious walking my dog (!) because she pulls hard and I’ve broken bones falling.
I told her living with illness had changed me — as had aging. Wanting to say something that put a positive spin on this, I said, “Aging , wisdom– realizing actions bring consequences.”(Understatement or what?) We smiled but I knew that this didn’t feel like a positive change. I felt sad.
This chance meeting stayed with me. I’d flash on her memories of me, feeling a longing to be that fearless person again. But then I’d come face to face with the fact that the bumps and bruises of chronic illness had changed me. I was no longer that fearless risk taker. I’d become risk averse.
At what point did I morph into this person? Not sure but I don’t want her to take root. I want to be happier and more satisfied in my life even while my body continues to let me down. And I believe that one way to do this is to teach myself to take emotional and physical risks again.
But how to get from here (risk averse) to there (risk taker)? I’m starting with my goal (to be more satisfied with my life) and my desired outcome (to take risks with confidence). Next step is taking small steps with the intention to practice and change. Which is just what happened when I chose to ignore a painful, broken toe and new gastric symptoms that made my life miserable and climbed into my kayak for the first time this season. It was heavenly being on the water again in Gloucester. I was paddling hard, not thinking about what I shouldn’t do but focusing on what I could do when I looked around for my husband. As the panic started to rise when I couldn’t see him, some part in me dug deep and found a big smile. I could do this. Small change but it resonated. I can build on that.
I don’t know where we find the resilience to keep going but when we do, it feels so lovely, doesn’t it?