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Today’s Dance: The Nature of Risk

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Cover of Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Blogher encourages bloggers to sign up each month for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month, a riff on National Novel Writing Month), and this month I did, in part because the theme of the month is ‘risk’, and risk is an important theme in my life.

Case in point: I risked turning you off of this post by discussing Blogher and NaBloPoMo before getting to the meat. I also use advertising on my site. I also write publicly and it’s not hard to uncover my real name. I also post controversial articles. And I am a mental health therapist, which means I’m arrogant enough to attempt to help people fix problems that are incredibly challenging. I also continue to believe, against all evidence, that human beings and the world they live in are perfectible and worth the time and energy it takes to perfect them.

My middle name is ‘Risk’. Or maybe it’s ‘Trouble’. I guess it depends on your perspective. My husband probably remembers the days when we played the PS1 version of Risk and I consistently threw a temper tantrum when I lost. Perhaps that’s oversharing.

  • “Well behaved women seldom make history” ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” ~Thomas Jefferson
  • “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”  ~Robert F. Kennedy
  • “Dare to be naive.”  ~Buckminster Fuller
  • “Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.”  ~Author Unknown

Life is inherently risky. Before the advent of modern medicine, death was a frequent outcome of childbirth, and even now it remains a significant outcome. From the moment we are born, forces within and outside of our bodies fight to kill us as we fight to survive.

Worse, even if we beat the odds and live a full human lifespan, every decision we makes comes with it the risk of loss of something important to us. Its enough to paralyze many people in fear, cause others to shut down utterly in depressive episodes that last for hours, days, weeks, or even years. Despair is a common part of the human experience, that nearly all of us experience in our lives as we face something that we feel we don’t have the inner or outer resources to handle.

And so, we close our eyes and jump. We take leaps of faith. We decide that the loss we risk is worth the chance of the gain we could get. Sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces, with damage ranging from negligible to devastating. And sometimes we are wondrously, gloriously right, and our horizons expand and our hearts open and every mote that makes up our being sparkles in that light.

There are ways to assess risk, to weigh our chances in the odds and make an informed guess as to our chances of success – and yet some of the most successful risks ever made had very low odds of succeeding.

Who would have guessed a bunch of farmers and businessmen could throw off the British Empire and (eventually) establish a superpower? Who would have guessed a black man from the deep south could spark a social movement that not only led to the first black president of the United States, but contributed hope and guiding principles to other social justice movements? Who would have guessed that a little nun from Macedonia could revolutionize aid to the poor in India?

Risk occurs in all areas of our lives. The first time I risked my heart in marriage, it turned out to be a very bad deal, except for the wonderful child that resulted. The second time I found a life partner who, even if everything were to end tomorrow, would still have been responsible for much of the happiness I have built for myself (including my second child).

Ten years ago, I risked a ‘pretty decent’ career in customer service that was headed toward management to go back to school for my Masters in Social Work to make less money while doing something I loved. Even on days (like today) when my job exhausts me, there is no doubt in my mind it was totally worth it. Totally.

With risk in mind, take a stab at the questions in today’s dance:

  • What is worth risk in your life? Have you risked it yet? Are you preparing to?
  • How do you weigh risks in your life?
  • What is too important to lose?
  • What have you lost only to find what you gained was worth more?
  • What have you gained only to find what you lost was worth more?
  • Have you ever felt totally paralyzed by fear of risking something?
  • What risks do other people take that you find exasperating? Exhilarating?
  • What have you always wanted to do that you have so far found too risky on one level or another? What would it take for you to take that risk?
  • How do you feel about risking yourself on behalf of other people? Who in your life is important enough to risk yourself for? What ideals are important enough to risk yourself for? Why or why not?

Please feel free to comment below and carry this conversation with you through your day. Share this with friends and family and let them know that if they visit here, they too can have excellent conversations about interesting subjects.

  • Take a Risk with March’s NaBloPoMo (
  • Jumping Right In (
  • To Risk Or Not To Risk? (
  • NaBloPoMo March 2013 Blogroll (
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