10.20.2012

Risk


I've taken a break from writing.  Not purposely.  I think I just got to sweeping the kitchen floor, stuffing unfolded laundry into drawers, and reading Remy Animalia dozens of times a day, and then I forgot that writing is a comrade I have.  I've missed it.  I've missed the little door in my brain that opens up when I write.  I'm also pregnant, and terrible at announcing things, so I'll just slip that in there just the way I slipped it into casual conversation with my family.  I've been sick and tired, which does not cancel out so happy and so excited, but does make one less productive.

The other night I told Carl that I was turning into someone who just wants to watch an episode of the Colbert Report and be in bed by 9:30 every night, and this proclamation was not without a heavy note of despair.  "What's so wrong with that?" he said.  To which I responded in my head, "nothing." but in a way, a lot of things.  I, along with every other mother of young kids, or person responsible for things other than your dreams, worry that I am watching all the grand ideas I thought I would do, slip away.  And not necessarily in the way that they are slipping through my fingers and there's nothing for me to do about it, but some in the way that I am simply waving them on with the explanation that now is not the time.  Sometimes it seems like they dance away in bright colors and turn to ask me, "are you sure you don't want to join?" and then I look at Remy, and I say to them "no thank you, I'm working on something else."  This is a both a refining and sanctifying process.

I went to a lecture by Terryl Givens and his wife this week.  Near the end of his lecture he said, "Good questions require risk.  Every question, every reach for discovery becomes an act of faith." That line hit me like a bursting star inside my chest.  It seemed so true, and also requiring much bravery.  I thought about the inherent risk in asking the question, "What am I supposed to do with my time right now?"  That is a hard question, and carries perhaps the most risk, because the answer might not be perfect and it might not be to pursue the dreams I thought were vital to hold on to. But I'm certain it is a good answer, probably one far better than I could have come up with.

From David Foster Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon University in 2005:  


In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship... And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship - be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles - is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you...
 The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self...
  But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. 
I am grateful for the inherent risks my simple life asks me to take.  Bringing another baby to our family is a risk in many ways.  Probably for that baby, and for us.  I know my life will change, and maybe more of the things I thought of as important to accomplish will dance further away.  But in between that balance of certainty and the unknown lies a very vibrant, sometimes ethereal string of moments where all seems perfect, and maybe it doesn't just seem that way.  I find my life in this place often.  Between the moments of chaos and mess, trouble and worry, I find this place where Remy runs around with chocolate on his cheeks, and Carl dings his bike bell when he rides around our corner, and I even make a good dinner sometimes. This place is quotidian, almost unmentionable, but I am finding that many dreams worth pursuing are.  More and more I am happier to ask the difficult questions, because they teach me who I am.

13 comments:

Rachel Hunt said...

Congratulations, dear Ashley. (And dear Carl, and dear Remy.)

A beautiful risk. Very much like the beautiful risk a philosopher I like wrote about: http://tenderheartedmercy.blogspot.com/2012/07/caputo-on-beautiful-risk.html

Studio de Belleville said...

I love this Ashley. I think it's true. It's when we let God take control and let the important things filter in that I think true happiness can appear.. and little bits of Heaven shine into our lives.

just a little bit mo said...

Jonathan and I just love your posts, both what you choose to write and how you choose to write it. Thank you.

Deja said...

Many radiant congrats, and also thank you. I just had a baby girl (11 days ago) and the risk and change and questions are big and boiling. Thank you for demonstrating that a centering is possible, and that taking time to ask and find that centering with patience is worth it.

Club Narwhal said...

yeay, yeay, YEAY!!!!! so much good news in this. everyday you are doing wonderful, beautiful things and it makes me glad to know you, dear ashmae.

Chelsea said...

Congratulations!!! I love your writing, please dont stop! I feel like so often you articulate ideas that I need to hear. Thank you.

Rachel (and Will) said...

First of all, congratulations!! That's so great!!

Also, I love reading what you write. You have a way with words that expresses things I want to but just can't quite get out...

LJ said...

Dear Ashley,

I am sitting down right now to take a practice test for the GRE, which I am scheduled to take in less than a month. I've been saddled with so much fear amid the giddy joy of pursuing an old dream (MFA in Creative Writing!) myself, but somehow your post seemed to make it all irrelevant.

And make me cry, but that's normal around here.

LJ

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

I love this. I feel that this is a journey I am still on in my life. Learning how to consecrate... to let go of what I think will make me happy and what I think I should do... and allow the Lord to SHOW me what will make me happy. It should be easy, but it is scary... and I don't think it ever gets easier :) But then again like you said if it didn't require risk, it wouldn't be worth doing :)

And congrats on the baby! That is exciting. I don't think there is anything better than new life :)

sara said...

yup. love you.

Blue Cheese said...

Thank you for this, my friend.

Mark Penny said...

I really like that first picture, which I first saw on EMW just now. I like your attitude, too.

Alie said...

i'm a really late poster because i just found your blog, but thank you. i really needed to hear that tonight, every.single.word of it. there are so many dreams and "what if i did this?" that i've got in my head too. i worry that i'm stuck and stagnant and not progressing.

congratulations on your pregnancy! i sure hope you're feeling better. i loved your artwork at the palo alto cresch (is that how you spell it?) exhibit earlier this month. i think there was one with mary holding her sweet little baby that i just fell in love with. it really spoke to me. thank you for creating and sharing it. :)

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