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AUG
07

Do What Scares You

If you want to know a secret, the reason I love roller coasters is because I actually hate them. Or, to put it another way, they terrify me. And yet. There's something about those final post-launch, I'm-going-to-crap-my-pants seconds that makes the whole ordeal better than if they didn't rattle me at all. For me, it's all about getting out of the comfort zone, reminding myself I'm alive, and also reveling in the satisfaction that comes from having done survived something that totally freaks me out.

This week I had my first-ever experience with a zip line. I'll confess to you now that on the flip side of the adventure--once I arrived safely at the bottom of the mountain--I realized there's a lot less to be anxious about than I had thought. It's a very easy task that produces not so much as a single stomach lurch in-flight. But I certainly didn't know that when at the top. And so I'll also confess that as I sat strapped on the line, suspended in air, waiting to be released and sail out into nothingness, I was convinced it was possibly the worst idea I'd ever had. I was picturing free-falling. I was picturing intestinal discomfort...or disaster. But there I was. Doing it. ("Why is no one screaming?" the woman next to me in line whispered after several from our group had sailed down the line without so much as a peep. "Oh, I'll be screaming for sure," I replied.)

An aunt of mine made a brave decision several months ago, one that has changed her life significantly. And when she made the decision, she called me. She said I had a lot to do with her decision, in that she's watched me make decisions all my life that involved going with the more unknown, scary option. And she said she couldn't justify letting fear keep her from making a certain choice. Think about that for a minute. Because if we take this principle (not letting fear be what keeps us from doing something) and look at it another way, what this actually means is that we should actually be making decisions because they scare us. We should be choosing what scares us. Maybe not all the time, but I'm convinced that choosing the scary option now and then takes us outside our wheelhouse long enough to be reminded that shaking things up is necessary for growth. This doesn't mean we won't feel like crapping our pants when staring down the mountainside, but it means when we've safely reached the bottom of the hill, we'll have opened ourselves up to new experiences and opportunities as well as increased the confidence we have in our own capabilities. Plus, you can't beat the view while coming down.

AUG
10

Glee/Terror

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I'm addicted to the log chute rides at amusement parks...the ones modeled after Splash Mountain. The ones that send you careening down a big drop at the end (or the beginning if you're on the Atlantis ride at Sea World...did NOT see that coming), the drop getting you sufficiently soaked. I'm not sure why I like them so much, because they scare me. It's true that I want to ride them and can't wipe the grin from my face after I do, but there's always a moment--usually as the log car is slowly ascending the pre-drop climb--that I ask myself what the hell I was thinking getting on.

It's a pretty accurate parallel to life, at least for me it is. Because when I look back on the decisions I've made, particularly the weighty ones with significant change or impact upon my life, the options I've chosen were usually the ones that scared me. It's not that I'm drawn to scary things, it's more that I can never justify using fear as a reason to give up something I want.

Recently because of some decisions I've made--calculated risks, I'd call them--I now find myself, well, sort of screwed in a particular aspect of my life. Some have asked if I wish I had made different decisions back when I had the chance, but I don't. Because I believe in going after what you want most, and that's what I did. And I'd do it again. Unpleasant as they are, things like disaster and failure and the going awry of best-laid plans are still not as punishing as regret for never trying...or for letting fear keep you from choosing the thing you wanted most.

Which is why I took a cab over to the Mall of America this past week while in Minneapolis for work. It's why I waited in a long and stuffy line, why I sat in the front seat despite being warned I'd get wet, why I was giddy even in the presence of panic as the drop approached, and why I came back to Cleveland feeling more myself than I have in weeks. It's also why I bought the overpriced picture. Evidence that Glee/Terror happens. And that sometimes it does us good to seek it out.

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