It’s dangerous to live a safe life. ~ Nietzsche
Linda: In the Buddhist tradition, there are four personality types — anger, greed, illusion, and fear. I’ve always been a fear type. Maybe I was just born that way, or maybe it’s a result of childhood experiences. I don’t know. Frankly, at this point, I don’t care. These days, the why questions no longer fascinate me. It’s the how questions that are more compelling. For instance, given that I have a lot of fear to contend with, how can I best deal with it, so it doesn’t keep me from doing what I want to do and having the life I want to have? How can I continue to take risks, even when I’m scared? When I explore these questions, things begin to become clear for me.
Are you settling for a predictable, comfortable, and secure relationship?
I’m shy and a steady plodder. When Charlie and I were first together, my shyness prevented me from speaking up about what I really wanted out of the relationship. I shudder when I think how little I was willing to settle for in those years. My vision was seriously limited. Although in my heart I wanted the kind of open, communicative marriage that could foster a loving family, I was afraid to initiate the process of getting there. To avoid the conflict I was so afraid of, I was tempted to settle for a predictable, comfortable, and secure relationship, rather than the openhearted one I really wanted. But in the end, I knew I had to risk the pain and upheaval that would come from speaking up to try and improve things. For a recovering shy person, this has been a piece of work!
I was well aware that although relationships do provide some welcomed comfort and security, some wise part of me also intuitively knew that relationships are inherently dangerous. The more the person knows about us, the closer the relationship, then the more they mean to us. It’s as if they have our self-esteem in the palm of their hand and can squeeze and crush our sense of well-being with a look, or a harsh word. We are challenged to be careful with such power, for intimacy cannot occur in the presence of anger, control, defensiveness, or indifference. It requires a degree of vulnerability that can only be attained when we find the courage to face difficult situations that we may have become accustomed to avoiding.
During the rough patches in our marriage, there were times when I had to be willing to risk the relationship itself. I told Charlie that there were certain things that I simply couldn’t live with. I didn’t express this as a threat or an ultimatum, but rather as an acknowledgment of what was true for me. Sometimes I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane with no idea whether or not the parachute would open. I knew that setting my terms might drive Charlie away, but not to do so felt like a lie.
Sometimes we have to risk it all to have it all.
We faced the risk of losing our marriage more than once. And each time we risked it, I felt terrified. But each act of courage brought our relationship to a higher state. Today I live in gratitude for what the risks that we’ve taken have brought us. The results are more than I ever hoped for.
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