The Joy Diet, Ingredient #5: Risk

The Fifth Ingredient for Joy: Risk

The Fifth Ingredient for Joy: Risk

This week, those of us following Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet via The Next Chapter worked with Risk.

No, I didn’t do anything as risky as standing on my head in the middle of what appears to be Times Square as Dharma Mittra does on my vision card, but I did take a risk.

First of all, I actually followed through all the proscribed steps as they pertained to one goal:

  1. “Choose any scary goal.”  I’ve been wanting to write a novel for a very long time now.  It’s a repetitive desire.  Writing novels–plural–is, in fact, one of my life goals.   It’s scary, though, because every time I have tried to write fiction, short or novel-length, in the past three years, it has been a bust.  I let my perfectionism and Inner Critic get the better of me.  That, or latent slacker tendencies.   This is the goal I chose.
  2. “Take the smallest scary step possible.”  I signed up for NaNoWriMo, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month, where loads of would-be novelists from all over the world come together via the internet and try to bang out a 50,000-word novel in 30 days alongside each other.  I tried NaNoWriMo in 2006, but didn’t get past 5,000 words, and felt myself a failure.  It’s intimidating if I let myself think too much about it, but I’ve grown a lot, too, in the past three years, so I think making another go of it, though slightly scary, will be good for me.
  3. “Make backing out as hard as going forward.”  I’ve already outed myself on Facebook, in this week’s Wishcasting, and on my semi-private, password-protected blog for my closest friends to read.  I have two writing buddies so far, and anticipate more to come onboard.  I’ve got a bit of time to develop a concept, plotline, etc., but not so much that I talk myself out of it.  If I don’t at least give it my best effort, I’ll be the target for much (mostly) good-natured ribbing come December.
  4. “Don’t be afraid to be afraid.”  Right now, as I type this, I’m not very afraid at all of NaNoWriMo, or writing a novel.   I’m actually getting excited about it. On this point, however, I vacillate wildly.  Ask me tomorrow, or next week, and I’m sure I’d give a different answer.
  5. “Walk into the monster’s maw.”  Well, I’m on my way to the monster’s maw.  Only a little bit longer before I’ll be right inside it!  I will not back out.

Sidenote:  There is a risk that came with signing up for NaNoWriMo that I chose not to take.  I didn’t link my blog on my NaNoWriMo profile.  Why?  Well, certain people in my community may decide to participate and find me there.  I would rather keep these musings separate from them.  You see, I speak a lot of my spiritual and religious beliefs here, which, as I am searching right now for my right fit, are not at all orthodox, and certainly do not align with the dominant cultural beliefs of this place on such matters.  Where I live, there is still a lot of prejudice and brow-beating aimed at people who are unorthodox in their beliefs.  At this juncture, I would rather avoid the prejudice and brow-beating.

When I decided to join in on this adventure called The Joy Diet, Risk is the ingredient I was dreading.  The previous four were so difficult, and, on the first read through, last week’s ingredient, Creativity, the one I expected to enjoy most, frustrated me more than the others up to that point.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying the Risk chapter!  I must have more courage than I’d thought!  The October dreamboard, it seems, has worked its magic.

I started looking for little, situationally-specific risks to take, too, with something very much akin to glee, but with slight reservation.

For instance, I cannot afford to go out to eat lunch every day and continue saving money to finance the Big Dream at the rate I’d like, so I eat in the office most days.  There’s a problem with this, however.  I view lunchtime as my time.  It is my time, if I leave.  When I stay, I always ask my boss if it’s okay to eat my lunch before I start heating it and/or eating it.  He says yes, yet, a lot of times he will not take lunch during the prescribed time, and, because he has decided to keep working, will constantly interrupt my eating.  This has been a continuous boundary issue.  For a while, I was taking my lunch and my car to the city parking lot to get some peace, but that ran out gas and, with it becoming cooler, won’t be practical as I’d have to keep the heat running.  I devised a new plan.  Wednesday, I asked if it was okay to eat my lunch at the appointed time.  He said yes.  I then made a visible show of placing earbuds in my ears and turning on my personal CD player, then went about microwaving my lunch while listening to the 10th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of Placebo’s debut album, one of my favorites, which does a good job of drowning others out.  I then proceeded to ignore my boss and the clients who insisted upon trooping in during the lunch hour as my boss chose to leave the office unlocked when ignoring them was possible.  (Ignoring them was easy, as the music drowned them out much of the time.  However, it was hard to ignore them on the occasions they stood over me.)  When ignoring them was not possible, I pointed out in very polite, nice-girl tones that I was eating and would address their concerns when I was finished, and not before.

I’ve wanted to do this before, but I’ve been terrified that standing up for a healthy boundary–an uninterrupted, unstressed meal, which never even takes up all the time I’m alotted–would have unpleasant repercussions for my job situation.  With the economy the way it is, everyone’s autopilot setting is to do whatever it takes to please his or her boss at all costs lest they end up sanctioned or fired.  I decided, however, this week that this was a risk I was willing to take.  And it seemed to work.  I made my point.   I was neither sanctioned nor fired.  I intend to use it again when necessary, as I’m sure that boundary will need a lot of reinforcement.

Beck said a lot of things on the subject of Risk that truly resonated with me.  I highlighted quite a few passages to look over later, when I need an extra shot of courage.  Among them are the following:

“Experience has taught me that the way to a joyful life is always fraught with fear, that to find it you must follow your heart’s desires right through the inevitable terrors that arise to hold you back.  If you don’t do this, your life will be shaped by fear, rather than love, and I guarantee, the shape will be narrow and tiny compared with your best destiny.” — Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, p. 93

“…Living to avoid fear is more dangerous to your true self than a life full of obvious risks.  It precludes all the rewards that can only come by daring to try, and it can never avert all tragedy.” — The Joy Diet, p. 93

“Whenever you are contemplating a risk that is necessary to achieve your heart’s desires, there will come a time when the only options are to live with a demon spirit–the ghost of a hope that will not leave you and will not die–or walk right into the thing that terrifies you most.  After going through it a few times, you’ll recognize such situations sooner, and walk toward the monster with less uncertainty.  Oh, you’ll still be scared.  If your doing something really important, you’ll be scared beyond description, but you’ll also feel the yearning to go on, fear or no fear.  You’ll find that you can follow that sweetness into the most dangerous undertakings, and that just as your terror destroys the person you used to be, someone stronger and braver always appears.” — The Joy Diet, p.105

I say I marked those passages, and more, for when I need an extra dose of courage, as I’ve made up my mind about certain long-term risks.  Some are time-related, as detailed here, and involve putting certain things to bed, and stopping trying to rush through that process.  Others are related to the steps I have ahead of me toward the Big Dream.

For the steps to the big dream, I found this guideline Martha Beck listed in her Risk Assessment immensely helpful:

“A good risk feels like taking a high dive into a sparkling clean pool; a bad risk feels like taking the same leap, but into polluted swamp water.” — The Joy Diet, p. 96

I’ve been going around and around about where to move to.  I know I need to move away from here, somewhere where there are more opportunities to connect, in person, with like-minded people and a wider variety of occupations.   This is chiefly what I’ve been saving my money for: financing a move.

Oregon has been calling to me for about a year, even though I’ve never been there.   It won’t leave me alone.  It just keeps intensifying, the pull to it.  It crops up randomly, in books that say nothing about being set there on their covers, in night dreams, in daydreams, in the blog posts of people I read, even the ones that don’t live there, or the ones I stumble across via links on the blogs I regularly read, plus in random browsing of “interesting” photos on Flickr.  I see bits of its landmarks on TV, channel surfing, and know them instantly, though I’ve never been there.  Looking at pictures of the Columbia River Gorge or Multnomah Falls, it seems like I can smell the forest, thick with evergreens and moss, and damp earth, and the water, that I can feel the mist on my face.  I want to see the sun set over Cannon Beach myself.  (THAT is on my Bucket List!)  In my obsessive researching–“research” was my librarian’s assistant specialty back in the day–I have looked at a handful of maps, and most are now committed to memory.  Am I set on living right in Portland?  No.  In fact, the longer this goes on, the more I think I’d rather live on the outskirts, or maybe even a couple hours away from the city itself, or even across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, which has cheaper rent.   The point is, that area calls me.  All that praying for guidance I’ve been doing?  The more I pray for that, the more visions of Oregon dance in my head, both while awake and asleep.  It hits something deep and primal that I can’t quite put my finger on.  There’s got to be a reason for that, right?   And, after reading that someone besides me moved somewhere on a dream, and going back into her archives to read some of the moving process for her and her family, I am feeling much better about the possibility of following heart over head on this one, having–surprise–landed on her blog via a link on another blog which I found linked on a blog I regularly read.

In mid-to-late April, I am planning to quit my job and moving to Oregon shortly thereafter.  I hope to make an exploratory trip in March to look at apartments and look into employment opportunities.  This, the place and timing of it, feels like “a high dive into a clear pool” as opposed to quitting my job in December and leaving in January, which feels like “taking the same leap, but into polluted swamp water.”

Moving in the winter, I have figured out, is not for me.  Me saying I was quitting my job and leaving in January was me being reactionary to the state of things at my job and in my personal life.  It was me just wanting the uncomfortable parts to be over as soon as possible.  As prone as I am to seasonal depression (it’s hit me the past three years in late winter), winter is not a time for me to go somewhere strange where I don’t know very many, if any, people beforehand.  That would be adding unnecessary stress to an already, by its very nature, stressful time.  Winter, seasonal depression aside, is the season that my hermit’s heart is even more a hermit than the rest of the year, which doesn’t make it the best time of year to try to make new friends.  Not to mention that quite  a bit of country–much of it then-frozen plains and mountains–lie between me and where my heart and soul so obviously want to be.  That’s why that scared me so much and didn’t feel at all like a positive risk.

I think, having made the risky decisions I made this week regarding the Big Dream, the two sides of myself, the Logical One and the Emotional One may stop arguing quite so much.

The risks I’ve taken this week, in general, have done and will continue, I’m sure, to do me good.  I actually surprised myself!

How was Risk for you, fellow Joy Dieters?  If you stumble across this and haven’t been following along with us, what positive risk could you take toward one of your dreams or deep desires?

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Categories: The Next Chapter | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “The Joy Diet, Ingredient #5: Risk

  1. Ooh, I feel maybe your NaNo experience could involve an Oregon setting?? Maybe?? The thing I figure with NaNo is that if we don’t try we’ll never know. It’s a great pull to just get me to write the fiction is know is in there somewhere just waiting to come out. It’s a big target but if it wasn’t achievable, they wouldn’t set it. So, here’s to 50,000 words!!

  2. I love the connection you made between taking risks and setting boundaries. A great story and good for you!

  3. It is so great that you made the decision to follow your dream and take a step closer to completing them.

  4. I loved reading this post, your thoughts and experiences. I love how risk has emboldened you and empowered you. I really feel you are ready to risk more and more and by taking those baby steps you are encouraging yourself in ways you were more than ready to be encouraged!!

    I sense a great write coming from you in NaNoWriMo…and once you have donethat, you have set the path for yourself to walk to continuing to write and put your work out into the world. Some will be accepted, some will not, but in building your courage and strength in your baby steps now, you will be ready for whatever comes your way!!

    Wishing you a very great amount of success!!

  5. What a rich post full of many gutsy strides through your fear! I’m intrigued by the NaNoWriMo thing… sounds like there’s great promise for you with that! I also love how you were able to create boundaries around your “me time” at work. Here’s to living out loud! 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing your week with risk. Congratulations on taking the step and signing up for Nanowrimo. Has you read the most recent article on Zen Habits on Nanowrimo? You can read it here: http://writetodone.com/2009/10/22/how-to-write-a-novel-in-30-days/

  7. You are brave. I admire your passion and ability to take the steps to fulfill your desires. Good luck! Thanks for sharing.

  8. A lot of soul search, thought and effort went into this post. Best wishes for your new home and smooth move vibes. 🙂

  9. I too was surprised to find that I embraced this chapter. It was so unexpected as I was not thrilled with the creativity chapter and resorted to wrecking that chapter. Good for you for taking steps to unplug so you can enjoy your lunch break. I hope you get that worked out so you can carve out that mid day retreat for yourself on a consistent basis. All the best with NaNoWriMo!

  10. Love the way you tried to get some peace for your lunch time. Keep living your passion.

  11. Thanks for sharing your week of big and small risks.
    Wishing you nothing but success in your wishes.

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