Friday, February 4, 2011
Danger! Change Ahead
by Deborah Sharp
In Frisbee-flat Ft. Lauderdale, the 17th Street Causeway bridge to the ocean soars sixty-some feet above the Intracoastal Waterway. It's south Florida's version of a mountain.
On a recent bicycle trip home from the beach, I watched as my husband sped down the bridge. I brought up the rear, riding my brakes the whole way.
''Slow down,'' I yelled. ''Be careful!''
My voice was lost in the wind as he flew down the concrete span, jumped the curb, and pumped his fist in the air like a 15-year-old in a BMX race. It struck me as a pretty good metaphor for our marriage. A globe-trotting TV reporter, Kerry is the risk taker. A leap-before-looking type. I'm the worrier, cautious and careful. I'm always ready to apply the brakes and end the ride, should any risk appear suddenly in the road ahead.
When I turned 50 ... uhm, a few years ago ... I resolved to break out of my life-long habit of holding back. I decided to do one thing a month that terrified me. Not necessarily bungee-jumping or sky-diving, though I did climb into a small plane for a flying lesson. The challenges I set were more emotionally risky; more threatening to my shy, spotlight-shunning self. Singing karaoke. Performing on stage. Visiting a nude beach, my Lutheran conservatism be damned.
I met these self-imposed goals for six months, a period I dubbed The Half-Year of Living Dangerously. It was liberating to shake up my dull, middle-aged life, though I hated almost all of the challenges as I was doing them. It only felt good once they were done. Well, except for the nude beach. After that, I picked prickly grains of sand for days from crevices I didn't even realize I had.
Anyhow it's been ... uhm, a few years ... since I've done anything similarly risky. I'm back into a rut so deep I'm just barely peeking out over the edges. Meanwhile, a mystery writer friend in south Florida just announced she's chucking her college-teaching job, taking off alone on a small sailboat, and plans to write from the world's exotic ports-of-call. Risky. Scary, especially without the cushion of a spouse with health insurance and a good-paying job.
I look at some of my fellow authors at Midnight Ink and elsewhere, trying all sorts of new endeavors: writing second, even third series; doing stand-alone books in completely different genres; ending successful runs with well-loved characters to move on to new writing challenges. They're not riding their brakes. They're not coloring inside the lines. They're not afraid of getting too close to the edge and plummeting over.
So, enough. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to shake things up. Maybe it'll be the writing. Maybe I'll try to do a comedy routine on stage. Maybe I'll travel someplace where I don't know the language or another soul and spend a week on my own.
How about you? Are you a leaper or a brake-rider? Any risks you'd like to take, but haven't?