I didn’t plan it. I never do. Planning to do something spontaneous and out of my comfort zone is some kind of oxymoron, right? Is it even possible to plan to be spontaneous? Probably not.
But my grandma lost her husband, my stepgrandfather, this week, and I felt a restless stirring in my soul to try to go to her for the funeral. I searched travel websites for flights to all the major cities within a couple of hundred miles of her home in rural southern Missouri. It didn’t look like it would work. And then it did. A delay in funeral plans because of weather meant that our schedule would be a little freer and I could leave my family in Pennsylvania for a few days and go to my family in the Midwest.
The trip starts tomorrow, and I am part excited, part fearful. Adventure is not my middle name. Comfortable. Predictable. Safe. Those are more my style.
And yet something about the planning of this trip has reminded me that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Life comes with no guarantees, and a safe life is not immune to trouble or hardship. Nor is it a pathway to life.
“A ship in harbor is safe but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
“I am tired of living a safe and predictable life.”
I said those words. Out loud. To my husband. As if I needed to defend my decision to make this trip, which includes three airports, four airplanes, varying weather patterns, and 300 miles (round trip) of driving solo. He hardly blinked when I suggested the trip.
My mother, on the other hand, is understandably worried. Before I’d even hit “purchase” on the airplane tickets, she was asking me all the questions I’d asked myself. She’s my mother, and she worries about me. I worry about me, too.
But I’m learning to ask myself some different questions.
Like, “What is the goal of my life?” Is it to get out of here alive? Because I will fail at that. And if it’s to live as safe and comfortably as possible, I will die a premature death from trying to protect all the things and people I care about from harm. There are only so many burdens my shoulders can carry, only so many things I can control. (I do not live this out perfectly. I’m already preparing for the possibility of flight delays and missed connections.)
Leaving my household for a few days not only means disrupting my level of comfort but also puts me in an extreme position of trust. I cannot control the weather, the airplanes, the timing of flights. I cannot oversee my husband’s care of the children while I’m gone. I cannot ensure that everything runs smoothly while I’m gone. I can’t even guarantee I’ll make it to the funeral on Monday. But I’m sure going to try.
Does this leave me anxious?
But sometimes so does going to the grocery store.
Living a safe life doesn’t give me life. Often the opposite is true. <Click to tweet>
The times I’ve felt most alive, most in tune with purpose and fulfillment, are the times I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, the times that forced me to learn and grow and fight.
Drifting wherever the current of my day leads may give me a false sense of security, the idea that everything is fine and always will be, that this is life. But the moment I have to paddle to keep from plunging over the waterfall, or kick with everything I have to swim for shore when my boat capsizes, that’s the moment I realize that I want to live.
Yes, the harbor is safe. It’s predictable (mostly). It’s protected.
The open sea is wild. Full of unknowns. And great beauty.
It’s okay to put out to sea once in a while. And it’s okay to come back to the harbor. I don’t think our lives can be lived all one way or the other. We need safe places of rest and recuperation. But we also need an adventure now and then. If for no other reason than to remind us of how much life we have in us.
So, my solo adventure awaits. It is small in comparison to others, but for me, it is big. And I’m of the mind that one small adventure leads to increasingly greater ones. (Have I mentioned that we’re going to Kenya later this year?)
One of my favorite quotes, of late, is this one from a book I recently read: “Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can’t.” So, until I step out of the car at Airport #1, I will have fear. And it won’t totally leave, I am sure, until I step back into my car a few days later.
Can you relate? What was the last adventurous thing you did? Is there a step you need to take for fear to fade?