Risk

You Have to Do the Cutting First

I lay there in the dark with my legs feeling heavy. The previous night we went to bed expecting snow. Nature followed through and we got mounds of it. A big, heavy blanket of spring snow.

When I woke it was dark, big flakes falling in that orangey glow of the street light.

I lay still and I stared at the ceiling, my dread-filled heart beating slowly when my phone started to ring.

It was my in-laws, calling in early, asking if it was still going to happen.

The funeral.

Was it still going to happen?

You don’t postpone funerals.

Not even with blizzards and three feet of mushy, heavy spring snow that takes out trees.

Overnight, one of our two tall aspen trees had laid over loudly in the quiet snow.

It’s bulky trunk and magnificent branches now splayed themselves over our driveway, hugging concrete and saying, ” I dare you to try to leave.”

My husband kept fielding calls from people.

So many people asking, “Is it still on?”

I couldn’t answer.

I got dressed in my black dress and scratchy tights. My cousin brushed my hair.

We continued to look out the window and kept thinking, “This storm has to stop soon.”

It didn’t.

In suits and ties and dresses and heels, the three of us marched outside and stared at the damn tree.

How were we supposed to get out of the driveway with that thing keeping us in this house? We had to get out. How were we supposed to go to the funeral?

It was still on.

Our kind neighbor was using his snowblower and looked up at us, dressed in all black, and quickly came over to move that heavy snow into piles.

Dylan pulled out of our garage at a precarious angle, and we bounced our way over the snow to the funeral.

The people kept calling to ask.

It was still on.

We went through the motions and mentioned how you could take the boy out of Minnesota, but you couldn’t take the Minnesota out of the boy. Even for his funeral. That boy, grown man, now gone, brought so much snow to his own funeral.

We headed home.

Exhausted from emotion, to-do lists, and people’s empathetic arm squeezes, I wanted to rest, but knew we’d have to face that tree first.

Except, we didn’t.

That same kind neighbor had cut the precious tree to pieces and stacked the remains by the side of our house. Dylan went over later to talk to him, and say thanks, and the kind man said, “It looked like you were heading somewhere pretty important.”

Yes. It was pretty important. That funeral happened.

As a result of that heavy weight, where two trees once stood, now just one permanently tilted as its partner was ripped from the ground.

Two years passed. 

I got worried every time it snowed and our neighbor’s truck, parked ever in front of the house, seemed to look over its shoulder at me every time I’d walk in to my home saying “Are you sure you’re going to let that guy lean like that?”

And so, on Saturday, the men brought the trucks and saws and rope and they cut her down. The second half of the tree – the one that fell with the snow on the morning of the funeral. The one that was still on.

They cut her down, even though she was standing bravely, without her friend.

I almost cried as they chopped that beautiful, living tree into pieces. I stood in our front window and thought, “Thank God it’s not snowing. We cut it down in time.”

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There were buds on the branches. It would have bloomed again.

We’ve got piles of wood on the side of the house again, and now a bench made of the trunk.

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I hate that we cut down a living thing that was just living it’s life at an altered angle. It was just trying to reach for the sun.

And yet, sometimes we have to rip things out of the ground for our own safety. We have to cut things up that no longer are good for us, take what was and make it into something new.

The beautiful process of recognizing  you can’t postpone some things and move forward by taking actions where you can.

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We will plant more trees and they will grow and shade us and bring fresh oxygen into our lungs.

You just have to do the beautiful cutting first.

 

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Oh, that’s risky.

What I’m going to write about today doesn’t feel beautiful. It feels scary, and uncomfortable, and really frustrating. And in fact it’s something I wish I could eliminate from my life all together, because it makes my stomach hurt and tears come to my eyes. Risk. Isn’t that a nasty four letter word? In light of our recent circumstances, risk seems to be a consistent undertone in decision making. So this is my effort to reclaim that little word and say, ” Hey you, you RISKY situation you, I see you and I’m going to do it anyways.”

I think, when I was in elementary school, my teachers would often tell my parents, “Katie doesn’t take many risks.” I guess that personality trait stuck with me and continues to be in my blood, my character make up. I like to play it safe, assess a situation, and see all the possible outcomes before making a decision. I’ll usually make a decision after taking some time to calculate the risk, and the benefits too. I’ve been known to do cost analysis, make pro/con lists, weigh the options. But, surprise, God isn’t working that way in my life right now. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

This week we made the decision for Dylan to take a part time job. No more unemployment benefits, and no guarantee that there will be enough hours in the workweek to make ends meet. A scary risk. But I am trusting in a wide open door where an interview and job offer came easy, and in the hopes that this may lead to new connections, new opportunities, and perhaps something else. They say it is better to be working. That it is easier to find a job when you have a job. Ugh…please help me to remember this. It is so easy to see the potential negatives in a risky situation rather than the positives.

We took another huge risk this week in that we finally set a date for our wedding! This risk, this one is exciting, it’s one I’ve been waiting for for quite awhile. But doesn’t the big MARRIAGE feel like it has a huge risk too. In my generation, half of our parents are divorced, and there are so many things that can go wrong. Wedding planning alone, on a small non-profit salary budget with the help of our parents, feels risky. Picking a venue that fits 200 people feels risky. What if it rains, what if its windy, and what if I get too overwhelmed by all those wedding decisions? Because I am not the girl who cares about those Chivali chairs. Or whatever they are called.

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Something to celebrate

About a year ago I remember I participated in a group conversation where we were talking about risks we had taken. The context was risks “at-risk” youth take – at risk of what? I’m not sure I like that term. Most people’s responses leaned towards negative risk behaviors, stupid things kids had done in high school, drinking too much, driving a car with their eyes closed. The facilitator redirected the dialogue mid-conversation and asked us, “Why does society always think risk taking is bad? What are some good risks you took?” And I think that is the perspective I am hoping for here. Yes, there is a risk in not knowing for sure where that pay check is going to come from. And yes, in this day and age, marriage is maybe one of the biggest risks I will ever take in my life. But I know this. I love Dylan and I wouldn’t want another life partner. We are going through tough stuff now, and maybe it won’t get easier. But at least we will be together. And maybe we will drain our bank account for a four hour celebration because we want to get married and I’m kinda sick of waiting for that perfect moment where we say ahh, now the situation is great – let’s move ahead. I am not sure it’s going to arrive and if I take this approach, I might be waiting forever.

I came across this quote today – they say Brad Pitt said it, I’m not quite sure – but it goes like this, ” A family is a risky venture, because the greater the love, the greater the loss. That’s the trade off, But I’ll take the risk.” Oh, that nasty four letter word.  When I care about people, when I want success, when I wait around for clear answers, there is risk that I may get hurt and lose it all.  That loss is perhaps a real consequence, but I want to live in the moment and continue to hope for something better.  There is beauty in the potential positive outcomes of risk, and the learning opportunity in the negative consequences of risk. And beauty in me being vulnerable and saying, “this kinda sucks.” This trusting stuff is risky business… but what’s the alternative?