“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” according to Helen Keller. Yeah, sure, easy for her to say. Ok, I take that back. Probably not so easy for her to say. But let’s be honest, just finding the ladies’ room was likely an adventure for Helen Keller.
I’ve had plenty of adventure in my life. Waking up on a park bench in Monte Carlo with my passport (and a few chips) tucked safely in my underpants. Jumping on a handsome stranger’s motorcycle in Greece to get to a nightclub open even later. Finding myself alone on an empty, docked ferry, unsure of which country’s port I had reached and when. I could go on, but I think you get the unfocused picture.
I’m pretty sure Helen Keller wasn’t advocating blackouts when she referred to daring adventures. Perhaps she was encouraging people to live without fear; to take risks despite our vulnerability. But let's be honest, Helen Keller never had to hear a biting, “I told you so.” I’m not saying there are benefits to being deaf and blind, ok? So don’t pull that quote from this piece. But there's no doubt it’s easier on the ego to fall, fail, or make a fool of one's self when we don’t see eyes rolling or hear a crushing “Duh. Did you seriously think that would work, anyway?"
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I heard a newscaster interview a man about the massive devastation to his home and community. “Sir, can you share how it feels to be a victim affected by all this wreckage?” The man responded: “Victim? I’m no victim. I’m a survivor.” That’s a serious watershed moment: having the courage to accept the things we cannot change.
I stayed in my marriage, my extremely-uncomfortable-comfort-zone, far too long out of fear. I was so afraid of the unknown changes I would face, I chose to be comfortably miserable instead. Eventually, and despite very palpable fear, I filed for divorce, moved to a new home and began to rebuild my life. However, fear of being alone and an unknown future continues to dog me. It’s in the back of my mind and plays over and over like an old record that skips in the same spot. I get through the day, make the lunches, put on a dress, smile and nod. But fear still has the power to paralyze me like a victim, and can keep me from moving forward like a survivor.
Last week I traveled to New York City on my own. It may sound silly to some of you who have the luxury of traveling with a partner or travel often for business, but it's lonely and a bit scary to travel solo as a single, 45 year-old woman. No doubt there are moments of exhilarating freedom, but they are fleeting as life is meant to be shared. Evenings are the most difficult. After years of being part of a couple, good or bad, it takes courage to walk into any place, any time alone – even a restaurant full of strangers.
“Just a table for one tonight, ma’am?”
“Yes, dork in a penguin suit, just a table for one. And are you seriously just a 5’5” man? Let me guess...size six shoe?”
My trip to New York was a watershed moment for me. I caught my own cabs, lugged my own luggage, struck up conversations with strangers, sat alone in restaurants, and in general, trusted the good will of people.
As a sober, single woman (who gratefully woke up each morning knowing exactly where both her high heels were) all of the above equals quite a daring adventure.
In New York, somehow and at some point, my blinding fear about the future left me. I was able to see possibility. The former dread I felt at having to make it on my own turned into excitement and determination to excel on my own; to not only survive each day, but to thrive, and make the most of each one.
Trust me, my fear has not dissipated. However, determination to build a better future for myself and my boys has put that fear in its proper place; to serve as a catalyst for courage to face the future, to remove my blinders and embrace life’s adventures that are continually unfolding in my path.
Taxi, please! Destination still unknown.