In early June my son and his friend, both college students, were skateboarding on a Friday night in Portland. They chose a street that each thought the other had gone down before. As they picked up speed both realized they were in trouble. My son’s friend purposely headed into a wall of blackberry brambles. His was a good decision.
My son thought he could slow or stop. He came to a few minutes later with a broken collarbone and trouble speaking. His concussion cleared enough for him to ask his friend to call 911. His friend’s phone was shattered and the friend flagged down a passing motorist. My son spent the night on a gurney in the hallway of the emergency room. He said that being in the hallway was a good thing. People were dying in the rooms.
A week after the crash, my son had his third orthopedic surgery in four years. (#1 a collision off of a snowboard jump. #2 a fall while bouldering.) My son is doing well now. His full recovery from the accident was faster than mine.
I spoke to my son about his general risk assessment skills. So did his professor (my son was working in a lab for the summer). So did most of his friends. Even for the 20ish crowd, three sporting accidents requiring surgery seemed extreme.
Here’s the strange thing: part of me was envious of my son and his broken collarbone. (I can publicly admit this because none of my children read my blog.)
It’s been a great year for Maddi’s Fridge. It’s been a tough year for my writing.
I have been slow, tentative, and reluctant to take the risks necessary submit finished picture books to editors and polish my current novel. My inability to take chances is pulling me under like quicksand.
I know that some of you will say “Unknown steep hill, skateboard, that’s a risk. But what’s going to happen to you? Is your laptop going to fall on your big toe?”
You are right. I am under no physical threat. Emotional fears, though, cause their own damage. Fear of losing self-respect though failure, fear of ridicule (you wrote what????) and fear of rejection can paralyze even someone with a few accomplishments under her bra strap.
Then I look at my son who stands at the top of a steep hill with a thin piece of wood, four wheels, no helmet, and is excited and happy to see what happens next. My son is modeling behavior for me.
I don’t want to be as physically adventurous. I do want to emulate his excitement and the willingness to leap.
For the record: I am not advocating that you or any member of my family skateboard, skydive, etc. But I’m beginning to realize that extreme sports are so popular because they show you both the joys and risks all in the same moment. You overcome your fears and the reward (or occasionally, the punishment) is immediate.
You will not find me standing on a steep Portland hill with a skateboard. Hopefully you will find me rebuilding my excitement and enthusiasm for writing. If I can rediscover that passion, I know I will leap.
And yes, all thanks to my son.