For some reason (maybe my unconscious?) I am still poking around in het book by Adam Phillips, On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored. Maybe I just like the title. Now I am reading chapter 3: On Risk and Solitude where Phillips writes that if we know (or he would say make conscious) what we consider to be a risk, perhaps we will discover what we value.

This got me thinking about what risks I take and what it says about my values. My granddaughter Lydia is amazingly brave when it comes to physical risks. She skydives. I am not that way. When Lydia was 6, her birthday party was held at a venue that had miniature slides, crawl through tunnels, balance beams, and obstacles to conquer. Being her grandmother, of course I showed up despite the noise. Our relationship has always been important to me.

Seeing her agile moves on the equipment I wanted to be with her, and I imagine unconsciously that I also wanted to be like her. I wanted to be nimble. In pursuit of this dream, I left the safety of the table where the adults were having snacks. I was going to be the Super Cool Grandma and join her! She has always called me TT – so I wanted to be a Terrific TT.

I don’t remember much after leaving the table except tripping over a balance beam, hitting my head on a pull up bar and trying to navigate obstacles that were in my way of being with my precious granddaughter. I do remember clearly Lydia pulling me aside, putting her hand on my arm and saying sternly, “TT – Go sit down.” She helped me know that that playground was too risky for me. The risk of trying to navigate it happened because of how much I valued my relationship with her.  

When I read Phillips about risk, it occurred to me that I am once again facing decisions about physical risk. I am fully vaccinated. Wendell is fully vaccinated. Is it worth the risk to eat in a restaurant again? How much of a risk is it? I want to see the ocean. How much of a risk is it to board a plane? I want to go on a road trip. How much of a risk is it to stay in a motel?

An article in The Des Moines Register on May 19, 2021, noted that behavior is influenced more by personal risk calculations than it is by laws. I think that is what Phillips is trying to help us do – design our own personal risk calculation.  He is saying that when we know our values, we can calculate what we are willing to risk. This post has focused on physical risk but what about psychological risks? Publishing my memoir felt like a risk. It wasn’t easy showing all my shortcomings. I decided to go ahead with it (risk) because I hoped it would help others know that personal change, though it may take a while, is possible. As a retired psychotherapist, I feel strongly about psychological wellness.

When you hear the word risk – do you think of physical risks or psychological risks? Which are easier for you?


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