Risk

For one reason or another, risk has been on my mind. Risk is part of life; it is part of my work, my entire career has been one of measuring risk, of averting it, of making it more acceptable, but most of all it has been about taking risk. Life is a risky enterprise. Nothing that we do comes with certainty except death and even that, when willed, can elude us like trying to grasp at smoke. Once I considered myself a risk taker, though I have never been truly adventurous. I like my safety nets: less than some, more than others. I have come to recognise when other people’s actions are driven by fear, though my own is a mystery. I drape it in words like loyalty, like reason, security, compromise, habit, certainty. Yet underlying all these things is fear. The risk is too great, the harm too probable. I forget, sometimes, how difficult I found probability when I studied it in maths as a child. It is no wonder, perhaps, that I am so terrible at it.

I will risk for myself, but in my relations to others I am afraid. I am afraid of disappointing, of letting people down. I am afraid of sending us down a path which is irreversible, which will lead to irreparable damage. I value my capability and my strength, though it is an illusion. I am not strong.

To love is to risk which is why I measure my love carefully, dole it out in small doses and only to those in whose hands I feel safe. Yet I am safe. I have loved immoderately, I have loved in a way which is absorbing and painful, which felt larger and more significant and more otherworldly than I ever could have imagined. I have done this: why do I not do it now?

I have become afraid of risk. I have become comfortable. It is not enough to live one day after another. The sun rises (the Earth rotates), each of us awakes, I go to work, I work, I come home, I eat, I watch TV, I sleep. I have worked minor variations of the same job for years. I have lived in the same house. In the evenings I sit and read, reading about other worlds, other lives, people living through their danger. It is safe, all safe. I am terrified of losing any of it.

Or not terrified, perhaps that is too strong a word. Perhaps I have simply misplaced my ability to imagine that things could be any different. Perhaps that’s the true curse of middle age – not the loss of desire, the slippery decay of the body – the loss of imagination. It is not tested enough; we do not risk dreams, not even in sleep. I look to the future and wonder how I will maintain my level of comfort.

I need to learn to dream again. I need to consider the risk of dying a regret-filled old woman an unacceptable risk to take. I need it to terrify me, so I won’t be afraid to live, now, while I still can.

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