Of course I rolled my eyes. But then I scanned my body. I am covered in bruises. I counted seven on my left calf alone. Not surprising, since I’m anemic and pale and a klutz. But my impromptu inventory made me realize: I couldn’t find a single bruise that I could say I actually earned.
Looking back on my life thus far, I see that I have taken risks–the kind of risks that can result in the earning of a bruise. But humor for me a sec, and let’s examine those bruises. I figure they come from two places.
Source #1: The Relatively Sure Thing.
Most of the risks I’ve taken have been carefully calculated. The only one that wasn’t curated so deliberately was moving to Colorado with no job, $325 of graduation money in my pocket, and a crush on a cute boy. But I was 21. I literally had nothing else to do, and if I failed, I’d move back in with Mom and hide my face in shame when my friends came around. I sustained quite a few bumped-into-the-couch—type bruises and a few embarrassing hickey-on-the-neck-type contusions, but I managed to avoid the significant wound of paying rent to my parents. Oh, and I later married that cute boy.
Source #2: Going Big (But Only Because I was Forced To)
My ego got beat up pretty badly when I got sick. My illness still knocks me around. But it’s forced me to take a hard look at who I really am: the me that cannot and will not be changed by the circumstances of life. She was buried pretty deep, and I got black and blue trying to find her. It was a risky endeavor, and one I only took because I was out of choices: being depressed, sick, lonely, worn out, and scared with no foreseeable end in sight tends to force you to drop the pretenses, scrap That Which No Longer Works, and engage in an extensive rebuild. None of this was ever my intention.
A Risk vs. Bruises Inventory
For the purposes of this (tenuous) argument, I’m going to define “risk” as doing the scary things that are sure to get me closer to the person I really want to be, yet may result in a black eye or bloody lip, of course.
I’ve enjoyed relatively good health this year and yet I counted my risks and came up with a big, fat ZERO.
I counted my bruises (currently visible only). I came up with 11.
Why did that one writer’s comment bother me so much? Because I’ve been camped out, lounging in the recliner of my comfort zone. I’ve been treating myself with kid’s gloves—for fear of getting sick; for fear of failing. Yet careful as I’ve been, I still have bruises. I continue to get beat up by life.
That’s what life does.
So Now What, Wounded Me?
Well, dear self, here’s the thing: If you try that 90 minute Hatha yoga class and you peter out midway, so what. If the extra activity leads you to getting sick, you’ll recover.
If you finish writing the dang book you’ve been yammering on about for three years and it’s best used as kindling, then so be it. Will I feel like I’ve been punched in the kisser by Mike Tyson? Yup. Will it kill me? Only if I let it.
We all have a choice. We can choose to earn our bruises by putting ourselves out there, taking big risks, and trying new things. Or we can let life bump us around. Either way, we get bruised.
The least I could do is earn a few.