If not for a risk, I would not be sitting here today, typing this Signal Fire to you. If not for risk, I wouldn’t be that tiny bundle of what I can only hope was joy attending my first ever baseball game (of thousands) when only 3 days old, snuggled into my Dad’s arms. If not for risk, I sure as shit wouldn’t be ranting ad nauseam about how amazing and lovely Lady Gregson is for all of you to secretly vomit a bit to. Risk was the thing, it is it still, that has steered my life more than any other element, it is the dried stamp ink on the passport pages, the memory wall filled to the point of bursting in the closet of our bedroom, it is the folded card on every anniversary and birthday, it is the pumping of this stubborn heart.
We get complacent, though we don’t admit this aloud. We fall into routines that end so deeply carved, we call the ruts canyons, and marvel at the sedimentary layers on all sides of us. We forget that we are the water that eroded it down, that our footsteps softened the soil to the point of disappearance. It’s our doing, really, it’s our insistence on following the safe paths, the known routes, the tried and the true. It’s our doing, and we keep doing it and lose sight of the fact that we don’t have to be that water anymore, that we don’t have to flood the same valleys we’ve always flooded. We can stop the rain, we can divert the flow, we can be the stream that brings growth anywhere we please.
We can risk it, though we may tremble at the thought, we can choose something else, something more for ourselves even if we don’t yet believe ourselves worthy.
My Mom risked it, met my Dad at a baseball game in small-town Montana and knew. Risked it all for a love that grew between the foul-ball net and the dugout, said Yes when there were ten million reasons to say No, when there was one reason louder than them all. Sarah risked it, two kids and no clue where to go, risked it because after all we’d seen, all we’d found, she knew there was something in me, in the Us we made, that demanded more than just friendship. I risked it, a lifetime of waiting alone the Tails to the life of love and joy that was the Heads when that coin flipped.
50/50 chance at so much emptiness, and still I sent that quarter spinning.
With autism, every time I step outside my house it feels like I’m taking a risk, quintuply so each time I board an airplane and fly off into some great unknown. There is safety in routine, and there is comfort in safety, and there is great peace in comfort. To cast that aside and instead choose the chaos, the turmoil, the tumultuous temptation of ‘what if’ is a terrifying gamble that often feels, for me, against the worst possible odds. With autism, the house always has the upper-hand, and yet time and again, I still play. I play.
This Signal Fire is about doing just that, choosing to play. It’s about the shot-in-the-dark, the skate on thin ice, the leap before the look, the risk despite it all. It’s about how we silly humans keep forgetting that we do in fact get to choose, that we can be brave any time we want, even if it is hard, even if it is the scariest thing we’ll ever do. It’s about how every single beautiful thing I’ve ever found, loved, held, and cherished, was just right beyond the back-and-forth in my brain between staying where I was, cocooned in stillness and sameness, or jumping off the cliff and hoping that wings found their way to sprout as I catapulted through the air. It is about how if I would not have pulled the Eject cord on the routines in my life, all would have stayed and settled into that canyon of mediocrity.
I’m not saying you have to throw away the life you’re living, if it’s a life you’re loving. I’m not saying you have to run headfirst into the oncoming traffic of your days, hell, I’m not saying you even have to get on a single airplane again for the rest of your life, if that’s not where joy lives for you. What I am saying, is that sometimes in this wild life we’re writing, we are presented with a choice between taking a gamble, and refusing to play at all. I propose only that we risk it, sometimes, when our hearts scream that there’s something more for us out there. I’m saying, that some of my greatest heroes in my entire life, hit a crossroads, a coin-flip of a moment, where they had to lay it all on the line and decide once and for all, to throw their cautions to the wind, and let that pirouetting coin do its worst.
My mom is this, and I owe my life to her decision to chance it. Her birthday is three days from this day, and I wanted this Signal Fire to also be a celebration of her, of the risks she’s taken over and over again in her life to give a life of joy to everyone she encounters. She’s a magic woman, a life-giver, a life-enhancer, the Queen of Christmas, and she taught me what I know of risk, and what I know of the rewards that can spring forth from it. Happy Birthday (in a few short days) to my Marmie, my best-bud, and the embodiment of courageously following your heart. I love you so.
For all you on the fence, all you waiting to see what lives just on the other side of the coin, maybe this is the sign you’ve been waiting for, the talisman you can tuck into the folds of your heart to give you the boost of bravery to take the chance, to flip the coin, to step to the edge, and trust the wings will be born.
Maybe…it’s a 50/50 chance, after all.
If we do not risk
then we do not truly live.
We must lose to win.