Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Learning How to Soak Up the Warmth of the Fire Rather Than Throw Myself In

I have never been a thrill seeker of the physical variety. I leave jumping out of airplanes, bungee jumping and regular exercise to superheroes and the otherwise better equipped. I was secretly relieved when the Ropes Course in the Outdoor Adventures Class I took at J-Sargeant Reynolds during high school was repeatedly cancelled due to bad weather. But pushing myself past my comfort zone has always held an attraction for me.

Just ask the various men who picked me up hitchhiking, chased me down when I ran out on bar tabs or helped me find the right country when I was lost on the train in Europe.

At 19, it was easy to embrace danger a dozen times before going to bed.

Now, at 35, I balk at the outrageous situations I used to put myself in. And I’ve toned it down, because, really white suburban moms in their mid-thirties having a mid-life crises aren’t all that attractive. But I’m still drawn to the idea of living on the edge.

Just ask my banker with whom I am now on a first name basis.

Or the temp agency that finally quit offering me full time jobs.

Or my husband who commandeered a magnet I was going to give to a friend last Christmas. “I chose the road less traveled. Now where the hell am I?” now sits on our fridge instead of hers.

The last boyfriend I had before getting married, seduced me with a copy of the book “The Razor’s Edge.” He left it on my front porch in the middle of the night with a detailed analysis of how he and I were like the main characters scribbled in the margins. It meant more to me than a five course meal, even if he did spell my name wrong. I am a sucker, not only for words, but for the idea of walking the razor’s edge.

The problem though, is that instead of walking that edge, I’ve had a tendency to fall over it and land on my face.

That same boyfriend didn’t slow down at yellow lights when I was following him in traffic. He took calls from other women whom I could hear saying, “Hi, it’s me” into the phone. And, the last time we talked, during a snowstorm when my power went out, he called to say he’d be going to Hooters rather than coming over to sit with me by the fire. Nevertheless, all of these years later, I still love him, not because he’s a literate football player who also happens to be successful and good looking, but because he helped me identify what I didn’t want.

It’s just that sometimes I forget. Sometimes I still want the spike of adrenaline, the pleasure of danger, the thrill of risk that comes, for me, most quickly around the fringe of safety.

So lately, I’ve been trying to funnel these desires into my writing rather than into my life. It takes work, though. Laboring over a row of sentences isn’t always instantly gratifying. There’s a lot more work. And creating something original borne of the truth sometimes feels more painful than living it in the first place. I have to look at it from more than one angle. I have to decide how I really feel in a deliberate manner that is more nuanced than fight or flight. In a strange way, it feels like there is even more at stake being laid out on the page than doing something obviously dangerous.

And so, I’m still trying to learn how to soak up the warmth of the fire rather than throw myself in.

And my husband? If I have to follow him, he drives like a granny. But half the time, I’m the one in the lead.

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