Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quacking Ducks and Leaps of Faith

I used to think that I needed to finish every book I started reading, as though I'd entered into an unspoken contract with an author I didn't know to follow the work through to the end, even if I discovered somewhere along that way that it didn't get better as I hoped it would somewhere around chapter 3. I don't remember which book it was that relieved me of that burden, but I suspect that it was not the one I was reading, but rather one that was waiting in the to-be read pile, calling my name, promising to intrigue me more than the book I was holding.

I used to think that retirement didn't come until a person was in their sixties, unless that person had worked at something dangerous like police work or firefighting or the military, or something that required a level of physical prowess only young people possessed. Entering a profession that most people left after 35 years or so, regardless of their age, disabused me of that notion as I watched my colleagues retire while they were still vibrant and ready to leap into all retirement had to offer. And when I saw one woman wait just a little bit too long, only to have her husband pass away before they could live out any of their plans, the notion of working until the bitter end began to have new meaning.

I used to think that I'd work at my job as a school counselor for those 35 years or so, retiring at a ripe old age after decades of entertaining and educating kids and their families. But somewhere along the line, I became a mom, and the job changed, and the I used to thinks about balancing work and home shifted in such a way that I developed a longing to stay home with my daughter that I never thought I'd have.

I used to think that the pain of good-bye would last, remaining interminably painful - an ache that never fully subsided. But eventually I realized that to say hello to something new, we have to say good-bye to something old, and that the things we take with us from our hellos and good-byes shape the person we become, and that the truly valuable things stay with us beyond comings and goings.

I used to think - not all that long ago, in fact - that taking a leap of faith that went against all the rules and that might not come equipped with a net was foolish at best and certainly irresponsible when one had a family and obligations. And then I discovered the root of the expression leap of faith, put my quacking ducks in an unruly row and trusted that faith would handle the rest.

I used to think that rules were a good thing - a thing that kept life orderly and predictable and safe - and I still do. But I've also discovered that guidelines work better than hard-and-fast rules and that calculated risks are risks worth taking. Playing it safe keeps us in one place, treading water; taking a risk allows us to swim toward the horizon. We can plan these journeys to a certain extent, but at some point in the trip, we have to take a leap of faith.

And with faith, all things are possible.

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