As I’ve said, I believe that risk-taking behavior should be a learned skill. I don’t necessarily think we need to banish it wholesale from the human experience, but we should be familiar enough with it that we can satisfy our own innate (and very human) need for thrills and chills without wrecking our lives. I like to think that I’m a living example of someone who’s managed to do a decent job of that. The above examples are all in my past, and I have learned a great many lessons from the ones that “went south” or almost did. One would expect that, after 43 adventurous years and plenty of opportunity to reflect on my mistakes, I’d learn a thing or two. And, for the most part, I have.
I’d better. I have a great many adult responsibilities, including providing for a household, paying a monthly mortgage, keeping current on bills, managing a full-time career, and acting as part-time executive producer of a nationally syndicated weekly broadcast. I also have a number of health issues I need to actively manage, and I have hobbies and interests which engage me deeply on a regular basis. To say that my life is full-filling would be an understatement.
My life is so full, and so filling, in fact, that I need to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain ordinary functionality. I have persistent issues with chronic pain. I have cognitive-behavioral issues that stem from multiple head injuries over the course of my life, which – if not actively managed – threaten the most basic aspects of my life, including my employability and my interpersonal viability. I am keenly aware of how easy it would be to screw things up with a careless word or a stupid action – and lose everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish. I have a packed schedule, most days, and if I don’t keep myself well-fed, well-rested, well-cared-for, I can quickly (and seemingly without warning) slide into old patterns that alienate people around me, compromise my ability to do my daily job(s), even threaten my well-being and safety.
I know all too well I can’t take chances with my health, my mental hygiene, my emotional state. I can’t take risks with my body or mind or spirit. I stand to lose too much. I stand to lose everything. And I’ve worked too hard getting where I am, to just throw it all away. So, I pay attention to the world around me. I take notice of the clues life is sending me. I pick up on signals that most people can afford to ignore, but I cannot. I have no choice but to remain ultra-mindful… of just about everything. (It might sound exhausting, but it’s the price I pay for a highly sensitive system. And frankly, after a lifetime of working at it, the habit of intense attendance to a wide range of details has simply become a way of life.)
But despite lessons learned from my rough-and-tumble past, despite my present awareness of responsibilities, and despite my normally level-headed, even-keel nature that eschews overt risk like the plague, I am still prone, now and then, to a sort of danger-seeking behavior that frankly makes no sense. I know better than to make decisions and follow courses of action that jeopardize my physical safety and my ability to make a living. I know better than to push myself physically to the point of exhaustion. I know better than to go off my usual schedule, which is so vital for my everyday normal functioning.
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