The science of taking a chance

Are we talking coin toss here?  Heads door A, tails door B?  That 50/50 kind of chance that’s taught in Statistics 101?  What do I mean by taking a chance?

Taking a chance, for me at least, depends on a seemingly impossible combination of down in the weeds analysis and leap before you look abandon.  I can slice and dice the facts until the cows come home, weigh the pros and cons, imagine path A vs B … and after all that, blindly make the jump.

We take chances every day, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity, sometimes before we know what’s happening.

The summer 2011 provided all three at once.

I was face with the chance to move to Virginia where I’d been offered a job.  At the time, I was between contracts and therefore unemployed so it was a pretty one sided chance.  Even so, I hesitated.  This was going to mean change.  Big change.  This chance meant having to sell my house in Florida, pack up everything I owned, and say goodbye to everyone and everything I knew.  To leave the place where I’d lived and worked for 25 years for the big unknown.

This chance meant leaving all that was known and familiar.

It was simple and complicated at the same time.

To me it was as straightforward as being employed and the location was inconsequential.  Simultaneously, it was unimaginable.  Relocating was of such magnitude it was impossible to comprehend.

One website states the average US citizen moves approximately 11 times in their life.  At 50, I was long overdue and ought to have been on my 5th or 6th move.  Instead, this would be only my second.  I had lived in a total of two houses, my parents and my own – not counting endless college dorm rooms and cramped little apartments.  My nerves were focused on how I would do in my new job, not my new living situation.  It was simply too big to wrap my head around.

I said “yes” before the reality of my choice could set in.  I didn’t flip a coin, make up a list of pros and cons, or even sleep on it.

Maybe our decisions are better left to play out as they happen.   If we could truly comprehend the magnitude of the chances we’re faced with, would we take them?

Sometimes, after weighting all the facts and analyzing all possible outcomes, we just have to listen to our gut – say a prayer – and take a chance.

Facing facts

There’s a quote from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, “Argue for your limitations and they are yours.”  Quotes like that can be both inspirational and maddening.

“Act your age”

There’s truth in facing facts, but sometimes creativity comes from flying in the face of them.  Sometimes discovery, sometimes inspiration … sometimes cracked ribs and a possibly lacerated spleen.

Quotes can inspire you. They can also get you into trouble.

“You’re only as old as you feel”

That’s the one that ended with my doctor saying, “You could have a lacerated spleen” and dashing me off to an emergency CAT scan.

Was I ignoring my limitations?  Was I acting my age or was I only as old as I felt?

Being a native Floridian, my winters were spent at the beach … snow was something of legend and I grew up only experiencing it twice.  A dusting, but – in Florida – a dusting was front page news.  So, after 50 some odd years, I was now in Northern Virginia and winters here were actual seasons!  There were ski resorts just a couple of hours away, and it wasn’t long before I was geared up and ready to go.

I knew nothing about skiing of any kind.  Not water, let alone snow.  It wasn’t long before mental enthusiasm met with physical reality and towards the end of my first afternoon skiing, I took what would be my most spectacular fall of the day.  I spun across the run, like one of those fidget spinners, eyes closed (how would seeing improve the situation?), hearing and feeling bits of gear being ripped away, the swishing crashing sounds of underbrush and finally the solid thud of hitting an immovable object.

Cautiously I opened my eyes, the blue sky of the open run replaced with green trees and a bit of fencing.   I didn’t feel any injury, just cold and wet from being half buried in snow.  On the drive home, my side began to ache.  I ignored it as simply sore muscles.  But after a week where the slightest movement resulted in significant pain, I finally saw a doctor.  He never said, “At your age…” but it was implied.  The two cracked ribs were not implied, they were quite real.  My spleen, thankfully, was fine.

So, are you “only as old as you feel” or should there be an * at the end of that platitude?  Where’s the line between “young at heart” and the emergency room?  What should we seek adventure or play it safe?

If we believe too much in our age, we might miss out on new adventures or never discover a new activities.  However, if we throw too much caution to the wind – we might end up seriously injured, or worse.  We don’t bounce as easily or recover as quickly as time goes by.

Argue for your limitations and they are yours … just remember to argue both sides, for and against …

and don’t be afraid to act your age because you’re only as old as you feel!

Deceiver in chief

It is something to marvel at … the lies coming out of the white house and the absolute conviction with which they’re being delivered.  Imagine having a conversation with someone and you both look up at the sky about which they remark is a bright shade of pink.  100% dead sure of it when any other right thinking person, no matter which side of the aisle they live on, would argue the sky is blue.  You may not believe in climate change (although, how can you not?!) but you can agree the sky is blue.   You may not believe the Russians had anything to do with affecting the presidential election (although, again how can you not?!) but you can agree the sky is blue.

Yet there stands delusional don, and his clown car of a white house (more and more silliness keeps pouring out, as if from an infinite source) spouting absolute nonsense.  Trump claims to have certain people have called to heap praise upon him … these people, for the record, said they did no such thing.  And whatever he does, it’s the greatest in history … he’s the greatest speaker, the greatest deal maker, the greatest –fill in the blank- EVER.  I’ll happily fill in that blank with something he’s the greatest one of.

He keeps announcing the impending death of the Affordable Care Act … and then, gleefully, states “I was right” when even the “Skinny repeal” failed to pass and insurance industry experts expressed worry at the uncertain future.  Of course, he was right!  He was right in the same way a burglar, upon robbing a house, says “you failed to install a burglar alarm, so you got broken into.  I was right!”  He’s cutting the legs out from under the plan, and then claiming victory over its assumed failure.  That isn’t being right.  It’s stacking the deck and gloating over the outcome.

Every day, since the election, I’ve been a mess of anxiety and worry.  What will he do or say next?  What shady appointment, conversation, or email will stir the pot next?  What if the situation were reversed, and Hillary Clinton at the center of this insanity, what would happen?  I’ll tell you what would happen … the republicans would be handing out subpoenas like free samples in front of a new lunch stand.  There would be so many charges filed, hearings held, and calls for immediate impeachment flying around, it would be like a political hurricane was sweeping through.

It’s time to stand up to this insanity – republican, democratic, independent – whatever your political affiliation.  Insanity is insanity.  And in this case, it’s in sitting in the white house.

He’s the ultimate pot calling the kettle black.  “Investigate those people, nothing to see over here.”  “Do as I say, never mind what I’m doing.”, “it’s not my fault” … in other words … the buck stops wherever it’s convenient in order to avoid responsibility.  If it benefits him, he crows “look at me!” but if it doesn’t – well, blame anyone else.  The trump reality … for him it’s cherry picking what to believe … for us, it’s living with a temper-tantrum throwing child posing as president.

There’s a magnet on my refrigerator, “I love my country … it’s the government I’m afraid of”

Ain’t it the truth.

Shear indecision

I’m thinking of cutting my hair.  This isn’t a trivial “do I or don’t I” moment as I’ve had long hair for most of my life.  The last time it was cut in the true sense of the word (I don’t count trims or anything where the length is at least mid-back) was approximately 1973.  And that time wasn’t my idea.  My mother, having threatened that if I didn’t take better care of my long locks, she would have them cut to a manageable style.  I didn’t and she did.  The horror of that moment, of the scissors slicing through my hair, has stayed with me to such a firm degree that I avoided the hairdressers for decades and trimmed the ends myself or (oddly enough) only trusted my mother to trim them.  Guess I figured that seeing the trauma I went through, she would be reluctant to repeat the experience and thus would trim cautiously.

As the years passed, and my hair grew, I took great pride in it.  It was long and thick and set me apart from the crowd.  I was “the girl with the long hair”.  Of course, not all the comments were positive – one time on the school bus, as we were going home and I had my ever-present sketchbook and other art supplies, some girl made the comment, “Long hair and glasses, you’re either smart or an artist.”

Where do we find our identity?  Why does so much of it seem to be ruled by external devices – how we look, what we do, where we live.  We are so many things, only a small fraction of which are outside ourselves – yet, it’s so easy to get lost in those outside things.  We don’t realize we’re doing it until one of those things is gone and we’re no longer the one who lives in that house or has that job.  We’re no longer who we thought we were.

Who will I be when I’m not “the girl with the long hair”?