Thursday, November 1, 2007

Every Chance I Get

I took a walk in the rain one day on the wrong side of the tracks
I stood on the rails till I saw that train
Just to see how my heart would react
Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate
And for them I would not disagree
But I never learned nothing from playing it safe
I say fate should not tempt me

I take my chances, I don't mind working without a net
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get


Chance. Opportunity. Risk.

Driving today, these were my keywords.


If you watch enough of the Discovery Channel or National Geographic or Meerkat Manor, you know there are--with rare, extraordinary exception--no second chances in the animal kingdom. Get bitten by a snake, mauled by a lion, hit by a car and your chances are slim to none you'll live through the night if you're the unfortunate meerkat, pronghorn antelope, or urban squirrel. If you aren't killed outright, the best you can do is slink off, lick your wounds in futility, and wait to die. And then the vultures and hyenas and maggots move in to make short shrift of you. Not a pretty picture, eh?


As humans, we're a little luckier. We might be wounded, but we'll likely live to see another day. We might even come out stronger from whatever it is we've encountered or chosen.

But why is that? I mean, why do we get second chances?

I asked Bee that last night and in her usual bent of optimism she said, "Because the universe is a kind place and God is merciful."

At first I thought she was being ironic, but when I retorted she countered and said she was being serious. For the first time in my life, I didn't know how to respond.

Which makes me a cynic, I guess. Certainly, there was a time when I might have or actually did feel similarly. Although, there was also a time when I didn't think about second chances because, well, not to be arrogant or anything, I didn't pay attention to whether I was getting them or needed them. Life just moved from day-to-day and me in it. I felt accomplished and, in a bit of hubris perhaps, self-confident enough that even if I dropped a ball or if life threw me a curve ball it wouldn't be a struggle. I'd just go with the flow.


I sat alone in the dark one night, tuning in by remote
I found a preacher who spoke of the light but there was brimstone in his throat
He'd show me the way according to him in return for my personal check
I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette

I take my chances, forgiveness doesn't come with a debt
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get


Chance is a a double-edged sword, if you like. A coin with a face and a fleuret. On the one side, chance is what someone give us. On the other, chance is what we take. The one, an opportunity; the other, a risk.

Opportunity is often comfortable, predictable, reassuring. It frees us from worry about most of the vicissitudes of life. Risk is scary, unknown, exhilarating. It, too, frees us. Risk requires creativity, ingenuity, flexibility. Sometimes, what looks like an opportunity actually contains an element of risk.

But that's a fine line, too. In embracing opportunity, we might start out taking a risk, but over time, we may find ourselves enmeshed and losing our vision as we acquiesce to the necessities afforded us by virtue of this side of chance. In tossing the coin, we have an equal probability of ease or exhilaration. The question is, which one has the better outcome?


Today's world seems infinitely more complicated than the world of my 20s and risk seems scarier and harder than it did when I was younger. But I've often played it safe, because that's how I was brought up. I played it safe because I had more than just myself to think about. And while that's noble and good, I suppose, it also means I haven't really taken a lot of non-calculated risks (there's an oxymoron, right? Calculated risk?)

As I approach my 40s, I'm realizing life presents us with second chances as an opportunity to take risks and stretch again. To look at the world with wonder again. To realize anything is possible if I just put my mind to it and I'm willing to be uncomfortable for a little bit. To know that the universe is kind, God is merciful, and there's more to living than just another day.


I've crossed lines of words and wire and both have cut me deep
I've been frozen out and I've been on fire and the tears are mine to weep
Now I can cry until I laugh and laugh until I cry
So cut the deck right in half, I'll play from either side

I take my chances, I pay my dollar and I place my bet
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get
I take my chances, I don't cling to remorse or regret
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get
I take my chances

I Take My Chances, Copyright Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1992. All rights reserved to her.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential.


ME said...

Beautiful post, Tewkes.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to my comparatively carefree 20s, where not all of the decisions were Serious or fraught with peril. Is becoming risk-averse part of getting older, becoming a grown up?

After doing months of research and comparison shopping for the best computer, I went to Fry's with L&A and just bought one that looked good. But it takes a lot to get me to leap, especially with a S.O. in the picture now. The decisions and outcomes aren't mine alone anymore.

Wanna stop thinking so hard and go play dodge ball with me?

Anonymous said...

"Because the universe is a kind place and God is merciful."

I envy people who really feel that.

- Phoebe

Cele said...

Wow, very this is a post that makes you stop. think. consider. look around. and stop and think again. And Bee is my kinda girl, simple straight shooting.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

ME: Thank you! Coming from you, that means a lot to me. Thanks.

I'm glad you leapt. I need to do a little more of that. But I also know I have to be a little thoughtful about it, too....

Oh, hell, you're right; screw the thinking! Let's go play! (Only, can we swing on the swings, too?)

Phoebe: I hear ya. I wish I leaned more that way, too, lately. I wonder if we'll ever get that--or something akin to that--back again?

Cele: I like writing stuff that make me and others pause and say, "Hmmmmm."

As for Bee, that's what I like about her: simple, straight shooting with a high dose of optimism tossed in.

ME said...

I'll bring a frisbee in case we get tired of dodge ball and swinging. Er, in case we get tired of the swings. Tee hee.

Di said...

"'Because the universe is a kind place and God is merciful.'"

"I envy people who really feel that."

Me too, Phoebes - ME TOO.

Lovely post, Tewkesy.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

ME: Frisbee works for me. Swinging, yeah! ;-O

Di: Amen. And thank you.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I love when you post thoughtfully like you did in this post, Tewkes.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

SML: Thanks! I'm trying to write at least one substantive piece a week. Although, I may take a stab at an alliterative piece again this year, just for fun.