The Fear of Taking New Risks

This past week, Mike wrote about how we are continuing a dream he and his late-wife Megan shared as we are looking into getting a camper next year. There were a lot of dreams I had with Drew that never came true too. Even just planning a wedding and spending time on every little detail was something I never got to do with him. Much less a wedding itself. Hell, we didn’t even get to live together yet because we were waiting until he was done with flight school and got his first flying job. We were only a few months into him getting that job, and were finally ready to embark on so many new adventures together that we never got to. Our honeymoon plan was to get a small camper in fact, and travel across the country for a few weeks. 

Seven years later, Mike and I live together. We are engaged, and I am happily planning away every little detail while trying not to hear the whispers of “What if he dies before you ever get to the wedding?”.  We’ve already done so many of the things that Drew and I never got to do. And I’ve done a lot of things that I was only beginning to dream about when he died. I’ve been selling my art and photography and teaching healing workshops. Much of these are dreams that came out of the ashes of his death… dreams that I didn’t realize were buried deep inside me until he died and I had a perspective shift. Or dreams - like writing on this blog - that evolved from my experience with grief and my passion to help support others through it.

There are dreams that I paused when he died. Like the idea of buying that little camper. It was a bit of a different dream than the one Mike and Megan shared. For us, it was a “someday” dream of a tiny teardrop trailer, while they were actively pursuing purchasing a larger travel trailer for their little family. But still, there was a shared dream there that we can now reignite. 

So in the past few weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time watching videos of folks with campers and RV’s on youtube… learning about being on the road and hauling a rig and all the many special circumstances of living for a few days or weeks on the road. After a while, it all started to feel scary for me. Like risk. Like investment. Like a situation with a lot of What If’s. 

Immediately the thoughts of “what will I do with this thing if he dies?” hit my mind. That fear never goes away. As we all know, it’s hard not to color any new decision by that statement… “What if he dies?” 

It makes every big decision a little bit scarier. A little bit heavier for a moment. I caught myself the other night sharing my apprehension about this whole idea with Mike. Sharing how risky it all felt to me to be suddenly reigniting this idea just as soon as we’re getting our debt paid off. How risky it felt to be reigniting this idea just as we’re getting married. 

I could feel myself wanting to back out of it or put it off because of the fear. Because of “What If’s”. Because of the things we cannot know or plan for. Because I don’t feel ready. Then I remembered the old saying that we never really feel ready, we just have to take leaps and see where it goes. 

The more I thought about it, I realized my whole life has been this. And especially the past seven years as a widow. I’ve done a lot of risky things in my widowed life. I quit my job. I left my career behind with no plan. I put my art into the world and continue to do so. I took up Crossfit for a year and a half, and even did a few competitions. I’ve done speeches and presentations on grief and taught workshops and traveled and moved across the country. I’ve become a mom to a now twelve year old kiddo. I’m planning a wedding even though I never got to my first one. I’m expertly managing our finances so that we will be debt free by the day we are married. Was I ready for any of these things? Did I have any clue how to do any of this when I started? Nope. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t feel ready for any of it. 

I have done all KINDS of seriously risky things since he died. Time after time, I have chosen to do things that feel risky instead of avoiding it because of the “What If”. Did I somehow forget this?

This camper feels scary for me because it involves a new financial investment. It’s one part widowed fears, and one part fears around money - which is still an area I’m struggling with in my life. The idea of allowing myself to invest in a giant travel trailer feels totally scary and like it will backfire somehow. What if there are a thousand hidden costs to this thing and we can’t afford it? What if it ends up being more of a burden than a blessing? What if Mike dies, then what? Mostly because, if Mike dies, how will I haul the thing, repair the thing, take care of the thing on my own?  

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. And that’s the scary part. 

What I can do though, is research hidden costs so that we’re very prepared by next year. And what I can know are some potential outcomes of what I would do IF he did die. Especially because I’ve been widowed before. I would learn how to take care of it myself. Or I would downgrade it to something smaller and more manageable. Or maybe I would just sell it if that was the best idea to do. Regardless, I would have choices, and I would decide what’s best for me. I know this, because I have done it before.

Already, the thing that seems super risky and scary feels a little more doable. Already, it feels like a risk worth taking… especially with Shelby just on the cusp of turning 13. We won’t have many more summers with her so now is the best time to take this risk. Already it feels like the fear isn’t controlling me, and excitement has returned. The courage has returned. 

Sometimes I guess it helps to walk my brain through all those What If’s and allow it to know that - should things come undone again - I will have choices and I will manage. Sometimes, for a widowed person, taking new risks might mean that we need to spend a little time walking our minds through all the worst possible scenarios so that we can remember that there will be choices for how to deal with all that stuff. It helps remind me that I am capable of handling anything, and I CAN take risks and I WILL be okay. 


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  • Kelley Niemi
    commented 2019-07-16 03:47:14 -0700
    It’s a “widow-bago”