Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thoughts on Risk

In my personal life I like to keep things pretty simple and I think my blog is a reflection of this.

Really - I am a pretty simple, uncomplicated person and not to profound. I love my life, my husband, my friends, my family and my dog. I am a responsibility-a-phobic and that certainly keeps things simple and uncomplicate (thank-you Keith!). I like to run around in the woods and I like to spend as much time as possible outside. Sometimes by myself. Sometimes with friends. I am a bit of a loner and sometimes a social butterly. I also am a bit of a hedonist - I enjoy things that give me pleasure. To borrow a quote from Keiths' old kind and generous jewish uncle from New York:

"I like to do things that give me pleasure and surround myself by people who give me pleasure!"

I think this word has got a bad rep in recent years, as people now associate it with all things sexual and decadent. According to the dictionary hedonism is: "the doctrine that pleasure is the chief end of life" and "the willful pursuit of pleasure". While I realize that pleasure is certainly not the chief end of life....I certainly enjoy its willful pursuit!

Alllllllllright, you are thinking....where is this simple fun loving girl going with all of this? Where are her pretty photos and simple descriptions of fun in Banff? What does it have to do with risk? How much coffee has she had to drink?!?

As every person who has every trained for a marathon, an ultra-marathon, an adventure race or WHATEVER sport of choice it is that you do has noticed: generally, people have some pretty bizarre notions on what is risky, on what is safe, on what is addictive behaviour vs. passionate behaviour, and on what is pleasurable!

As I train for my first Ultra I have been fielding more and more bizarre questions from friends and family that question everything from my perception of risk to my sanity. I am continually amazed and bewildered by the questions and what people "perceive" as normal and what is safe, healthy and risky.

There was a great article I read about Aron Ralston a few years back that had a fantastic quote about risk. Aron is the the climber/outdoors enthusiast who had to cut of his own arm when it got pinned under a massive rock in the backcounty - and he seems to be a together, articulate, unassuming good guy. He has returned to climbing and in particular, solo winter climbing. He received a fair amount of attention when he returned to climbing because people were calling him an irresponsible risk taker who should have learned his lesson. Aron says:

"People chastised me that I obviously hadn't learned my lesson or that I was a bad role model. Now, I'm not going to suggest that everyone should take up solo winter mountaineering. But we all bring risk into our lives, through our choices about how we make a living, how we drive, how we party, and how we eat: it is far riskier to be a McFood-pounding smoker than to climb solo.
If it seems that I fill my days with moments that cause my heart to pound, my breath to rush, that's because those are the times I feel most alive!!"

So there it is. What gives me pleasure might not necessarily be what gives you pleasure.

What you perceive as risky, I perceive as something that gives me pleasure. Why would I deny myself that? Because those are the times I feel most alive!!

Thanks for listening!


CoyoteGirl said...

Great post Leslie!

We think exactly alike on these subjects. I like to keep my life as simple as possible (I enjoy the simplicity, really) so that I can pursue my outdoor interests. My husband and I take turns watching the kids so that we can do our training.

I'm also training for my first ultra - we have to swap notes sometime!

CoyoteGirl said...

Oh and on risk -

I used to worry about going out there by myself on the trail. Then I realized that worry and fear were keeping me from being me. I go prepared but I don't fixate on the negative.

Meghan said...

True 'dat, Leslie!

I have debates with my mother about this all the time. She tells me that galavanting in the wilderness is risky. I tell her that interstate driving in her metropolitan area is risky. All this tells me (oh and a couple college classes, too) that risk analysis is really a lot about perception and acclimation.

I'm not going to stop my wilderness galavanting in the same way that she's not going to stop interstate driving. For each of us, the derived hedonistic (stealing from you) joy far outweighs the risk.

What underscores all of this, though, is that sometimes the statistics catch up with us. My dad pulled the unfortunate short straw on the statistical scoreboard and died accidentally while doing water sports in a foreign country (Don't fret my bringing this up, 'kay? I have a point.). There is a statistical scoreboard for everything in life, even armchair surfing with a bag of Doritos! So, get out there and do what you love best, then bring that joyous, happy you back to civilization and share yourself with those all around you.

Basically, I'm being really wordy in trying to say, "Go do it, and don't look back."


Leslie said...

It IS such a simple concept to get out there and do what you love best. People lose sight of that all of the time. The thing is, life isn't nearly as complicated as we MAKE it!

Thanks for the great thoughts ladies!!


Journey to a Centum said...

Gosh, May I jump into the "estrogen comment bubble"?

Leslie I think you have come very close to nailing the purpose of our very existence. Simplicity coupled with the challenge and excitement of adventure. A mutual core value we all share.

Awesome post!

Leslie said...

Hey - hey....WOW...all this time my parents thought I was an under achiever and here, I have unleashed the purpose for our very existence!!! Maybe I should start a church. What should I call it??

Leslie said...

Hi Coyote Girl - thanks and awesome to have a little support with the kidlings so you can get out there and do your thing.

Hiya Meghan!

Here I thought all of my hedonistic adventures were only benefiting me, BUT I do bring back a happier me to share with those around me!

I think I am going to continue this "risky" behaviour...

AND Eric - you can join our estrogen bubble anytime.


Random Blog said...

Great heart pounding post - I am constantly defending my passion for trail running and the risks involved. I really appreciated the quote! Running my first ultra next week - glad to find your blog - I will enjoy dropping in for stories and inspiration!

Leslie said...

Hi Cathi-

Thanks for stopping by and good luck next week!

Yep, both my mom and pop have expressed some worry for my well-being. While good-intentioned and based on the fear for my safety - they just don't get it!! YES, getting injured is always a possibility, YES, I'm scared of bears and other wildlife and YES, this seems risky and crazy to most. But really, having just returned from a wedding last night where 90% of the nice people were obese, what seems riskier??

Just a random thought for a random blogger - obesity is a whole different post!