Life is made of risks: without them, we are stagnant. When we walk into our fears, we choose growth, and when we fail, “the wound is the place where the Light enters” (Rumi).
It is hard to describe; the experience is so layered. It’s a moment of tangible tension in my head, followed by a clear and brilliant light, giving inexpressible dimension to sight and thought. The world stands still for a brief euphoric moment, but then darkness. And a terrifying lack of control. I’m trapped, aware, inside my body, unable to speak. It’s difficult to breathe. The fear is overwhelming. My body curls over on itself; the pain as muscle spasms rush throughout my body is incredible. And then I shake, uncontrollably. Sometimes it lasts less than a minute. Sometimes the cycle repeats itself, again and again.
I have hidden this part of my life from most. And only a few months ago did I begin to face the reality myself.
I have epilepsy. I’ve grown up with the disease, without having a label for it until this past fall when I had some tests done after having a seizure during my second trimester of pregnancy. I had gone two pregnancies without having any real difficulties, but this third was much harder. I have often felt alone and misunderstood, even vulnerable as a result of my illness. But nothing compares to or prepared me for the utter terror I faced, knowing that something I can’t control about my physical self, could harm, perhaps permanently, my unborn baby.
These were grueling days for our family, and we felt the gravity of uncertainty with every step. We weighed the risks gravely. Throughout the third trimester, I continued having seizures, almost daily. I hesitantly began taking the medication my neurologist prescribed. If I fell or stopped breathing during a seizure, my life would be in danger, and we could lose our baby. If I took the medication, our baby would be at risk for life-long neurological complications and brain hemorrhaging during birth.
These were paralyzing risks. But we had no choice but to face them.
Silas was born two and a half months ago, healthy. We are so thankful. But the reality is that risk didn’t end with his birth. Nor did it begin with my epilepsy. We face risk daily, in every choice we make. The layers of life are interwoven with chance; nothing is guaranteed.
I’ve always let risk highlight my limitations, clouding my understanding with fear. I’ve been afraid as a mother, letting the risk of the unknown pain my children might encounter rule my decisions. I’ve been afraid as a lover, letting the risk of an unmet or broken heart deter me from being truly open to trust. And I’ve been afraid as an artist, letting the risk of failure in the face of physical handicaps silence my voice.
But bravery calls me to “walk into my fear, practice there, sit upright in the middle of it, completely open to the experience, with no expectation of the outcome” (Judith Randall). Life is made of risks: without them, I am stagnant. Risk is the language of possibility. If I fail, the depth of my fall brings life more dimension.