Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Most people spend their time thinking negatively about all the “what ifs.”  All the things that could go wrong.  All the reasons why it won’t work out. 

 But what if they’re wrong?

“I’m just a little scared.  I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach.”  My daughters are in the backseat discussing their first trip to an amusement park scheduled for the next day.

“I like having butterflies in my stomach!” her younger sister pipes up.

“It’s normal to be scared.”  I intervene ineffectively, trying to reassure my nine-year old that she will have fun though my own stomach is turning flips thinking of the physics behind rollercoaster engineering.

“No, I mean when you have butterflies in your stomach, it’s more fun!”  The little one’s voice trails off as she turns excitedly to recount to her sister some terrifying ride she loved at the water park she went to the previous week.

I tune them out and let her words marinate in my brain.

My youngest daughter is seven years old and fearless. Not foolish, but fearless.  How many Saturday mornings have I spent searching through the house for her, only to find her perched high on a bookcase, one foot balancing on the top shelf, the other reaching for the back of the nearby couch as she assesses the potential risk of using the shelf to launch herself like a jack-in-the-box into the air.  I can see her little face calculating, what’s the worst that could happen?   And off she goes, floating through the air, landing in a fit of delighted giggles on the soft leather cushions below.

I have long given up trying to keep her in a maternal protective cocoon.  Given up interrupting her circus acts.  Stopped asking “What if you slip and fall?” “What if you lose your balance and crack your head open on the edge of the coffee table?!”   I no longer nag and scold but stand quietly in wonder as she balances precariously on the counter of the bathroom vanity.  She calmly says (before I can), “I know, I know.  This is probably not a very good idea…but just wait…” And then she proceeds to open the mirrored door just enough to see her endless reflection on the other side.  I stand behind her on high alert just in case.

 “Look how many of me there are!” she squeals gleefully as she clings on the mirror with her free hand to stop from falling. And I can’t stop myself from smiling at her wonderful discovery. (I admit when friends have asked me to describe my parenting style I wonder, “Is negligent slacker a style?”)

But her approach to life is infectious.  Fear never stops her from seizing an adventure.  She is aware of the dangers,  but knows only one “what if.”

What if it’s fun?


It’s not brave if you’re not scared.

I’m sitting on a patio with a friend, enjoying a coffee on one of the last glorious days of summer.  She is relating to me the gory details of the extensive dental work she has been enduring over the last weeks since I saw her last. 

Like many of my friends entering middle age, she has neglected her health for years, tending instead to the needs of her children and family and relegating herself to the end of her perpetual to do list.  But like others, she has discovered this health management strategy inevitably ineffective in the long term.  A nurse by profession, she has learned the hard way that one cannot self-medicate symptoms away indefinitely.  When her teeth began to ache she would just increase the dosage of her homemade cocktails of over the counter pain meds.  Until her fear of what was wrong became stronger than her fear of finding out.  So here she was in front of me explaining how she was emptying her savings account into a sparkling new smile and a healthy future.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she says.  “I was so afraid for so many years.  That’s why I never went to the dentist.  But look at me now.  You know I’ve had almost forty needles in my mouth just this last week?”  My body twitches in sympathy at these details.  “Now I don’t even care.  They want to inject me, I say bring it on!”

I sip my cold coffee and push aside my own guilty thoughts of belated checkups.

“But you know what the best part of all this is?”  She looks me in the eye.  I meet her gaze, lifting my eyes from where I was staring at her mouth, not so subtly assessing the bruising and swelling around her lips.

“That you’re going to have a fabulous smile! “  I try to sound encouraging, but miss the point completely.

“No. You don’t understand.  I was terrified.  But now I’ve done it.  And now I know I can do anything.”


Fear and panic are different emotions.  Fear is healthy.  Panic is deadly. 

I have been asked to speak at a large public panel event.  I am “just a little scared.” It is weeks away but the butterflies are fluttering away.  I procrastinate writing my speech.  Not because I don’t know what I want to say.  The words flow easily in my mind as I visualize the moment.  But then I panic.  The “what ifs” set in.  What if it’s not what the organizers had in mind?  What if I stumble on my words?  What if I forget to say something important?  What If I embarrass myself?

And then I remind myself, I have survived much worse embarrassment.


I am 25 years old.  I have been invited to attend a fundraiser being held in a downtown amphitheatre.  The amphitheatre is built around a small indoor skating rink.  The organizers have hired a few retired Olympic skaters to perform as part of the evening’s entertainment.  When the skating show is over, they open up the rink to the public for a free-skate.
 I haven’t skated in years but the wine I drank earlier has loosened my inhibitions and clearly numbed my judgement.  I emerge from the locker room minutes later, a curious sight in my cocktail dress and proceed to skate around to classic French rock tunes as curious onlookers peer down from the mezzanine.

I’m having a great time.  As I speed around the rink the wind cools my flushed face.  I feel so free and happy.

And then it happens.

Let’s rewind.  Earlier that day I had agonized over what to wear.  My limited wardrobe did not offer much in the way of fancy formal wear so I finally settled on a classic black spaghetti-strapped number made of a knit fabric that clung comfortably in all the right places.  It was too clingy to bother with standard undergarments but I was 25 years old, carefree and not really prone to thinking ahead.

Let’s rewind even further.  Grade 11 physics.  Newton’s 1st law.  An object in motion stays in motion unless met with an opposing force.

And even further back. First law of nature learned by any Canadian child. Knit mittens are useless in a snowball fight because they just stick to the ice and snow. 

Flash forward.  There I am, gliding along at a steady pace when in true form, I stumble and trip.  My body flies forward through the air, finally landing in a full frontal belly flop on the ice. Knit sticks to ice.  My cute dress immediately sticks to the ice BUT (an object in motion stays in motion) my body continues to travel at the same velocity, sliding efficiently right out of my dress.

In case there was any doubt, ice…is… cold.

I look up at the sea of faces staring at me.  They are all frozen in shock and horror.  And in that surreal moment, as I lay bare breasted on center ice, my brain speeds through my options.  I could definitely panic- cry, have a meltdown, or run away screaming. 

But instead, I laugh.  A real genuine laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of my predicament.  And as the crowd exhales collectively and a wave of grateful giggles ripples through the room, I peel my dress off the ice, pull it back on, take a red-faced bow and glide off to the locker room.

People still say it was the best part of the show that night.


I think of all the things I want to do but haven’t done. Opportunities I haven’t accepted, apologies I haven’t made, feelings I haven’t expressed, speeches I have yet to write.

We’re all scared.  We are all brave.  But if I don’t leap off the top shelf I will never know where I might have landed. And maybe it will be painful, maybe I will lose my balance and fall.  Hell, maybe I’ll end up naked in front of hundreds of people.

Or just maybe-

…Something wonderful will happen.


  1. Great blog entry!! So entertaining and so well-written! The visual of the skating story is Hillarious!!! Such great words to ponder and use to reflect upon once in a while....during crises at work or home!! Love it!!

  2. Thank-you! Aren't we all just a little scared about so many things? But that's ok. It's only by taking that leap that we discover the wonderful things that await us.