Caitlyn Jenner just graced the cover of Vanity Fair – and it was, indeed, a grace-filled gesture, sharing her transition from a male-bodied Olympic athlete to the woman she knew herself to be. Caitlyn’s decision to reveal her new name and her new person was a very public risk…just as the transition itself was a risk of monumental proportions, involving multiple surgeries, and the life-long commitment to taking hormones (neither of which, as we are well-aware, are risk-free choices.) Caitlyn revealed having doubts about taking that risk, but – with courage and honesty and hope – she leapt or crawled or slipped or dove or walked into a fully new, fully real, space and claimed what she knew to be true.
Last Sunday, my husband and I worshipped at the New Kilpatrick Church in Bearsden (Scotland). Over a decade ago, I had the laughter-filled and giddily-challenging experience of working with the minister of the church, Roddy Hamilton, on a project headed by my friend, Lori Rosenkvist. That project (an ecumenical, multi-generational worship and education program) was the first time I met either Roddy or Lori in person. Without knowing it at the time, it was a turning point in my life. Roddy is one of the world’s premier risk-takers. I seriously doubt he will ever make the cover of Vanity Fair, but in his quiet enthusiasm, he mentors hundreds of people every week in the skill, in the adventure, in the dance, of risk-taking.
New Kilpatrick Church (I was unsurprised to learn) is in the middle of yet another 5-week experiment in worship (one in which we will have the privilege of participating for three weeks). While exploring the church website before we went last Sunday, I clicked through to their Worship Manifesto which begins with these words, “Never do the same thing twice. First time is radical. Second time is a tradition. Let the danger of not knowing what will happen and going to places we’ve never been be the adventure we call worship.”
…or the adventure we call life.
I know that every day is a new experience. I know that I am not today the person I was yesterday. I know that I always have the opportunity (every minute, every breath) to risk a different choice this time, from what brand of mayonnaise I buy, to whether I eat this cookie or drink this glass of wine, to what I think about this issue, to how I respond to this provocation…right up to who I choose to be in the world, right now in the middle of this situation. But – true confession time – I can know all that with my head…and still keep living as if nothing (including myself) can or will change. Because changing is a risk. And risk is, well: risky.
A risk might be a mistake. It might be a very big mistake; it might be a very public mistake; it might change not only how I perceive myself, but how other people think of me. It might be beyond embarrassing; it might be life-changing. What if I don’t like what I do, what if I look silly? Roddy would say something like, “What if you do? You aren’t there any more because you just took the next risk.”
I’m along on this sabbatical for the ride, so to speak. There isn’t anything specific that I am sabbaticaling from. No one will be waiting at the end of four months to debrief me. It is very strange to wake up and know I can shape this day any way I want (which is true of everyone, every day, of course…but is more obvious when there are no expectations.) I am trying simply to be present to possibility. Sometimes this works and sometimes I find myself reliving old experiences, regretting something I did in the past, fearing something that might happen in the future…in other words, being anywhere and any time but present.
But each new day is another opportunity for “not knowing,” for “going places I have never been.” Given that I’m not a big believer in coincidence, I am going to assume that the New Kilpatrick Worship Manifesto, and the chance to be in Roddy’s presence again, is a surprise gift from the universe. And that Caitlyn Jenner’s photo shoot and interview in Vanity Fair is the icing on the cake. I think this week may be for paying attention to the risks I am offered.
I am going (to try) to pay attention when something feels crystallized or carved in stone. I am going (to try) to pause when I roll my eyes, or sigh deeply, or feel as if I am trapped or bent over with a burden. Those are all indications that I am in an overly-familiar, too-small place, a place I probably out-grew years ago…one that could likely benefit from an alternate (risky) response. Maybe the risk involves telling my truth, maybe it is remembering that this makes me happy and that doesn’t. Maybe it is risking a few dollars, or risking a pratfall (literally or metaphorically).
If you would like to join me by dancing naked in the moonlight, eating chocolate-covered ants, slipping on a banana peel, dressing in clashing colors, telling the truth, living out loud, shaving your head — or learning to stand on it, please do.
Here is my tender, fragile hope for these days:
Tilt me toward freedom:
the uncontrolled slide
of infant washing down the birth canal,
of Reed Sea parting,
of tomb emptying.
with the restricting boundary of shell,
the enclosing casing of seed,
the easy rub of habit.
Grow me until the cracks run like lace.
Stretch me until the costume no longer fits.
Press me until the spring uncoils my Jack-in-the-box soul:
Encourage me to stop patching,
stop gluing, darning, stapling, cementing.
Humor me to let go,
fall through the gaps
into the journey.
O let it be so.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, 2015 Immram Chara, LLC
The three fiber pieces are all available to be put on reserve for sale through the store and, when I return, through my etsy shop. They are (in order from the top): Green Man; Focus: Emerge; and a detail from Rebirth.