A Call to the Edge

I used to be afraid of the edges of life.

The questions about faith.

The death and resurrection that is parenthood.

The heartbreak and heartmake of marriage.

They were just so … edgy, you know?

Different and uncomfortable.

HIGH.

And scary.

And peppered with warning signs telling me to stay well away.

“DANGER: EDGE APPROACHING,” the experts said. “There’s a slippery slope there. Beware! Just listen to us. Follow our lead. And ssshhhhhh… don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing.” 

So I listened.

And I stayed away.

And I followed the rules.

And I stayed inside the carefully crafted boundaries.

And I was fine.

Fine.

Fine.

But the edge beckoned.

Wild and free.

And pregnant with possibilities. To fall. To fly.

To fail. To soar.

To crash. To collapse. To careen. To collide.

To glide.

And I knew at the edge there was life and death, raw and hungry, unbridled.

But I was dying anyway, a soul in captivity, away from the edge, and so, full of fear and doubt, I crawled away, leaving behind the rules, the cage, the guarantees, and searching, instead, for bounty. For grace. For beauty. For my place.

I crawled and I walked and I stumbled.

I was bold. And I was afraid.

I was courageous. And I was fragile.

I was in motion. And I was unleashed.

And I was free. 

These days, I find myself sitting at the edge, with the experts in their pens behind me, living my life listening to the call of the wild, with my legs dangling, kicking at the cliff to watch the debris fall, and strangely at peace.

Who knew there was peace at the edge?

Peace in coming to the end of myself and to the beginning of the risky life.

Peace in knowing I will fall or fly. Or fall and fly. And fly and fall, up and down on the wind with just the boundaries of earth and space to hem me in.

“You can die out there,” the experts say.

“But, oh,” I reply, “you can also live.”

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
6 comments
  1. This is such a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for convincing me it’s all worth it; all of this unknown, mistakes, beauty and wilderness that is life. You are beautiful.

  2. Those who hang out on the edges are the leaders, the explorers, and the inspirations for the rest. They model for us the courage to try our own explorations, to find our own edges. They show us we can push at the confining boundaries imposed by society and most especially, by our own selves, and in the process, find more depth and wisdom and joy along the way.
    It’s why I read you.

  3. Nita – it doesn’t get more real than that. Than you and you are doing it. Courageously, afraid and full on (I’m runningy first half marathon in one month – forgive me for hoping our stories are different!). But what I hear from you, what I sense – with clingy kids and your mind and your thoughts is that you are showing up. Every day. And that makes you the woman you are. You have sisters you don’t even know standing with you. Kick cancers ass my friend.

  4. Oh, Beth. May I call you Beth? We have never met, and sometimes, and I am a Serial Lurker on your blog, but have made FEW comments, so I gotta tell you: It sometimes freaks me out when you write the things I EXACTLY NEED TO HEAR.

    At the end of January, at the ripe old age of 38, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was SHOCKED, and HORRIFIED, and completely PISSED OFF. I mean, REALLY, GOD? I eat healthy foods, I exercise, I ran a HALF MARATHON 2 weeks before the diagnosis for crying out loud. I have no family history. So WTH? This is SO not fair! I have TWO CHILDREN who still need their MAMA. This is NOT PART OF OUR PLAN.

    And now here I am, two months later, missing my right breast, and getting ready to face Chemotherapy treatments tomorrow morning. Apparently, my cancer is the nasty kind, the kind that likes to joyride through the blood stream on a journey to the lungs and liver. And I thought I was okay with it now. I DID. And then my husband came home and was so, SO SAD and ANGRY and HELPLESS. And my kids are all CLINGY and HURT. And once again, I was like THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING TO ME. WHY, Jesus, WHY ME? And there was this big pity party happening at my house, and it was getting UGLY.

    And then. And THEN. And then YOU, Beth. I’m reading the poetry that is your writing, and it’s touching my SOUL. And then, softly, softly, I hear Love’s whisper: “Why you? Because you are strong enough.” And then there was PEACE.

    Ah, NOW I see. I GET it. And it’s not going to be easy, and it’s definitely not part of MY plan. But it is part of HIS. And that’s so much better.

    I THANK you, Beth whom I may never meet in person, for being God’s spokesperson. To so, SO many of us who need to hear His whisper.

  5. Years ago, when I was seven months pregnant with baby #2, I was terrified.of what lay ahead. We were moving for a year to a place where I knew no one, with a baby on the way, no OB, no friends. Just my hubby, two year old, and a cat. Before we left, a lady from church told me she had a vision of sorts. She saw me standing at the edge of a cliff, terrified. She told me that I just had to jump, even though I couldn’t see anything, because that’s the way I would find happiness – because He was waiting to catch me. It took a few weeks, and lots of tears, especially in finding an OB, but I eventually jumped. I forced myself to find play groups, make friends, go places on my own – and He really did catch me. I haven’t thought about that in years. I think perhaps, Beth, you have made me realize something I’ve known all along. I’ve just gotta jump. Thank you.

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