Living on the Ledge

I have ALWAYS been terrified of heights.  I don’t think it quite qualifies for a phobia, as it doesn’t keep me from hiking mountains or visiting must-see tourist spots, but I’m the one hanging on the edge the whole time.  I remember being in the church balcony or high in an arena as a kid and having this irrational fear that I might not be able to stop myself from jumping right off?  Not that I’d WANT to do it, just what if it HAPPENED?  Crazy? Possibly.  That’s probably why I never really tell people- for fear they would take me right to the nearest psych ward for admission.

So when I look back over the past months (years) and I see lots of opportunities to choose between the safe option (read: life as status quo) or walking right up to the edge- and maybe even sticking my toes over- it’s a pretty interesting reflection for this safety-conscious girl to see the slow shift to “life closer to the edge”.

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It all started (although I didn’t know it then) with some random strange medical symptoms that brought me home early from my little home in Iraq.  My husband unfortunately was NOT having said symptoms, so he remained there, leaving me alone here.  Over the next year, add to that a few other pretty big life stressors and what you wind up with is one exhausted, confused, angry, sad, discouraged, disillusioned girl.

Then, one day, I started hearing these little whispers.  Granted, I kept those to myself for a while (see concern for psych ward admission above) while trying to listen a little harder.  I quickly saw that listening required removal of some of the “noise” in my life- best done by taking long walks and runs alone in the woods, listening to quiet music, reading the Bible and distancing myself from some relationships.  I began seeing- at age 36- that I better grab hold of my life if I wanted the next 4 decades to go differently than where they were headed, which I was just beginning to see- I did.  I don’t mean to say I haven’t had a good life- a GREAT life- but all of a sudden, there was this incredible sense that maybe it was time for change.

I started listening to those voices that were suggesting things that still sounded pretty crazy to me, but weren’t going away.  In an odd way, as I listened more, they got louder and as I listened closer, I saw that they were urging me to face my fears- heights and all.

To face my fear of the unknown and uncertainties in life, I started having to really accept that I can’t control my life into perfection.  This allowed me to let go of some of the habits and rituals that gave me the ILLUSION of control without the actual control- and made me an OCD Type A taskmaster in the process.

To face my fear of being alone, I started doing things by myself- going to movies and concerts and meals alone, choosing a night at home instead of out with friends.  I joined a running group and a church where I knew not a single person.

To face my fear of “what ifs”, I started journaling more again, researching things and prioritizing what was important to me- really important.  I started playing all the “what if’s” out to their possible conclusions and realizing that none of them were the end of the world.  Painful maybe, but survivable.

It was during this time that I started really figuring out WHO I AM, although it would take a while for that to really become clear.  It was also during this time that I began the ledge-walking.  I started thinking, and sometimes acting on the thoughts that included things like:

–          Getting out of the Army
–          Getting out of the Medical field
–          Traveling more
–          Researching ways to be more giving and helping
–          Letting go of my over-scheduled life
–          Running a marathon
–          Getting a tattoo
–          Letting go of toxic relationships

Some of these may sound bigger than others, but I assure you, to me they each represented HUGE shifts in my thoughts and actions, my life.  But as I began to address them prayerfully, mindfully and slowly, I developed this incredible sense of “right-ness”.  Like I was on the right track.  The more I listened and began to act, the more PEACE I felt.  So I kept walking and skirting right up to the ledges for a peek over.  Followed by more peace.  Which made me walk faster.

Which brings me to today and the fact that I’m walking up to the ledges so fast these days, some might call it running.  And I’m ok with that.

The ledge walking has led me to some pretty big decisions and taken me some unexpected places.

Decisions like signing those papers to separate from the Army and giving myself permission to take a break from traditional medicine.  Places like Guatemala and bouldering in Utah.

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Decisions like taking an official writing course and submitting articles to people.  Places like Sun Mountain in WA where I learned to cross-country ski (alone) and Big Sur, CA where I ran a marathon.

Decisions like applying (and getting accepted !) for a fellowship in Integrative Medicine, training for a 50K and taking a year off from “normal life” to experiment with all of this.

Places like Bali (more to come!) and back to Guatemala!

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I’m learning that it’s ok to walk on the edge, even if you’re alone- which you almost NEVER are for long.  In fact, I’m learning there is this whole HUGE group of people walking on that ledge- most of them out WAY further than me, and I’m learning LOTS from them.  (You can check out some of them under my tabs above).

I don’t know exactly where I’m going on this new path. I have some ideas and I’m spending 2014 chasing those ideas down.  (The word on the street is that one of my 5 brother-in-laws is quite worried about this, which I find sweet, hilarious and understandable.  To him I say thanks and I’m sorry for the worry but grateful for the prayers).  I’m sure some of my ideas won’t work out, and I have a suspicion there are more to come, but I am pretty certain of a few of them that are already starting to be confirmed from different directions at the same time.  So I’m taking a leap off the big ledge and lots of little ones and I’m going to see what happens. In fact, one of those “co- ledge walkers” I am honored to call mentor and friend, recently wrote these words that were some final confirmation I need to hear:
“….And it’s been my experience that when you have a lot of questions but also a strong sense you need to move forward, then you’ve found your calling…..”

So here in Washington, I’m finding that I like the view from the ledge.

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My heart still beats pretty fast, but I’m seeing some INCREDIBLE views, meeting some amazing people, learning more about myself and about trust and faith and how to be a better wife, sister, daughter, and friend.  I’m learning how to be a better me.

How about you?  Won’t you please please tell me about any ledges you’ve been avoiding, toying with or jumping off of?  I find others’ experience so encouraging and maybe someone else will too!

20 thoughts on “Living on the Ledge

  1. Robyn August 25, 2013 / 9:27 pm

    Love this so much. You are such an inspiration to me!!! And living proof that “perfect love drives out all fear…”

    • Pam August 25, 2013 / 9:46 pm

      Thank you for sharing, Dawn. I’m so glad to be on this journey with you. 🙂

      • Dawn Muench August 25, 2013 / 9:50 pm

        It would not be the same without my traveling companions! You are another ledge-walker Pam 🙂

    • Dawn Muench August 25, 2013 / 9:46 pm

      Thanks Robyn! That means a lot to me. I am blessed to have all the people who DO support living on the ledges 🙂

  2. jane August 25, 2013 / 9:53 pm

    Great to hear how you are anchored to your faith instead of fear! As another girl who is afraid of heights & falling and likes to “stay safe”, I really appreciated your words. Hope I bump into you at church soon!

    • Dawn Muench August 25, 2013 / 9:54 pm

      Jane! So good to hear you here- thanks for reading and encouraging! Yes- hope to see you soon 🙂

  3. Coral August 25, 2013 / 11:14 pm

    Dawn…I loved reading this post. It makes my heart sing with you!!! Keep walking on those ledges and living on the edge!!!

    • Dawn Muench August 26, 2013 / 6:17 pm

      Thanks Coral for reading and for the encouragement- it is so much easier when you know others feel and live the same 🙂

      • Coral August 29, 2013 / 2:46 pm

        I’m learning much about those “easier” lessons finding others with whom to connect who “get it.” I’ve heard some liken it to “finding (one’s) tribe.” Keep writing, Dawn. You are an inspiration to so many.

  4. afmccann August 26, 2013 / 2:03 am

    Beautiful! I am so glad to call you MY sister! So excited to see what He has in store for you for 2014 and hoping I can do some “ledge walking” with you. Can’t think of a better person I’d like to do it with

    • Dawn Muench August 26, 2013 / 6:16 pm

      Well of course you are with me! There are fun things ahead for sure 🙂 Thanks for always always encouraging me and never calling me Crazy! 🙂

  5. Emily August 27, 2013 / 12:09 am

    Oh, I LOVE this, Dawn!! You described it so well. You are such an encouragement and I love watching you engage with some of these ledges. I am so excited for you and SO incredibly grateful to walk along some ledges with you!! 🙂

    • Dawn Muench August 27, 2013 / 7:08 am

      Emily- we have much to discuss! Good thing I’ll see you soon and get to hear all about what’s going on with you and your edging out too!

  6. Alene Snodgrass (@AleneSnodgrass) August 27, 2013 / 2:19 am

    Oh my stars — I want to live on the edge with you. I want to know that through all my questions a calling is found. I want to be brave. I want adventure. I want more of God. You leave me breathless!!! Can’t wait to see you in Guatemala!!!

    • Dawn Muench August 27, 2013 / 7:07 am

      Well I’m sure YOU know whose words those were about the calling 🙂 and YOU ARE one of my GREATEST ledge-walking inspirers. Truly. When I listen to your podcasts, I want to jump right off 🙂 IN a good way.

  7. Rachel August 27, 2013 / 7:51 am

    I’m so excited to add your beautiful blog to my feed, Dawn!! Long time, no see, but it’s excellent that as I jump off my very own ledge we get to reconnect!! ❤ Rachel

    • Dawn Muench August 27, 2013 / 8:04 am

      It’s crazy the people you find when you are looking for them 🙂 I’m excited to read what you have to say tomorrow…. 🙂

  8. Susan Stilwell August 28, 2013 / 10:08 pm

    As usual, I’m WAY late to the party, but still have to chime in with the others and tell you how excited I am about all the changes and ledge-walking! And I’m secretly a little gleeful that I get to walk a few steps WITH you 🙂 And that integrative medicine fellowship? Yes, I’ll be asking you about that the next time we talk!

    Love this line: “I can’t control my life into perfection.” Goodness gracious sakes ALIVE if that’s not a message to be shouted from the rooftops!

  9. grettabenefield August 29, 2013 / 8:26 am

    This is awesome! I am so proud of you, and I little jealous! I guess I will just have to live my life vicariously through you three girls! I am so excited about your excitement! I knew your were “going places” from the time you came into this world. You were so independent and knew exactly what you wanted. Most of the time it was hard being your mom because you were so independent and strong willed, BUT look where it got you! I love you to the moon and back! It’s possible that in your life time, you could make that trip (to the moon) also!

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