Live Out Loud!

The other day I stood in my bedroom, pondering a new marketing approach I tried for my business. Far different than anything I've done before, and I had no idea if it would work. I put a lot on the line. Suddenly, a smile broke out on my face. I enjoy the excitement of that uncertainty. Will it work? If not, what next? I stopped for a moment to savor a feeling that we never get when we go through life trying to play it safe.

Have you ever felt it? The excitement of going out on a limb for yourself, pouring your heart into something you believe in, not knowing the result? There's nothing like it on earth.

Of course the scared part of us, the place inside where we doubt ourselves, screams that we might lose - we need to play it safe! Sometimes, the more "normal" our lives are, the more trapped we become in the need for security.

Sometimes we need to learn from those who lacked the luxury of a "normal" life. Like Helen Keller. Struck by a rare disease at age two that left her blind and deaf, she traveled the world, met the most influential people of her time, and left an indelible mark on us all. Her advice? "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure."

In my early twenties, I met and fell in love with an African-American man. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood, all-white schools, with all-white friends. My parents objected but I refused to stop seeing him. As a result, I was shown the exit to the family home and lost most of my friends.

Some years later, I married the man I loved and became pregnant. I was rejected by everyone in my family except my sister Nancy. Both of my parents advised me not to have what turned out to be my beautiful twins. My father, alarmed, told me, "You know they will never be treated the same as white kids."

This angered me, and I told him my kids would be taught they could achieve anything in life that they wanted, if they wanted it badly enough. Once the kids were born, I never mentioned color to them. On school records, where it asked for "race," I checked "other" and put "Human." My kids never knew anything about "black" or "white" until they went to public school in 5th grade. I refused to let the ignorance of others harm their self-esteem.

But somewhere along the line, I began deferring too much to my husband. Being much older than I was, I assumed he must know better. Somewhere along the line, I began playing it safe.

After two decades, the relationship fell apart, and we separated. I was left with a load of bills and two kids to raise. One of my biggest insights came while watching the movie, "Living Out Loud," with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito. Hunter plays a character that gave up her dream of going to medical school to support her husband's medical career. Then he left her for a younger woman, a pediatrician.

In a dramatic moment, just after the divorcing pair left the lawyer's office, she said to him, "I don't hate you for leaving me. I left myself long before you did." Boy, did that ring true for me!

Happily Hunt's character did go on to become a doctor. But her words reminded me that I had abandoned the courageous young woman I once was, to cater to my husband, thinking I would be safe.

There's a phrase that says, "There are two doors in life, one marked "security" and the other marked "freedom." If you choose the first, you lose both."

Truer words were never spoken.

After our breakup, surveying the wreckage and rebuilding my life, I began getting back in touch with me. I was scared to death and doubted myself every step of the way, but something in me changed. The prison I had voluntarily built came crashing down, and I began to see far off horizons.

I got a second chance. I chose freedom. In the bargain, I get have more fun and meet other brave souls along the way. Like Karen Serenity.

Karen breezed into my life via the internet. When I opened her email I felt like I'd been smacked with a big ray of sunshine. She told me how much she enjoyed my website and had linked it to hers, asking if that was okay. She said, "If it's not, that's perfectly okay, hon. I understand."

Karen is a happily married transsexual. Her website, www.karenserenity.com, is a celebration of the courageous journey of transsexual women. She features many of these women on her site. If I thought my life was tough being left to raise the kids and handle all the finances on my own, these women have been through some stuff! I cannot even imagine what they must have endured for their choice.

Yet on Karen's site, along with an abundance of inspiring quotes and pictures, someone identified only as "Author Unknown" says, "When I look around me at the mundane lives, there are times I think that maybe I am glad I was born Transsexual, for I would never have been what I have become without that curse."

It's true; from our challenges come our gifts. We get nothing from the easy stuff. Remember that, when you find yourself trembling on the banks of the River of Life, clutching at the branches and trying to play it safe. Don't settle for mediocre. Let go and dive in! Steer your vessel with love through the bumps and turns, and start living out loud. Who you are, is exactly who you are meant to be. Let it shine for all to see!

Mindy Hitchcock (Michigan Divorce Lawyer)