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October 31, 2013
The Secret Life of Molly
Danger, Danger!
by Hannah Bird

My daughter has her hand in a splint. In a few days we will remove the splint and have more x-rays to see if we need to see a hand surgeon. It is hardly surprising that she is injured. She lives on a farm.

She waters one-ton animals using huge steel tubs. She drags heavy hose around. She argues with a bull. She hauls wood. She splits wood. She stacks wood. She camps out with the family on our little ranch where bear wander and fighting wolves wake them up in the morning. She likes to shoot. She is a ballerina and spends her time tapping her toes together in hopes that they will bleed less when she hops up and down on them in a paper mache box.

Clearly, this kid was getting injured one way or another.

Except that she dislocated her knuckle wiping off the kitchen counter. She has sprained tendons and micro fractures because of the way she held her hand when she wiped crumbs into the garbage can. I don’t mind saying that I did not see this one coming.

We spend a tremendous amount of time trying to be safe and keep our families safe. But the problem is, we are terrible at assessing risk. Books have been written about how bad we are about assessing risk. Even the handful of people who read them agree that other people are horrible at assessing risk and they move on.

Don’t believe me? Look up the statistics on stranger abduction. Now look up the statistics on car crashes. Now try to convince any mother that drives her kids home from school to avoid the loonies that she is wrong.

Unless you are on a swat team or deployed you will probably do nothing today more dangerous than get in your car. Your kids are safer walking through the neighborhood (that you picked because it was so quiet and safe) than they are sitting in your car. But we do not do a great job of separating out when we feel safe and when we are safe.

You feel safer when your kids are with you. The fact that they are not safer doesn’t displace that feeling.

Which is why fear is a terrible way to make decisions.

Several years ago I was talking to a dear friend of mine. She was remarking on something that needed to be done but then added that she would not be comfortable doing that. I asked her why that would affect her decision. She paused and then said, “It shouldn’t.”

The worst thing about this conversation is that she remembers it and repeats it to me frequently. I am the queen of not wanting to do uncomfortable things.

We always talk about comfort zones. We talk about how we got them, what they include, and whether we should get out of them. We give talks and tell people to get out of them.

Next time you talk about “stepping outside your comfort zone,” think a minute. Is it really so comfortable in there? Have you ever been comfortable doing or saying something that you later regretted? Me too.

I have a long list of things that have come out of my mouth that just make me wince to think of them now. I have an even longer list of things that do not yet make me wince but probably should. Maybe comfort is not the best indicator of morality or wisdom. Maybe, your comfort zone is not that safe. Maybe you were safer in bear country than your kitchen. Maybe your kid is better off wandering down the block than in your minivan.

So the next time you are deciding what to do, remember to factor in the risks of pursuing comfort. Comfortable is not safer. Difficulty is not necessarily danger. And watching wolves fight out the window is much more interesting than wiping off the counter.

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