By: Shannon Ralph
I have this picture of my daughter that I love. It was taken last month during our annual autumn family apple orchard trip. She is standing about seven feet off the ground on a gigantic bale of hay. The sky is the most gorgeous crystal bright blue behind her. The pom-poms on her teddy bear hat are blowing in the wind. She is contemplating her next move.
All around Sophie children are screaming and laughing and jumping and pushing one another. Her brothers have already leapt from seven feet in the air onto the soft mounds of hay below. Sophie is debating doing the same. Her brothers are standing below her calling her name. “Jump, Sophie! You can do it!” Her fists are clenched in determination. There is a slight grin on her face. I can see the little wheels in her head turning. Trying to decipher the exact odds of experiencing uninhibited glee and joyful enthusiasm versus broken bones and gut-wrenching pain. Are the odds 50/50? 40/60? 30/70? She can’t decide. She wants so badly to leap. To step off that precipice into the unknown. At the same time, however, she is terrified of the consequences.
I know this feeling well. In the past two months, I quit a job. A part-time job. A safe job. An easy job. A job with little chance of advancement, but a job that asked little of me, as well. And I took a new job. A job that requires a lot of me. Expects great things from me. Assumes I am intelligent and capable and innovative. I, too, clenched my fists in determination. I, too, contemplated the probability of uninhibited glee and joyful enthusiasm versus broken bones and gut-wrenching pain. I, too, wanted desperately to step off that precipice into the unknown. And I did.
In the last two months, my partner quit her job, as well, and has become a stay-at-home mom for the first time in her life. For the first time ever, she is not working to support herself. She is counting on someone else —me—to provide for her financially. Coming from a lower-middle-class background, she grew up with very little money. She made a promise to herself that she would never go back to that place. She would never be dependent on another person. She would earn her own way in life. Yet, for the good of our family, she is putting her trust in me. She is leaping into the unknown.
In the last two months, my mother finally left her husband and, with nowhere else to go, moved into my spare bedroom. On a fixed income with little to her name, she found the courage to leave a marriage that made her miserable and embark on a journey of discovery. It’s not been an easy road. It’s not been an altogether pleasant experience. But she is making the best of it. My children are beyond excited to spend this time with their grandmother. And my mom is beginning to see glimpses again of the capable woman she has always been.
My house is inhabited by three generations of risk-takers. Four women who did not know their own strength until they were faced with a choice. Women who know fear, yet are capable of facing those fears and leaping into the unknown. Did Sophie jump from her perch in the sky on that crisp October morning? Did she muster all of the resolve in her tiny little body and leap to the soft hay below? You bet your ass she did!
And she giggled with glee the entire way down.