Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Word of the Week Wednesday (And A Book Review Of Sorts)

gambit (noun)
to take a risk for some advantage

On principle I am not comfortable with risk. In fact my daily existence is pretty much an exercise in avoiding risks for both me and my family. I work hard at navigating us around risks, at carving out wide margins so that there is no room left for gambits. And yet, the older I get, the more I see that a well-lived life is a life lived outside of those safe margins, a life that involves risk. Gambits are good.

I just listened to Rob Lowe's book Love Life, a title that is a play on words. If you get this book thinking you're going to hear the salacious (another SAT word) details of his love life, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead the book is Lowe's attempt to share how he has learned to love life.

One theme that recurs in the book is this idea of gambits-- that we should take a risk with an eye towards the advantage it could create. Lowe talks of the more bizarre roles he's attempted, the commitment he's made to sobriety, the strong love he has for his wife and children. In different ways, these are all gambits. To love with abandon, to stop something that used to drive him, to step outside what is expected-- all risks he would say have paid off by bringing a greater satisfaction to his life. I found the book to be inspiring and, as I said with his first book, all the better for hearing him read it. (How else would you hear his Bigfoot impression as he intended it?)

And also? The piano music at the beginning and end is composed and played by his youngest son, which moved me almost as much as the book. You couldn't hear that if you just read the book.

Rob Lowe's book got me thinking about gambits-- the risks I could take. Could I love deeper, live with more passion, attempt things that are outside my comfort zone? I know that the risks I took in the past-- to marry Curt (even though we were too young-- do you hear that kids? We were too young.), to write that first novel, to have more than the standard amount of children, to choose educational methods that were not "normal," to stand up for things I felt were wrong, have all brought about advantages in the end. They were-- and are-- risks I am glad I took, gambits whose dividends keep paying out even now.

How can I keep taking risks? What risks am I avoiding? How can I not be afraid when my kids embark on gambits of their own? These are important questions and ones we should all ask ourselves with each new stage and season of life.

Maybe today you should think about gambits you've embarked on in the past, and ponder new ones you might take in the future. What advantages have gambits of the past brought you? What advantage could a new risk potentially bring you? A safe life might be comfortable, but it's also kinda boring. Gambits are good. That's what I have to keep telling myself. I think Rob Lowe would agree.

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