Thursday, August 12, 2004

Living on the Edge

At lunch with my friend Gail today I was reminded about how important it is for me to be me. That might sound funny, but I've been struggling with what Gail helped me see to be a paradox: two seemingly conflicting views, each of which I hold sacred.

Here it is in a nutshell: I'm finding myself drawn to living my life on the edge, or, as my friend Susie says, out on a limb. When I looked up the definition of "edge," it fits so well with what I'm feeling drawn to. Here are some definitions:
A thin, sharpened side, as of the blade of a cutting instrument.
The degree of sharpness of a cutting blade.
A penetrating, incisive quality.
A slight but noticeable sharpness or harshness: His voice had an edge to it.
Keenness, as of desire or enjoyment; zest: The brisk walk gave an edge to my appetite.

The line of intersection of two surfaces: the edge of a brick; the table's rounded edges.
A rim or brink: the edge of a cliff.
The point at which something is likely to begin: on the edge of war.

The area or part away from the middle; an extremity: lifted the carpet's edge.
A dividing line; a border: a house on the edge of town. See Synonyms at border.
A margin of superiority; an advantage: a slight edge over the opposition.
A provocative or discomforting quality, as from audacity or innovativeness: “Over all, the show will have a grittier edge” (Constance C.R. White).

The other side of my paradox is wanting to hold space for people wherever they are - to accept wherever their level of understanding allows them to be. I sense that I may be making people wrong if I encourage them to come closer to the edge when they are perfectly content living in the middle. I don't want to push my own agenda, so I don't say what I feel drawn to say, and I pull back - put up and shut up - or worry about what others think of me, or wonder if I've said too much.

As Gail reminded me today, edges can be sharp - and if you live on the edge, you run the risk of getting cut.

But I'm also reminded that there probably are far fewer rules for living on the edge because far fewer people have been there to offer their experience or advice. When we're living on the edge, we make an agreement to make up the rules as we go - to roll with the punches, to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again, but with new determination, and new avenues to explore. There are no promises that anything is going to be right or perfect or successful when you're living on the edge, only that you have a personal stake in the outcome because you're creating it.

So what's the answer to the paradox question? Can you hold two seemingly contradictory beliefs sacred? Time will tell for me. But the clarity I gained from having this conversation is priceless. Thanks for lunch, Gail - and thanks for the food for thought.


At 7:43 AM, Blogger JanieH said...


I'm with you all the way. I feel like I live on the edge all of the time... and I don't understand why other people are not doing the same! And I find myself getting frustrated with other people because they are not thinking or doing the same as me. I know - how childish of me!

It's frustrating because I have so many ideas and so many things I want others to know... but, mostly, they don't want to hear what I have to say. I think they find it hard to be open to concepts that are radically different to what they are used to.

And, you know what? I can't change other people! How frustrating is that?!!? The only thing I can do is try to understand where they are coming from, and work on improving myself as a person. And by that I mean, me becoming more tolerant and patient (ohmygod... is THAT a hard one!!!).

Jodee... You write so eloquently... it's a pleasure to read your thoughts. Keep up the fascinating posts.



At 9:39 PM, Blogger bruce b said...

Allow me to offer this observation: living on the edge and pulling people out of their comfort zone toward the edge are quite compatible. The magic ingredient that makes the two mix together is passion. People are naturally drawn to your passion, Jodee. I don't have to share your passion initially, only your interest. It is the nature of the human spirit to accept a passionate person as a leader, and seek to emulate that person. Name leaders in any field of knowledge. Name leaders in history. Were any of them devoid of passion? I don't think so.
I prefer to visualize "the edge" as a a merry-go-round, the kind you could once find near every country school house. Some people are content to sit in the middle. Some venture out to the mid-range of the circle and hang on for dear life. The truly brave souls grip the pipes on the perimeter and extend their bodies beyond the "edge" of the circle. Passion is what makes it spin. If you are content to sit exactly in the middle, the centrifugal force of passion has very little effect on you. But once you venture out even a little bit from center, you begin to feel drawn to the edge. One other point: Those on the edge of the spinning disk actually get to travel the longest distance. Those in the center truly go nowhere.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Dr. Glasser always taught me "all we can do is give people information, what they choose to do with that information is up to them." But, the key to this is really listening to others, versus getting people to listen to us."

I once read something that suggests a guide is not the one who provides the answers, but the one who can ask questions. So maybe the quote should be " all we can do is ask people questions, what they choose to do with those questions is up to them."

There is a famous Zen saying (I could resist), "paths cannot be taught, they can only be taken."


At 11:36 AM, Blogger Jodee said...

Yes ... give everything, expect nothing. That's the ticket and what I'm missing. Thanks for your insights, Janie, Bruce & Mark!!

At 10:10 PM, Blogger David M said...

Where exactly is the "edge" then? Is anyone really there? Doesn't everyone think they are living on their own edge? If it is as far as I am willing to go isn't that my edge?

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Jodee said...


Yes, I guess as far as each of us is willing to go really is our own individual edge. However, I believe that we never really know how far is too far until we've hit it. How do you know what the edge is until you've ventured beyond your comfort zone?


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