Safe and Sorry Are Not the Only Options

by Belinda Munoz on June 18, 2010

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Is it just me or are we as a society a little too obsessed with safety?

Yes, I’m guilty of being preoccupied with safety.  I hear it in my motherly tone when I caution my son to be careful when I see sharp objects, creepy-vibing strangers or precariously stacked boxes of produce near him.  But, c’mon, he’s three years old.

You and me, however?  We’re not three.  I’d hazard a guess that you, like me, haven’t been for decades.

Because we’re older, and possibly wiser, chances are we can think on our feet.  We can problem-solve when we face a crisis or an emergency.  We can even perform basic first aid if we accidentally fall and scrape our knees while running or cut a finger while preparing a meal.

We’re pretty smart, you and I.  We’re able to figure a lot of things out if left to our own devices.

WATCH OUT FOR GRIFTERS?

So why do we so often refrain from talking to strangers?  It’s a reasonable advice to children, but does it apply to grownups?  Are we so gullible that a stranger could con us out of our life savings in one sitting?

What could happen if I talked to strangers?  I think about this when I’m standing in line at Trader Joe’s.  And then, I sneak a peek at my neighbor’s cart, ask about a particular item that intrigues me and voila, I get instant information and possibly a smile.  If I’m lucky and the stranger is friendly, I might even get a story, too!

But, alas, more often than not, we keep to ourselves.

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

I’ve watched my share of sci-fi TV shows where airborne illness spreads on an airplane.  It’s terrifying.  One minute, some man in a suit and tie is enjoying a cocktail.  The next minute he’s heaving and morphing into an otherworldly creature.  But does this happen in real life?  Not even close.

Once, I saw a middle-aged man at the airport having a heart attack.  He was probably practicing his safety habits that day when it hit him.  Within seconds, a crowd gathered around him and help came along with an AED kit.

JUST IN CASE?

My husband laughed at me when I mentioned I might pack a knife for our upcoming trip.  I like to cook meals when we’re on vacation so, not knowing the quality of amenities at the place where we will be staying, I thought it was a good idea.  A knife doesn’t take up much space and I’m almost sure I could stop there and not slide down that slippery slope of packing a cast-iron pot, too.

My just-in-case rationale and penchant for comfort, safety’s sibling, almost clouded my better judgment.  So what if I have to use a different knife?

LOSING ONE’S EDGE?

You know how the saying goes: better to be safe than sorry.  I guess so, but doesn’t this philosophy oversimplify our options just a tad?

What lies between safe and sorry?  Fun, maybe?  Adventure, perhaps?  What about challenges that might teach us a thing or two?  Or, how about a chance to pay attention to those dulled edges of ours that could use a little sharpening?

It’s not that safe is evil.  It’s that in prioritizing safe, I hope we’re not unwittingly anesthetizing  and desensitizing those parts of us that register simple delights.  Or even simple pain.  I’m guessing those parts that feel simple pleasures are the same parts that feel simple pain.  And though I’d almost always choose to feel pleasure over any kind of pain, wouldn’t it be better to feel pain, than feel nothing at all?

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  1. Does too much safety and comfort numb us?
  2. Is sorry really the only alternative to safe and vice versa?  And is it really so terrible?
  3. Do we appreciate the simple pleasures in our everyday lives?

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June 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roman Soluk June 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

I like to read your post, Belinda. Thanks a lot for sharing it! Really interesting!

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2 Tony Single June 18, 2010 at 5:37 am

To be honest with you, Belinda, I never feel safe. 🙁

I might die in my sleep tonight. A plane might crash into our house. The world might explode into never ending war. The paranoia never ends…

So, what do I do about this? Well, all I can do is walk and talk, eat and drink, think and breathe… until one day I stop. Some things are just plumb out of my hands, but living? I guess I can just about manage that! 😉

Yeah, safety’s good, but it can oft times be little more than an illusion, so just live while you can. 🙂

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3 Eduard @ People Skills Decoded June 18, 2010 at 6:00 am

Well, I always appreciate the process of getting out of your comfort zone… gradually. This way, you can always expand your inner and outer reality, while at the same time not butchering yourself with tacking big risks (perceived or real) all at once. I think it’s the way to go in personal development.

Cheers,

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4 Rudri June 18, 2010 at 7:05 am

Belinda,

I think there is always something we can worry about. The worst case scenarios are always on my mind. It has limited my sense of adventure and I find that I am not as carefree as I want to be. I won’t go on the hot air balloon ride or the white water rapids, fearing something might happen.
I am working toward embracing the present and learning that some things are beyond our control. You just have to live and see what happens.

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5 rob white June 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

Hi Belinda,
Interesting topic. I believe there is a paranoia prevalent today that can really keep us alone and separate from our connection with the universal mind. I love talking to strangers. It is such a paradigm buster that people don’t know what to do with it. It is too bad that engaging with our fellow humans can be so taboo. That is why I get such a kick out of it, once people let down their guard and connect it is a great lift in mood and attitude for us both.

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6 Gini Martinez June 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

I always find it ironic that we tell children not to talk to strangers but, when we are in need of help, often it is a stranger that helps us out.

I think modern moms can easily become obsessed with safety. I am amazed at how much I let my guard down with the third child and you know what- He is my risk taker. 🙂

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7 TheKitchenWitch June 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Okay, I’m laughing at the knife bit. I’m very, very bad at stepping out of my comfort zone but you just might have me beat. I must admit though, I *hate* how fearful I am.

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8 Aging Mommy June 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Interesting post – your last part about losing our edge, that for me is the important one, it is so very easy to get stuck in a rut once you have children and not be able to see over the parapet to life and the world beyond it.

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9 Eva @ EvaEvolving June 18, 2010 at 1:20 pm

As always, Belinda, you make me smile and challenge my own habits and routines.

I do believe that playing it safe can be numbing. It makes me think about my own love of routine. But man, life can get boring when you only do the safe thing or only follow the same routine. Sometimes it’s good for the heart and soul to break the rules, to do something totally UN-routine.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fun and life in the sense of saying “yes” to social engagements. I often complain about late nights (especially work nights) or too many social commitments in a week. So I end up saying no to things that I know I would enjoy. Why not throw caution to the wind and stay out late with friends on a Tuesday?!

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10 BigLittleWolf June 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I think we grow more concerned with safety as we grow older. We have actually seen or weathered tragedy. We know what a moment of looking away can bring. Loss takes on the quality of a body memory, and so it is natural that we seek to protect those we love, and ourselves.

Of course if we overdo it, we don’t experience life. But some of us have fewer resources to absorb loss, and so safety of all sorts becomes paramount.

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11 Wilma Ham June 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Once I would have packed a knife too, just in case. Indeed in the end where do you stop?
For me I have found safety in knowing that I can find solutions to any problems that I will encounter. I have learned to say ‘yes’ to new adventures and lo and behold when I came across problems, like not being able to get off an island, like not having plasters when on a tramping trip lasting days, there were always solutions to be found. That has given me confidence to do more and more ‘dangerous’ things and LIVE. xox Wilma

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12 Dia June 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm

I think we all want to feel safe Belinda. Some times people are afraid to leave their comfort zone and do something new or something that they feel is “unsafe.” Once we start taking small risks, we would begin to challenge the situations that we feel not safe about. Thanks for sharing Belinda

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13 Colleen June 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Hi Belinda,
this is a good post. We all have our own comfort zones.

I love to talk to strangers.
GPS is the greatest thing ever invented because I can get no off the beaten track just for the adventure without getting lost.
I abhor chemical companies for poisoning peoples minds and scaring them into using hand sterilizers and the like.
I don’t worry about dying because I have had a good life so far and if I went now I would be satisfied. (no slow painful deaths though please).

Be a mother scares the living daylights out of me. I have spent most of my kids lives worrying about stuff that rarely happens and when it does we get by and its never as bad a my imagination sees it. Crazy hey but I’m working on it.

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14 Katie June 19, 2010 at 6:22 am

Hey Melissa, interesting post. Yes, I think safety and comfort do numb us. We live in a culture of fear, from terrorist threat alerts to pandemics, but it’s mostly just hype to sell us something. It’s natural to want to feel safe, but the media plays on that fear so we watch, then buy stuff that makes us feel safe. Living in the moment, you realize that most of your past fears never materialized and most never will. Now for sure, keep that kid away from the stacks of produce, but set him free to bump his knee or make mistakes. Maybe he’ll grow up feeling safe and being fearless.

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15 Sarah June 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm

There was a saying I used to live by as a teen:
“Fly high
Fall hard.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever stopped living that way.
Even as a mom. Even in my parenting.
I think safety is wise but…too prevalent in our society.
Great reward comes with some modicum of risk, right?

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16 Tracy Todd June 20, 2010 at 8:57 am

I used to be extremely over cautious. I have relaxed… a lot. And life is more fun.

I think the opposite of safe is responsible. I think it’s important to be responsible but it is just as important to really live life and that means taking a risk every once in a while.

I don’t always leave a comment but I want you to know that I always read your posts. I find your writing so inspiring. Thank you!

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17 Zengirl @ Heart and Mind June 20, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Belinda,

You bring up a important point. We all want safety and assurance but sometimes I think we over do safety issue and lose out on adventures and freedom. We can not have both.

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18 Aileen June 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

Oh I do love this post. I was in Spain in March for a wedding it was in the middle of the annual Las Fallas Festival children were setting off fireworks in the streets and tossing them around while people were walking – myself and the other Americans were a bit freaked out because of all of our safety restraints that have been enforced on us all of our-lives. Seeing how free they were with the fires, firecrackers and everything else became a huge topic for us.
It did hit me – that our safety mindset increases our fear based thinking and it does take us of the edge of excitement – dare I say it neuters us – I feel that way

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19 Christine LaRocque June 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I am SO guilty of this. Of over-thinking, over-worrying, over-planning to the point that almost all the fun is usually lost. At least for me. My husband is the opposite, he’s the risk-taker, the spontaneous one. I suppose in some ways we balance each other out, but largely my need to be safe and secure outweighs to just go with the flow and see where we get. Do I think my way is the right way? Absolutely not. But I’ve spent a lifetime like this and I don’t think I’m “brave enough” to be any different. Though somtimes I do with I could find a way to throw caution to the wind and be free of the worry.

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