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There is nothing . . . that can be said . . . that can frighten me . . . anymore . . . Sadden me . . . perhaps . . . disgust me . . . certainly . . . but not make me afraid . . . It has been said . . . Learn What You Fear . . . Then Make Love To It . . . dance with it . . . put it on your dresser . . . and kiss it good . . . night.

This sentiment expressed by poet Nikki Giovanni had been my battle cry since the first time I jumped off a boulder into the cool Osage River while at summer camp in my early teens. I continued to dance with it while living in Eastern Africa in my early twenties, and working at high-growth companies like Microsoft half a dozen years later. Along the way, I danced with my fear many times.

Little did I expect, however, that this intense life would wear thin and I’d waltz with a new kind of fear in my late thirties: tranquility.

This wunderkind of extreme sports and foreign adventure—long before they were cool—now lives on a farm in a forest near her husband’s family in Central Virginia. I do this even though my old friends and colleagues remind me there is so much more living to do. What? They think I’ve stopped living? I’m bored? Something must be wrong? Did I forget to mention it hasn’t been boring even once, and I’m living more now than ever before?

Truth be told, I do fear, at least once a day, that the extreme me lurks just past our mile-long driveway, waiting for me on my twice-daily walk to the mailbox. The dog wouldn’t scare her off; nothing would. Maybe what I’m really fearful of now is that she won’t turn up again and that I’ve scared her off for good. I wonder if she’d ever be able to appreciate the simple life that Elaine St. James introduced me to or the integrated personal life and work life that Lotte Bailyn has been researching.

Maybe I’m afraid she’d make me go back to a lifestyle where I had to dedicate and cordon off time and location to only learning, only work, and only life. Maybe she’d keep me from having a personal coach, an active workout schedule, and the chaordic life I cherish.

And what of Tom Davenport’s assertion that our new lives have everything to do with where we place our attention, Sue Shellenbarger’s view that Work and Family go hand in hand, and Doug Smith’s perspective that we can “team around the clock” safely if we manage expectations? Would my old-self just never buy in to these integrated and balanced notions or possibly not care?

I have devoted my life to learning to learn and helping organizations profit from what they learn and can apply faster. Why shouldn’t I be entitled to time enough to learn what I care for and finally make my peace with peace? It’s the old me asking these questions, almost mocking me. She desperately wants me to integrate my old extreme life with this new peaceful one to help me be whole once and for all I’ll think about it as the crickets lull me to sleep. Tomorrow will inevitably offer me something else to learn and integrate into my life. Isn’t it about time I dance again?

Marcia Conner


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