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We recently took a trip to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. As you would expect and as nature of often is, it was beautiful. While we were there hiking around, we came upon a steep decline. At the bottom of it was a picturesque stream with rapids rolling over colorful rocks. My husband, always the adventurous type in these situations, wanted to hick down the embankment and enjoy the beauty up close.

I, ever the more cautious of the two of us, hesitated. I stood at the edge of that cliff and momentarily refused to believe that I could manage getting down it, (never mind back up it), without falling headlong onto a jagged rock and kill myself.

At first glace down the ravine, I froze. I said what I always say…”No.” I inherited this trait from my mother. “No” was the first thing she’d say to every new experience and since my sarcoidosis diagnosis, it is often mine too.

But then, standing there among all that beauty, I had an “aha moment”. I realized that by saying no and being afraid all the time, I miss things. I mean, I don’t just miss out on things…I actually miss things. I close myself off from life when I don’t take risks. I entrench myself in a lonely existence when I don’t take it on faith that the risk is often worth the reward.

When I don’t take a gamble on life, when I fail to live, I become static. I stagnate. I wither. I die a little.

So, in that split second’s realization, standing there on the edge of the world, I took the gamble and I decided to hike down that ravine and the reward was well worth it because here is what I saw…

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Up close, I enjoyed the misty spray of the water off the river rocks, the clatter of chirping birds, the earthy, musty smell of a mossy landscape and magic of nature as the water and rocks vividly changed colors with every roar of the raging river current.

I did it!

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I managed to get to the bottom of the cliff without falling or harming myself. My worst fears never came to pass and the reward was all around me. I was filled with immense gratitude for being able to be in that singular moment in time communing with nature in the most intimate of ways.

But then, I had the mighty task of getting back up the hill. Here’s what faced me and it’s steeper than it looks!

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Could I do it?

I believed I could because I faced this challenge with renewed vigor and a new understanding that risk and reward go hand in hand. And beaming with pride, even though my lungs burned and my legs cramped, I got myself back up to the top of that embankment with relative ease.

So our trip to the Great Smokey Mountains was, well…really great! I have a new found attitude about the value to accepting a challenge. And I realize yet again, that this disease does not have to stop me from living my life and more importantly, enjoying it!

So, the next time I am tempted to say no, I’ll think about it first as I truly weigh the risks and rewards and I will believe in myself and the value of living a life well traveled.

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(You really didn’t think we wouldn’t bring our dogs on this trip, did you?)

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