Take a Risk with Me (and Sharon Van Etten)!

January 3, 2012

Happy new year, friends!

Today I was the subject of a tweet by Kevin Allison, the creator and host of one of my favorite podcasts, RISK. Those who made a small donation to the Keep Risk Running campaign were rewarded for their generosity by having something ridiculous tweeted about them. Here’s what Kevin had to say about me:

I’m happy to say that I’ve lived well past sundown in this crazy corner of the Multiverse. For those of you who don’t know, RISK is a show in which people tell true stories about their lives – usually embarrassing or funny or weird or all of the above.  They’re not the kind of stories one would normally share with strangers, let alone the untold masses of podcast listeners. I especially like that Kevin ends each show with the words “Today’s the day, folks. Take a risk.” That’s excellent advice. I hope that I have the courage to follow it as I move forward in my life.

Now here’s a song, a wonderful song, about taking risks. It’s called “Much More Than That” by Sharon Van Etten:

There are two terrifying moments in this song, two great acts of courage in the form of small gestures. One is performed by the singer, and one is performed by the “you” to which the song is sung. Here’s the first:

“You reached for my hand slowly.” 

By the timidity of this gesture, we can guess that it’s the first time it has happened. There’s an uncertainty in the reaching, more than a little fear. It’s a moment overthought, heavy with meaning beyond the simple action. The next line, then, is more than a small relief.

“I didn’t pull away.”

By the negative phrasing here, the emphasis on how she didn’t respond instead of how she did respond, the singer reveals how precarious this moment was. Something in her was saying “Pull away,” and then something else said, “Don’t.” There was as much uncertainty in the response as in the initial action. If you look at it this way, both sides were taking a risk – which is how the wonderful trouble of romance always begins.

But there was another risk in this song I wanted to talk about. It’s where the title comes from. Here it is:

“My toe hit your toe lightly. / Your toe met my heel right back. / And I don’t think I need much more than that.”

You could argue that this moment isn’t quite as fraught with suspense as the previous moment, simply because it comes after the mutual interest has already been established. I think that’s correct. But it still feels like a gut-check moment. There’s that same awful ache of not knowing whether or not your affection will be returned. There’s so much invested in the initial gesture here that suddenly two toes become the most important things in the world. That’s why the reply is so wonderful and means so much. The first toe asks the question that the singer can’t put into words, and the second toe gives a response. And the answer is yes. Of course, yes. Yes.

Today’s the day, folks.

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