034: Experiencing Joy is Worth the Risk with Arwen Becker

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034: Experiencing Joy is Worth the Risk with Arwen Becker

At 10 years old, Arwen Becker was thrilled to have the very rare opportunity to jump off the high dive after swimming practice. As she waited on the top step for her teammate to jump, she lost her footing and fell onto the concrete 15 feet below. The entire swimming class screamed in horror at her crumpled up body lying on the floor.

In the middle of the chaos, Arwen was amazed to discover that she didn’t break her leg or hit her head. However, she quickly realized by what she saw, that her wrist was obliterated. As paramedics prepped her for the ride to the hospital in an ambulance, she wondered if the joy of the moment was worth the risk to her athletic career.

Today, Arwen shares some of the lessons she learned from this experience and reminds us about the inherent risks in everything that gives us joy in life – and all the ways life can prove that the risks are certainly worth it.

Overcomer Playlist Recommendation 

Pearls of Wisdom


“Bumps and bruises are just a part of life.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “Be willing to take a chance, be willing to walk out on that ledge, and be willing to be playful.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “Go experience life, roll down the hill, build some Legos, make a mess in the kitchen. Your life is too valuable to waste it on controlling all of your circumstances and situations. Go be young again.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “You're made for more than this. Go stand out on a limb and believe in something better, you can handle this.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” - Geena Davis Click To Tweet


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Connect with Arwen Becker



Arwen Becker: So, we have a lot of different songs on this overcomer playlist of ours, and I was listening to this one and I just love it. I think it might be a little more of a party song, but it's Chandelier by Sia, if I'm pronouncing her name right. And I just love these words:

I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist

Like it doesn't exist

I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night

Feel my tears as they dry

I'm gonna swing from the chandelier

And we're talking a little bit today about taking risks. There are many times throughout my youth that I got injured. It was just kind of the way it was, I was an athlete since the age of five. And two of the biggest injuries that I have sustained were not on the court, they were actually injury sustained trying to impress people. It isn’t that nice. So, one of them was ninth grade as it was after hours in school, and I was walking down the hall. There was some sort of meeting after hours, it was the evening, which is always so weird when you're in your school. It was junior high at the time for me, ninth grade. And I was walking down the hallway to get some paper towels for this event with a boy that I liked. And so, he and I were running down the hallways, jumping up and hitting the lights that were hanging from the ceiling. And I can very vividly remember when one of my feet hit the ground. It rolled, and I heard the bone crack, but I played it off, he didn't know that I had just broken my foot. And yeah, not so impressed, it didn't make me cry. I actually played on it for the next couple of days until the pain was excruciating. And then of course, that ended up ending a couple of my seasons. I think I was playing, I was actually swimming at the time in high school, even though I was in ninth grade. So, I remember my mom finally forced me to go into the doctor. And yes, I had broken my foot.

So, there was one, but the other was 1984. I was in fourth grade. And at the time, I was competitive swimming, and I was swimming at what was going to be my future high school. So, the really cool part about it is our pool. So, the local pool that I would go to at my high school actually had a high dive and a low dive, which was just something that we didn't have any other place around the area. So, of course, the part I hated as a kid is that our coaches never, never let us go on the diving boards. It was just one of those things, often the distance that you would always be staring at, just hoping and praying one of these days, your coaches will let you go off it. And so, we begged our coaches.

And so, one day after practice, she agreed that we would get to go on high dives for maybe 10 to 15 minutes after practice. So, of course, the moment we were released, we did the cliché run-walk because you will always get in trouble if you are running at the pool. So, we would do that cliché run-walk thing. And so, I made it second to the high dive. So, I followed my friend up, they made it all the way up to the board, and I made it up and stood on the top step as I was waiting for them to finally go. Totally jazzed, super excited, and admittedly, pretty terrified. And so, as I waited, and they got out to the ledge, did their little bounce, and they jumped in. And so, I was super exhilarated. My heart was pounding. I was so nervous, but I was also going to be able to prove to my friends how awesome I was being able to go off this high dive.

And in that moment, from transitioning off the top step of the ladder onto the platform, I lost my footing. And it was like everything in this moment slowed down, it was just like in slow motion. And I remember reaching my hand for the railing that had lined the steps of the ladder, and I managed to grab it with one of my hands, my right hand. And all these like instant thoughts that were going on through my mind at that time, one, probably the most predominant is the same thing with the boy running down the hallways, I didn't want to look stupid in front of all my friends and my teammates, but I grabbed that right hand of the railing, and I tried to grab it with my left hand and I didn't reach it. And so, all the force of my body that was falling backwards swung around my right hand. And then, I can also remember, I didn't want to fall on the people who were on the ladder below me.

Now, again, these are going through my mind how much I actually was able to try and maneuver and manifest these things in my mind, who knows, right? But because I grabbed that one handle, my entire body whipped around, and it threw me under the diving board and onto the concrete that was 15 feet below. People started to scream. And it was like, screaming and chaos started to ensue. And here it was, all this in slow motion, I'm just lying there on the ground, and I'm thinking, Oh, my God, did I break my leg? And then, I think, Oh, thank God, I didn't hit my head. And I picked up my left arm, and I realized that I had a complete full fracture of the one-inch segment of bone right above my wrist. And I just lay there on the floor, kind of taking it all in. I obviously was sitting up because I reached my right hand over and I started to feel what had happened to my left wrist. And it's etched into my mind, it looked like my arm did a stair step. So, it was like my arm came out and then stepped down an inch and then the rest of my wrist and my hand came out. It was really disgusting.

And I started to kind of manipulate it. And everybody was like, Oh, my gosh, you were totally in shock. And I swear to you, I wasn't, not at that point. I remember every bit of it vividly. I remember, I didn't cry, whatsoever, which again, this wasn't really any different for the personality that I have. This thing, whether good or bad, kind of rooted in my desire to not look stupid. And so, I thought maybe I could play it off as if nobody would know as I was lying there right on the concrete floor with this broken arm and what I thought might be a broken leg too. And it's just that feeling of all that attention when I'm in a situation that's completely out of my control. And so, I was lying there on the floor, the coaches called 911, kids were still kind of running around screaming and gasping because, of course, once they saw my arm, a lot of people were much more disgusted than I am. That's why I was able to go into wildlife rehab, and some of the absolutely disgusting things I've seen and done, but I just still was thinking maybe I broke my leg, what was going on?

So, my coaches brought over this splint for my arm. It was a plastic sleeve-type thing that they slid over my left arm up to my shoulder, and then one of the coaches started blowing air into it. So, it was like this stabilizing splint arm cuff thing. And once the pressure actually started hitting the broken part of my wrist, oh, my God, the pain was excruciating. And so, at that point, this one coach is kind of handling that, and then another coach walked up to me and told me, “Hey, Arwen, I just wanted to let you know, we got a hold of your mom. She's going to meet you at the hospital.” That's the moment I lost it. Total tears. I was so afraid of going in the ambulance alone. I didn't know, I mean, all I knew is when people went into an ambulance. It was a really big deal, right? And I never really even spent time in hospital. So, just that whole idea of having to go there by myself was something that just, it terrified me. And so, that's what finally started me into tears.

And so, the paramedics got there, they brought out the gurney, they strapped me down. They weren't sure if I had head injuries, of course, and then began wheeling me out to the ambulance. And it was like rays of sun pouring through dark clouds, I saw my mom, I was like, Oh, she was standing there. She had just driven up, just arrived and got out of her car, and she was able to jump into the ambulance with me. With exception, I mean, mind you, the distance to Evergreen Hospital from my high school, well, my future high school, was about a mile and a half. It wasn't very far, but I was 9 or 10 or something like that. So, a mile and a half away, but it mattered. It mattered that I had the most important person in my life that made me feel safe, even in the midst of that significant turmoil.

And so, I do recall this time spent in the emergency room. And we arrived at the hospital, but it does start to get a little hazy at that point. There's something to be said about knowing that you personally no longer have to bear the weight of controlling the situation, and that there's somebody there who has your best interest at heart, who loves and adores you, who can protect you and really advocate for you. And you know what? A little side note, kind of separate note, I would say, but speaking of advocates, actually, just a number of weeks ago, I recorded an episode, I think it was episode 25 with Cathy Sikorski, and we talked about the impact of being a caregiver. My dear, I hope you hear what I'm saying. You need to have a plan for your life. Women bear the vast majority of responsibility caregiving for kids, but also for ailing parents, ailing spouse, ailing siblings, often friends, because God hardwired us to care so deeply for people who can't care for themselves, right?

But this is the challenge, for those of you who are married, 80% of men die married. That means 80% of women die single. My grandmother, she buried two husbands. The last one died from Alzheimer's after he battled it for three years. That impact on her was significant. And then, she was diagnosed after his passing with ovarian cancer. She battled that three years, that weight squarely on her own shoulders, my mom, and any of the planning that she had done with her finances, so she could pay for care if she needed it. She didn't have a spouse that was going to take care of her, she didn't have a husband, a first husband, a second husband. They weren't there to see whether or not their plan was going to work.

So, if you're waiting for somebody else, your spouse, your partner, the government, anybody, your parents, my other grandmother on my dad's side, she always expected other people to care for her. She was angry and bitter. She was an only child. My great grandfather got married late in life, well, he was married a couple of times, but he remarried, and that woman kind of was able to divert a lot of the funds that my grandmother, my Nana, thought she was going to be able to get for her life. And so, she really expected him to care for her. And so, please just know, there is no knight in shining armor who's going to be coming by, making sure that all of your needs are met. That stance is irresponsible.

Eighty percent of women collecting Social Security, widowed women, live below the poverty line, and most of them didn't when their spouses were living. Eighty percent, this is not a joke. This is your life. So, make sure you have a plan, not only to help care for your ailing parents, but talk to your siblings. If you're fortunate enough to have some or one, you are not required to bear the ultimate responsibility of all of it, please, but if you're single, or especially if you're married, both of you, it's important that you sit down with a financial planner, with an estate attorney, with an elder attorney. An elder attorney is different than an estate planning attorney. Estate planning is what happens when I die, which is important because that's how it affects your kids, but an elder attorney, how do I pay for a good quality life, if some of these things might happen, right?

So, you do this to make sure that you get to continue to live the dreams that you had, even if your spouse becomes ill, even if your spouse, like my grandmother, my biological grandfather died when I was six months old. I don't think she was expecting to be widowed at that point. She maybe just entered her 50s, and then, she remarried and then was widowed again. So, please, please, please, it requires forethought, and I'll just leave it at that. Make sure that you have a plan. Okay, so that was my side note.

So, here I am, back in the hospital. And everything at this point is getting a little bit hazy. Right now, they've got to reset this bone and put it back in place. So, we're talking about this inch and a half section of my arm that needs to go back aligned, which actually, both my younger boys have broken the same area, and I've actually watched, I've been in the room while the doctors have reset it. So, you can kind of gather kind of how my brain works, and I know not everybody's the same way, but I know at this point, shock had set in because I don't recall a lot of the things that were going on. So, they must have given me some form of pain medication, they didn't knock me out totally, like they've done for my sons where they were completely out because I really remember the next part when they were casting it.

And what happened is at this point, they had already reset the bone, and then they took this huge syringe, I'd never seen a syringe so big, and it was filled with some sort of liquid, I didn't know what it was, it was a clear liquid, probably just a saline or something like that. And they put a tourniquet on up towards my shoulder, and then they began injecting the stuff into my arm, and my arm turned completely like Barney the Dinosaur, purple, with little bits of nude skin patches around it. So, it looked like I was naturally purple in color, it was so gross. It was the craziest thing. And they did it because then when they wrapped the hard cast on my arm, then once the fluid went up into the rest of my body and they took the cuff off, it created this cavity between my arm and the cast, truthfully, I mean, and that was a lot of years ago, that's three decades ago or so, I thought it was actually a pretty good way to do it, I don't know if they do it that way anymore.

So, now I needed to wear that stupid cast, the cast that went kind of the 90-degree all the way up to midway of my upper arm and stuff like that. And of course, any of you who have been casted, oh, dear God, the itchiness is just the worst because you want to scratch so bad in these areas that you can't reach anymore, and you'll use anything from paint brushes to the end of a comb, to the end of a toothbrush or whatever, just to be able to scratch that itch. So, it was just awful. But then four weeks later, I gotta get that big cast off that couldn't get wet or anything, and I got a half cast that was made of fiberglass. And thank God, I was right handed. Well, I mean, I am right handed. So, thank God, I broke my left hand. So, that was something I didn't have to deal with, but now, I got to get this fiberglass cast, that's a hard one to say.

And the coolest part is I remember, I actually had a swim meet that was already on the books and scheduled. And so, I got to swim with my little half cast. And I have to admit, I kind of felt a little bit like a fourth grade badass because it was obvious to other people that I had like broken my arm and it was still healing and yet, here I'm swimming. And I don't know if I won that day or not, it doesn't really matter, I just felt really cool diving in and doing my 50-meter butterfly with that little cast on. So, when I look back on all of that crazy experience. Do I regret walking on the top of that high dive? No, not at all. I got many opportunities following that jump to even dive off that high dive. I do have to admit, I got a lot of crap throughout the rest of my life in junior high in high school because a few years later, because of insurance and liability issues, AKA me falling off the high dive, they actually removed it from the pool. So, this was my high school. So, we only had the low dive, and whenever I told that story to any of my friends, they were always like, wait, but thanks a lot, I loved going off that high dive and you're the reason why it's no longer at the pool. Thanks a lot. I was like, Sorry.

So, what are the three things that I learned throughout that time period and that experience? Well, one, vulnerability isn't a bad thing. If you're an introvert like me that gets uncomfortable when a lot of eyeballs are on you, and being in a moment like that where you're completely out of control, or you have no control over the situation, like breaking a bone after falling off a high dive, I realized that during that time, a lot of people came to help me. And giving people the opportunity, when you're vulnerable, that's what happens. You give people the opportunity to help you when you open yourself up to them in a moment of hurt and weakness. And I've learned that the hard way, the really painful way. You know what I'm saying? To help me work at allowing myself to be more vulnerable and not controlling the situation and being willing to admit my shortcomings and failings, that's why I'm doing this podcast. As an introvert and as the kid and the adult who doesn't like the eyes on her, just like in this situation, it's easier for me to sit here in my studio and talk about these ways in which I fall short. I really struggle to do that when I'm eyeball to eyeball. And that's just part of me, being an introvert, that's a whole nother area of exploration of being able to be vulnerable and getting feedback and again, the lack of control that comes from being in relationship with people, but I'm learning. It’s something I'm actively working on.

Secondly, bumps and bruises are just a part of life, right? If you're always playing safe, and you're not willing to climb to the top of that high dive of your life, you know what I mean, you're never going to feel the exhilaration of accomplishing something that you're scared of, it's just not going to happen. And so, if you're always attempting to stay in your comfort zone, and you're unwilling to jump for joy and have a little fun along the way, especially like kids do, you don't get the experience of that exhilaration of truly living, you know what I mean? So, be willing to take a chance, be willing to walk out on that ledge, be willing to be playful. Yes, you're going to get hurt in the process, but on occasion, you'll look back at these stories, and you're going to laugh, but you're going to also have a sense of accomplishment because I was trying to do something I had never done before by going off that high dive, and it was just a joy and the playfulness of just being alive. You know what I mean?

So, joy itself doesn't just come when you're a kid. A lot of people leave that behind, the joy and the excitement, the enthusiasm, just to experience life and do something new and do something fun, you can have that as a through line throughout your entire life, not just in your adolescent years, you know what I mean, but you've got to be willing to get hurt, you've got to be willing to look dumb, you've got to be willing to have people go, what the heck is going on, right?

And then, number three, and this is how you do it, hang out with some kids, get on the floor, roll around with them, throw your ego out the window, and you're going to get to truly experience what it's like to be playful, and you have to relinquish your control and how you look in that process. For me, growing up in an alcoholic home, this is very consistent for children of alcoholics, as there wasn't a lot of time to be extraordinarily playful because there was always a question of security and whether I felt safe. And it's a lot easier to not be playful and control my surroundings when I was a kid, but I missed out on a lot of the joy of what it's like to just be young and not care about what people think. Go experience life, roll down the hill, build some Legos, make a mess in the kitchen. Your life is too valuable to waste it on controlling all of your circumstances and situations. Go be young again.

Best piece of financial wisdom. You need an end of life plan. Okay, and you might be 30 going, oh, I don't really need to be thinking about that. Yeah, it's good to start thinking about it. It is. Because if you've sat in my seat, you've seen a lot of people who were not expecting the things that happened to them in their 30s and 40s. I have friends who are widowed in their 20s. So, having that conversation and really start talking about it in depth in your 40s and 50s. My brother-in-law passed away from a brain tumor, and he was 54. And fortunately, they had done some good planning, they had insurance, they were relatively debt free, their house was nearly paid off. And so, it didn't financially devastate my sister-in-law, but she's more of the exception than the rule. So, you need to make sure that you have a plan, and it starts by meeting with a financial advisor who talks about protection planning, that's long-term care, that's life insurance. Maybe you need some extra term insurance if you're young to be able to cover a mortgage or something like that, if the main breadwinner passes away unexpectedly, and you still have kids at home. It's really about protecting those people that matter most to you.

A book, and why? Well, this is a book that I have taught many times over the years, a friend and mentor of mine by David Bach, and it's Smart Couples Finish Rich. I know I've talked about one of his other, Smart Women Finish Rich, but Smart Couples Finish Rich is definitely one that I would recommend for couples to read together and to start working through. And when Randy and I read through that years ago together here, he's a retirement planner, I'm a financial advisor, and we still had 18 bullet points of things in our own financial life that we pulled from that book that either we had never dealt with, we just never really talked about it, thought about it, or that needed to be updated. So, I highly recommend that you do that, and that is part of your process.

I know it's hard because I have been there to have some of these conversations, especially if your spouse has really been handling that. And so, just know that getting through the resistance is going to be worth it. And making sure that you as a woman are adequately covered because of the high probability that you will outlive your spouse. You need to be willing to have those tough conversations and make sure that you're not on that negative statistical side that I see so often. That is just the norm, unfortunately, in our industry of financial planning. And of course, you can't plan for everything. This is true, we know that, but you can certainly plan for most things, but doing nothing, that's also a plan, it's just not a good one. So, this book is going to help you with those conversations. It'll help you create a plan and really know the best way to seek help for you and your partner or spouse.

And a quote, if you risk nothing, then you risk everything. I’ll say that again. If you risk nothing, then you risk everything - Geena Davis. Take a risk today. Come on, girl, you're made for more than this. Go stand out on a limb and believe in something better, you can handle this.


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