What’s your exposure?
In financial investment terms, “exposure” is about risk. If things go bad, how are you positioned? What might be the downside? What could you lose?
Sometimes life seems to be a sequence of exposures that we either intentionally open ourselves to or experience more passively.
Often we expose ourselves to things that are not good for us, without thinking too much about it. TV commercials. Junk food. Time-sucking Facebook. UV rays. Busyness. Fearful news. Entertainment with almost no redeeming qualities. Bad clothing choices. Free radicals. Ill-considered monthly payments. Plastic things that shouldn’t be made of plastic. Gratuitous alcohol. Pointless stress.
The list is long and often largely unexamined.
We can do better.
Once I begin to think of these exposures as corroding it gets easier to resist them.
There are plenty of exposures we are careful to avoid because of their corrosion. Radiation. Secondhand cigarette smoke. Toxic people. Thankfully, self-preservation normally kicks in when we get the first inkling of exposure.
For older people — you and me — it’s pretty clear that our abilities to withstand toxins decline as we age. So staying out of the sun and drinking less alcohol are probably even more important today than when we were 25.
But — here comes the redemption — the flip side is beneficial exposure.
We can also purposefully expose ourselves to things that are good for us — good for our health, our spirit, and our sense of being — at a time of life when self-fulfillment seems more important than ever. (If not now, when?)
You know the list. It’s yours. It might include nature, exercise, a few fine things, art, beautifully finished wood, good design, tools for living well, nourishing food, travel to fascinating places, children because they remind us of a fundamental purpose of existence, and adult models of exemplary behavior who we admire because they nudge us toward who we want to be.
Reduce the bad. Amplify the good. That's pretty much the More/Less List I wrote about a while back.
And it was all feeling a little clinical to me, like a prescription, until I read a quote that I’ll leave you with from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild. Strayed’s mother apparently told her that the cure for much of what ails her is to “put [herself] in the way of beauty.”
That's a sweetly poetic rendition of restorative self-exposure. It makes it seem more fun, more like an adventure. Jump into the path of beauty at every opportunity. Let it have its way with you.
What beauty can you put yourself in the way of? How often can you do it? How soon can you begin?