I’m gearing up for a brave week. One that’s going to ask me to hold fast and trust. A week where the things I’ve been dreaming and scheming and craving are either going to materialize before my eyes or inspire me to activate Plan B. No one knows. I have some hunches, but this really is where the movie of life gets good, especially for me. I do not know how this story plays out, but I know how to foster its unfolding.
Last week, I found this piece of writing in my archives, and it feels like it was written from my 5 year ago self to my today self. Finding this was a timely reminder that this is just how brave feels. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Knowing that won’t make any of this smooth sailing, but it will help me hold fast as I navigate the waves of uncertainty.
I wrote this in 2016 and I love reading all of the ‘maybe’s because I can hear her trusting it before she knew for sure. I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to act. Her brave leap is what allowed me to have the life I have today, and to make bold moves this week. From her to you, here’s The Nature of Courage.
The Nature of Courage -- OCT 2016
Nobody said courage was going to hurt this bad. Nobody told me courage would have a shaking voice and a pit in her stomach. “You're so brave”, they kept saying, and somewhere I knew they were right, but I just kept thinking, “Damn, this sure doesn't FEEL like bravery. This feels like dying."
Without knowing it, I’d been agreeing to the delusion that being brave would mean feeling Big or capable or ready. Well, it doesn't, not right now. Not right away. Maybe that comes on the other side of it. Maybe those things -- capable, confident, steady -- are actually the result of being brave and taking faithful action.
Right now, I'm learning that perhaps the most courageous thing of all is making the decision to keep your heart open in the middle of a doubt storm. To not batten down the hatches. To stand in the swirl of it all just as long as you can. It's a tricky thing, keeping your heart open when it feels like it’s breaking. To sustain your soft and loving nature in the face of endless reasons not to.
Courage looks like 'crazy', sounds like fear, and feels like pain - but it takes the form of doing something different, doing the next right thing, doing the thing that is the hardest thing to do.
Here's what I do know - mustering courage is never done just for you. Bravery has a contagious quality to it, but it has to be seen, and spoken about, in order for it to spread. Telling our whole story of courage is never easy, and almost never done. We often hear how it all ended up, but we rarely get the entire story; the snotty-crying, the paralyzing self-doubt, the unspeakable mess we become in the process.
We’ve been led to believe that if we are indeed being courageous and strong, then fear and pain won't be there.
We’ve been told the story that the presence of those things mean we're weak. This is a dangerous lie, it separates us from one another at the time when we need each other most. God bless you if you're "the strong one", people really do not know what to do when you're not 'ok'.
Strength doesn't feel the way they show it in the movies; all bravado, all black smudged faces, all tight jaw and determined glare. That's one small part of what strong might look like (it's the war mask we put on sometimes when we have to get on with the day).
Most of the time, strong happens when we’re doing the thing that we’re not quite sure we’ll survive. It’s getting in your car at 11 o'clock at night, with a couple of things thrown in a bag, and driving across town to your friend's house, where you will sleep on the couch and wonder how things ended up like this.
Reading this again, what I feel most is that I am so very proud of her for being brave. I wrote this at a time when I was facing one of the biggest, most uncertain, most disruptive decisions in my life to that point.
There were so many reasonable reasons to stay where I was and just suck it up. How very grateful I am to her for choosing courage and taking a chance on what might be.
I’m so proud of her for following her truth; for knowing that whatever came next was going to be better than this, somehow. She had NO idea how all of this was going to turn out and she did it anyway. She put all the chips on ‘we’ll figure it out’ and indeed we have.
Here’s to all that lies ahead and to having the courage to trust ourselves, even and especially when what’s next is uncertain.