Monday, May 5, 2014

On Fear, Bravery, and Leaping

No one else can tell you how to be brave.

In all of this—the vaguely organized and invisibly tendoned revolution of living cleanly and joyfully in hope and faith that such acts of daily affirmation and resistance to an unhappy and unhealthy status quo will bring us to the present and future we believe is possible—there are moments of fear and doubt and where a great leap is required.

The greatness of the leap is usually the smallest act, the often invisible motion of making one small decision. And yet, these are the times when bravery is required, when you can no longer put off what you know is truly right—for you. No one can do this for you.The moments that strike abject terror into the heart of one person can be as breezily easy as breathing for another. There is no accounting for where we each choose to make our stands, for what path our journey requires the first step upon.

I often say—with what might be misconstrued as arrogance if I didn’t mean it more honestly than anything else I ever say—that I am friends with, love and am loved by, the greatest people on earth. When I think of the scope of talent and passion and skill those near and dear and faraway but I love them anyway, I would be staggered by their brilliance if I weren’t too busy grinning and dancing around about how, with all that talent on our side, there can be no defeat.

And yet, I know plainly in some cases—and suspect in others—that there are deep holes and fears inside each of these wonderoos who are out and about in the world being amazing in countless sung and unsung ways. None of us, I believe can see how utterly remarkable we each are—one of my dear friends who is a writer, a musician, an actor and all around Wonder Woman looked at me this summer and said, “I wish I was good at things.” It took a few seconds before the absurdity set in and we laughed like hyenas. I think, though, most of us are so normalized to our own hearts and their shapes that we forget how lovely and unique they are, we are. Also, from the outside, most of our soft spots and sensitivities and doubts are hidden.

Daily life, more often then not, requires a certain girding of the loins, of waking up and jumping back into the thick and thin of it every morning, covering up the soft spots and making do. It’s hard, and there are times when to bring your best face or true face—or any face—into the world requires a certain amount of daring.

I find, rather boringly, that a certain amount of bravery is required for the mundane logistics of actually pulling a dream off. Bravery is supposed to be for fighting dragons, not making choices in the grocery store. The big ideas, these are easy, not quite a dime a dozen, but certainly come fast and furious some days. All of the flights of fancy, the “what ifs…” the imaginings and the wisps of possibility that come and go through our heads in the day and night…one can dwell for a long time in possibility. And, truly, I believe that so much is possible—a practical idealist with an imagination is far more happily overwhelmed and in love with life than a kid in a candy store.

To even type the word “commitment” makes my feet cold and toes curl up, When I think about what my life would look like if I committed to one of the half-formed day dreams that swirl around, my stomach goes choppy and I add to the ever growing list of things to do instead of work on this or that project. I can’t seem to sit down and say “Yes. How do I truly begin, how can I organize the logistics of my life to make this the, a, focus?” to even the most persistent of the hopes and dreams. The planning required to bring an idea to life is daunting. It’s not the leap, but how long will I be aloft, what does it look like where I land, will anyone be there to catch me, will I break my legs falling, etc.

To say nothing of the fear that, if I fail at something I’ve long thought of, I will no longer have the pleasure of its untapped possibility.

This, I believe, is where bravery comes in. Which is why no one else can tell you how to be brave. Or at least, not exactly. We’re each of us our own little hot mess—different heartbeats and different boundaries and barriers and needs and hopes and sources of faith and fear. In that, I think there is also the distinct possibility that no one either can or needs to do in the world what dreams burn in your heart of hearts. I think that I’d rather try and fail than never try. I’ve thought that for years, so perhaps it is time to live that way more fully.

I like to think that people who have made the first leap, who are living their dream, have a different glow about them than most. I find a common sense of innocent defiance, a subversive joy, in people who are living by their own rules. Simply, they have bowed out of the safe game of easier answers, of tidier lives (or the cruel myth of such thing). It may be scarier out there, in the lives build on dreams and birthed by courage, but I suspect it is a happier place.

I would rather try and fail at everything I dream than live in such a way that shuts out the hope of that encompassing happiness. In the logistics and striving by the light of an idea, this is where I believe grace can be found. A life made seems painted in colors a little richer than a life accepted.

Here is the other thing—I don’t believe we get just one shot, just one dream, just one chance. As a friend used to say in college, helpfully, “just because you make one decision doesn’t mean you can’t make another.” Just because you commit to one dream now, doesn’t mean you can’t have another later down the road, failure or success notwithstanding. It’s not that people make their own luck but rather, in finding the courage to try something once, there is the great comforting well of finding your own resilience, and the resilience of the people around you.

Those who have gone before are waiting to catch you as they can help your landing and the construction of your dreams. If you reach, those in the air with you will hold your hand through the leap. And those watching as you boldly commit to your leap—you are showing what greater ways are possible. 

Laboring thus together for the dreams of our individual hearts—I can think of no better or braver way to live.

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