You need to read this today...Bravery leads to Bravery
After taking the StrengthsFinder test a few years back and I found out my top strength was “Activator”, I took a deep breath, smiled and said, “that sounds like a superhero.” On the surface it looks like I never stop activating, but over years of routine and serving others, I lost what it means to risk for myself. This revelation came to me somewhere after having my third (and last) baby, crisis in close relationships, achieving my goals in business, reading the Divergent series, searching for answers to, “What now?” and slowly, starting to dream again. Without trading in my stay-at-home-mom life and joining the Marines, I wanted to be among “the few, the brave.” Veronica Roth helped me to start thinking about being courageous, but I did the hard work of soul searching, facing my inner demons, taking responsibility for myself and inspiring others to do the same.
Helen Keller was right, ”We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” An act of valor means confronting an obstacle, fear, or challenge that must be overcome or there will be a higher price to pay. There isn’t a need to create these obstacles, they will find us. The choice to be brave should be a hard one; the difficulty of those moments gives those willing to be daring their rare beauty. How have I shown my adventurous spirit in the past? Creativity. I have sung my heart out in front of thousands. Missions. I have travelled to sixteen countries on four different continents. Business. I started a photography company after being talked into shooting my first wedding. Family. Having children didn’t come as easily as I expected: two surgeries, countless doctor’s appointments, endless prayers, months of infertility treatments, and the miraculous result is three stunning kids. I have confronted my fears many times; sometimes gracefully and sometimes painfully, but always wholeheartedly.
In the Novel, Divergent, tattoos are a symbol of rebirth, new identity and a decision to embrace bravery. Tattoos are grand gestures when hair makeovers, name changing and stylin’ clothes are not enough. I’ve thought for years about getting a tattoo to distinguish myself and communicate my rally cry to the world. What would I say? Would my dauntless act be a single statement? A memory? A work of art? An act of love? “But art itself is a form of expression – to express feelings, characters or even a single thought on a canvas and to me (and to many others, I hope), our body is the best instrument.” (3 Excellent Reasons Why People Choose To Get Tattoos) If I got a tattoo today it would read, “to love” on the inside of my left wrist and “to be loved” on my right wrist. These ink characters would only be seen when my hands are open to give and receive. Love and love alone is why I was created. That is why I’m brave...just not brave enough to get the tattoos.
I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. Sitting at the pool watching our kids play and talking about my aversion to Zumba or any fitness class for that matter. I’m a mom in my 30’s and the thought of “shaking it” when I’d never taken a dance class in my life terrified me. What would happen if I messed up? Nothing. What would happen if I couldn’t keep up with the class? Nothing. What about the moves? What if I looked ridiculous? What about the bumping and grinding? No. I couldn’t. It felt like the sweaty-palm moments of high school all over again. Why would I purposely do that to myself? No, thankyou. But I needed to be gutsy in a small way, to not be perfect, and to be at peace with my messy self. Zumba pulled me out of my nice routine of predictability and control. Remarkably, having the courage to try something new gave me the confidence to pursue other intimating interests. “Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in. Show me how big your brave is!” (Bareilles and Antonoff) Pop culture music, movies, books and zumba conversations urged me to be lionhearted in all areas of life.
Zumba led to confidence, confidence led to me asking bigger questions, and questions inspired me to enroll at Normandale to complete a bachelors degree. School would cost a pretty penny and already established in my photography business, I didn’t need to go, but I knew coaching and consulting small businesses would require more education. Initially, it was all business. I would go back to school to make more money and that was rational, practical, and wise. But was it brave? In my first semester I realized my passion for the arts was pushing to the surface; screaming at me every time I walked down the math wing on my way to Algebra class. I listened, followed my heart and changed my degree to reflect that core value. Simple, yet bold. I would take an art associates now and continue on with a build-your-own-degree program that allows me to take business, marketing, art and communications. In the wise words of Princess Merida, “There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” (Brave)
Why risk when I’m comfortably established in my life? Confronted with my fears, I’m learning to first acknowledge that I’m afraid. “When you first start anything, you usually suck at it – quite a bit. Over time, if you keep practicing and improving, you’ll begin to suck less and less and less until eventually you become mediocre. With bravery, it’s the same thing. At first you’re scared. Then you’re scared less, then a little less, then a little less. It never really goes away, you just learn how to not let it get in your way.” (A Brief Guide To Bravery) The echo in my mind repeated, “I can’t do this alone. I’m not strong enough. It’s too hard for me.” But, then I breathe, lift my eyes, see life around me, find beauty in people I love, breathe deeper, and remember I was given life for a purpose, and I’m not finished living. ”You call me out beyond the shore into the waves, You make me brave, You make me brave, No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.” (Cook) That plan and purpose gives me the strength I lack and the courage I don’t possess. It makes me brave.
The army slogan, “Be All You Can Be” and defines being brave not by a tattoo, fitness class, college degree or senseless risk; bravery is defined by courageous behavior and character. I don’t want to be reckless in my choices because that’s not heroic, it’s a midlife crisis. “I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.” (Roth) I’m inspired, but I my senses are peaked with the reservation that I might get hurt. What’s worse the that? I could stop risking. Be a coward. Mark Twain explains why I won’t give up, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.” I believe the rewards of saying yes to a valiant heart are greater than the regrets of saying no.
I’m convinced that courage, wise risk taking and being strong in character are necessary in moving me and our whole society forward. Bravery is contagious. I’m a housewife, mom, business owner, middle-aged, woman, redhead, daughter, writer, singer, sister, friend, artist, blogger and I have a voice. When we see someone else a risk, something stirs inside, compelling us to do the same. “Admiral Nimitz's ringing epitome of Marine fighting on Iwo Jima was applied to the entire Marine Corps in World War II: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” (Marine Corps Motto & Slogans) The decision to go into a problem with a heart of boldness and give my best is enough. Consider this essay me paying-it-forward to you, now it’s your turn to show your hidden superhero side. I choose to be brave whether it changes the world or not, but, “Honestly, I wanna see you be brave!”
How are you going to be brave today?
Me? I'm studying for my college algebra test and facing it with boldness...or at least trying to.