I’m not brave. I lack courage. I’m what my husband affectionately calls “high strung” because I can rattle off extreme scenarios to any situation as when we bought our son a pocket knife for his 9th birthday.
I question this scary rite of passage because obviously he could stab himself or his sisters or get stitches.
I’m 36 years old, and I freak if Google maps doesn’t work on my phone when I’m traveling. I sleep with a light in hotel rooms and sometimes I cry when I fail to get my to-do list completed. I’m afraid of pastries because when I bake, they catch on fire.
I’ve never jumped out of a plane (but a group of friends plan to change that this summer) and I avoid roller coasters and even the Ferris wheel because I am not a fan of heights. Some people live off the adrenaline rush, I, however, live off a checked-off to-do list and coffee. For the love of coffee!
But my friends think I’m brave because I’m committed to doing the scariest thing on the planet.
I’m learning how to live authentically. The bravest thing I’ve ever done was let go of being what everyone expected me to be and embraced who God meant ME to be.
Living authentically scares the hell out of anyone because it means being the real you, no walls, no social graces, no masks. It’s those turning-point moments when you know that it matters what your answer is. It’s a matter of being true to yourself.
I’m letting go of all the things I thought made me Heather. It’s not my career, not my failures, not how my children perform or the size of my dress pants. It’s not the size of my home or how many hours I volunteer.
A friend taught me that. My neighor Pauline has been a friend for the last 11 years. We raised our kids together with only the street separating our homes–the kids ran back forth between our houses for years.
When the world expected me to hold it together while I questioned motherhood, my career, my marriage and even my identity, she told me: “I don’t expect you to have it together. I expect you to be you. Take off the mask, be brave and keep going.”
Over the years, we collect bits and pieces of ourselves through life lessons, mistakes, success and what others speak over us. We lose the heart because sometimes it’s like confetti falling at a party — we can barely catch a glimpse of the real reflection.
In fact, being brave feels messy. What makes us brave is this: Being brave isn’t about conquering fear. It’s taking a step in spite of the fear. Being brave is taking a risk to smile at another person and say, “What? You too?” Being brave is inviting another person into your mess instead of hiding.
I believe being brave begets bravery. The beauty of it is when we have the privilege of holding another person’s hand — when we invite someone in, like Pauline, because we can be braver together.
She taught me to take that first step, to push harder, to live more honestly, to listen intensely and get my hands dirty. She made me examine my choices and opened my eyes to what was in the mirror. She taught me to flourish in the face of fear over cups of coffee, hiding from the kids so we could talk more than five seconds without being interrupted.
I wonder what would happen if we all chose to put down our masks and open the door to the walls we’ve built around our lives? Would others catch the spark? Would this world be just a little safer?
It’s a risk. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Re-orienting your life around what you believe about yourself in His eyes and what it means to be truly human but being brave together is worth it. It means we get to try again if we fall. Together.
As for my son, he’s gotten a sliced fingers and my youngest is now begging for her own pocket knife and leatherman (Both must be the color purple) for her 9th birthday.