A year ago today, I sent an email that set in motion a series of events I never could have predicted. Here’s the backstory… In the Fall of 2012, I started reading and thinking more about what it means to live brave and be courageous. I’ll admit when I think of courage the name Mazi Robinson does not immediately come to mind. I am still afraid of the dark. I don’t see scary movies. I still have weird fears about attics, crawl spaces, and storage rooms and will not go in them by myself. (It is a hard and fast rule… much like my no fruit policy.) I have no desire to jump out of a plane, bungee jump, or do anything that is remotely adrenaline rushing. So when I started thinking about courage and living brave, my instant thought was I am not a brave person. And my next thought was I want to be.
Over the next several months, I learned that living brave was not just jumping out of airplanes, but living brave had a deeper meaning to it. Living brave means letting others really see you. It means letting yourself be vulnerable and leaning into that vulnerability rather than running from it. Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand- anytime time you are being courageous, you are being vulnerable. So I got honest about all the things I avoided and ways that I hid. I started challenging my justifications for why I didn’t do or try certain things. I started to identify and peel back all of my armor that I thought was protecting me but was really keeping me small and hidden.
How do you build courage? You learn courage my couraging. You stop hiding. You stop avoiding and justifying. You start doing.
As I began to make little changes here and there, I noticed a shift within myself. As I stopped doing some things and started doing others, as I tried new things and let go of old, I started wanting more. I wanted to try more new things and let go of more old habits. You learn courage by couraging. I still felt some intimidation and second guessing- should I do that, say that, try that- but I learned to navigate through that dialogue in my head because I knew it was coming from my shame self, not my true self. I was on a nice little personal growth journey, and then… and then I spent a weekend in January with a wonderful group of women.
Last January, I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat for a local church. Let me say that it is not unusual for me to cry on the way home from a speaking engagement. I usually feel so grateful for the opportunity to speak and teach that crying seems to be the only way to let that emotion out. But on the way home from this retreat, I cried out of sheer awe. Later that week a friend asked me how the retreat went, and I told her it had been the single most powerful experience of my professional life. Because you see these women… these women asked for prayer. They didn’t ask for prayer for their aunt or their neighbor’s cousin or their co-worker’s niece. They asked for prayer… for themselves. They said I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m hurting. With tears streaming down their faces they boldly admitted that they were tired and struggling to connect with God, with their husband, with their family. And they didn’t write it on a notecard or say it sitting down with their head hung. They stood up with heads held high and were vulnerable. I have never seen such cut open, let-yourself-be-seen courage in all my life. I was in pure awe of the vulnerability expressed and the courage lived out.
Brené Brown says that courage is contagious. It certainly is. These courageous women moved me, and I wanted to be brave and vulnerable. I wanted to stop giving into my fears of I can’t and what will people think. I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I had been avoiding doing for a year. A year prior to this I had the idea for this blog. I spent all of 2012 trying to convince myself not to do the blog, but the idea stayed with me. I realize that for a lot of people starting a blog does not seem like that courageous of a step, but for me it was, and continues to be, the definition of vulnerability. You see, I don’t consider myself a writer. I have always been incredibly insecure about my writing. (I am well aware that comma splices and other punctuation crimes litter these pages and am deeply appreciative that no one ever corrects me. My deep issues with grammar are for another post…) Yes, I speak and teach all the time, but for some reason having people read my words, rather than hear them, feels much more exposing for me. But the idea of this blog, and other changes I wanted to make in my life, just would not go away.
February 5th, 2013, I emailed my friend, Kristen, and told her all that I said above. I told her that this felt like a big step into the arena for me and that I believed she was the one that could bring my ideas to life. Kristen has this amazing ability to infuse grace and beauty into everything she touches. I wanted her fingerprints on my daydreams. I knew that I could entrust my little brainstorms and hopes to her and that she would get it. From that email, she began designing this blog and events started to unfold that I never could have imagined. All of my little daydreams that I had silenced with thoughts of you can’t do it and what if you fail finally came to life when I started my own counseling practice in June and a whole new world of experiences and opportunities opened before me.
You learn courage by couraging.
You learn courage by being around courageous people. I think of all the things I learned in this past year, the most important lesson was that you never enter the arena alone. You never take your leap of faith alone. You enter the arena with the people in your life that have modeled courage for you. You enter the arena with the encouragement of friends’ words ringing in your ears. You enter the arena with the One who will never leave you alone or ill-equipped.
Have you been thinking about making a change recently? Do you have a dream you would love to bring to life? Do you want to start facing your fears and living more courageously? Are you ready to step into the arena? Do it. Do. It. Life inside the arena is riskier; it is more exposing. Life is messier in the arena, but it is better than sitting in the stands watching others live bravely and boldly. The stakes do get higher when you put yourself out there. But let me tell you, it is so worth it. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it in those first 30 minutes or hours or days when you are still wrestling with doubt and uncertainty. But one day you will wake up, and you will realize I did it… I survived the uncertainty and I now taste the sweetness of being brave!
You learn courage by couraging.
You never take your leap of faith or step into your arena alone. The models of courage precede you, and the speakers of truth and encouragement walk beside you. And maybe, if you are lucky, God will send you a special friend who can make it beautiful. :)
To those wonderful women last January… thank you. To Kristen… Happy Anniversary. Thank you for bringing this past year to life. Here’s to more daydreams becoming reality.