“Be brave with your life, so others will be brave with theirs.” – Katherine Center
While the quote above is among my favorites, I think it’s because I long to think of myself as a brave person. While I’m definitely braver today than the painfully shy years my young self quietly endured, there’s not much about my life currently that I consider truly brave.
I have had some brave moments, though. The one that jumps to mind is the one and only time that I’ve done any rock climbing. I was in West Virginia on a white water rafting trip with a group of friends. As an add-on, a few of us signed up for a rock climbing adventure. The crew I spent some time with in D.C. were a rugged bunch, and I wanted to give it a shot despite my pretty severe fear of heights. The rock climbing part was fine – it was physically challenging and climbing higher and higher was tough for me mentally, but I did it.
We moved on to rappelling, and for that we needed to climb much higher up a worn trail. So, basically, I was terrified. After a brief introduction to the “sport” from our guides which included gems like, “Don’t let your top hand release the rope faster than the hand behind you or you’ll flip upside-down.” Charming. In our group of 6, I waited until my teammates started reappearing on the mountain for their second round before I stepped up to the edge. I could think of nothing I wanted less absolute control of at that moment than my actual life. But I had it. It required every ounce of courage and will-power I possessed to take my first step backward down that damn mountain. But I will tell you something… I have never felt more proud of myself for finishing what I set out to do.
This rock climbing adventure was probably 2 or 3 years after my divorce, and solid dose of bravery was exactly what I needed in my life. Before going through that emotional drama, I’m not sure I would have had the determination or sheer will to force myself to do something as uncomfortable as standing at the edge of a cliff and stepping off. At that point, though, I was hemorrhaging self-doubt and courage was the only cure. Adrenaline came through for me that day. Maybe a little self-forgiveness too. When you know what you’re capable of enduring and overcoming, it’s much easier to love yourself.
Sometimes these days, I feel like the most brave thing I can do is share my story. Probably because I know that I’ve learned the most about my capability and bravery from the times I didn’t assert power over my own life. By retelling many of the mistakes I’ve made and delusions to which I clung at a much less brave time in my life, I can rehash, heal and obviously cringe a little and hopefully help someone else a little too.
If bravery is facing fears and becoming a little stronger or a little wiser, then maybe I’m doing okay. I hope that I will be brave enough to go rappelling again, or something equally as terrifying because it’s good for us to step up to our most primal fears sometimes. Before I forced myself to do that, I was most afraid of being alone. I learned that day that I could overcome bigger things.
Seeking within myself and encouraging others’ bravery in this world is nothing short of a privilege. I am writing the story of my life, every single day. And I hope that I will write a good one.
For today, I’ve joined Jon Acuff’s START Experiment, which will be a 24 day challenge to as Jon puts it, “Punch fear in the face.” I’ve got a lot of goals I’m working toward, but I’m going to use this month to really get serious about my side business, an online shop for my handmade items. I’ll keep sharing the process here too, but this will be my bravery for a bit. Maybe I’ll pick up some good habits I can share!