Moving forward with courage (when it'd be easier to just stay put)
“Really?” I think my mom was as surprised as I was when I told her I wanted to go to 9th grade Lagoon Day after all. Back then I was a quiet, cautious girl who was scared of pretty much everything: the dark, being alone, driving under bridges, being chased up the stairs by a monster, the car tire falling off while on freeway resulting in a massive explosion… You know, the usual :)
All my life, I was happiest within the four walls of my safe, familiar home with my safe, familiar family. Adventure was a stranger (unless you count the time I went to girl’s camp and stayed all 4 days!). And I’d certainly never set foot in an amusement park. Let alone on a roller coaster! It was a last minute decision to go to the amusement park with the rest of the 9th graders. And I’m sure my mom recognized that it had everything to do with an awesome group of friends. I’d spent my entire elementary school career (and most of middle school) having one best friend and that was it. When she wasn’t at school, I ate lunch alone, played at recess alone, and almost always came home and had a good cry.
It wasn’t until 9th grade that we all found each other. There were 7 of us - three guys, four girls. And we did everything together. Lunch was never lonely and weekends were never spent apart. Yep, it wasn’t just any group of friends that got this anxiety-filled girl to Lagoon. With them, I knew there would be no judgements and no peer pressure. If I didn’t want to ride on the roller coaster, one of my friends had already offered to stay and sit with me. And that was my plan. I was going to go because they were. I would join in the fun school day away from school, enjoy a soft pretzel, and appreciate the thrill of the roller coasters - from a distance. Completely content.
So I guess it really wasn’t that brave of me to go to Lagoon :) But... bravery had everything to do with me setting foot on that white roller coaster. At least that’s what my 15-year-old self thought brave meant.
Now here I sit, fifteen years away from that hesitant, anxious girl, still striving for courage. I’ve traded roller coasters for a wheelchair and a school-full of fellow teenagers for two little ones of my own. We’re the same person, that 9th grader and me, yet we’re barely alike. I still hold my breath when I drive under a bridge but I’ve come a long ways - a very long ways - from the massive anxiety that once ruled my life. But after everything, I’m still trying to be brave.
There are still mountains to conquer, fears to face, and hard things I’d rather just leave untouched. I guess there always will be. How about you? What’s calling to you, waiting for you to conquer? What feels scary, impossible, or just totally out of the question?
What would it mean to be brave right now?
Things change with time, but for today and this moment here’s what brave looks like to me right now.
Change what I can. Embrace what I can't.
Between doctors appointments and tests, there are days and days of living in the unknown. We have more answers than we did a year ago but still have just as many questions. Will I ever walk normal again? Is there anything I can do to stop this from getting worse? What’s behind all the other strange symptoms that make everyday life so difficult? I’m finding it takes courage to adapt when life hands you the unexpected… and even more courage to accept and be grateful for the things you can do absolutely nothing about.
Get outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself.
Stretching past my limits while still keeping myself healthy ends up being a pretty delicate balance. It’s a constant struggle and one I still have to experiment with and learn as I go. Right now, I’m feeling the need to reassess and do some more experimenting. I’m ready to define my priorities, acknowledge my limitations then figure out where the two currently meet. Family get-togethers and weekly church meetings are two things that are on my list of what matters most to me right now. But neither are things I wind up with energy to be a part of very often. I’m hesitant about what changes need to be made so I can bring these two things back into my life more. It’s not going to be easy. And it’s probably not going to be too comfortable either.
Live each day to the fullest no matter what.
I never want to look back at this time with my little ones with regret. I can’t take them on walks or spend hours at the park but I can still love them with my whole heart and make everyday count. I can build train tracks and Lego zoos. I can curl up and read from their favorite books. I can make playdough bumblebees and origami bird beaks. I can sit on the bathroom floor for hour-long bubble baths and splashes and giggles. I can play peek-a-boo until she stops laughing and spend cool mornings next to the sandbox. Every moment comes with challenges. And every moment is worth living to the fullest.
Acknowledge my fears and face them.
I’ve spent the last month busy with a book project! Well, actually it’s a journal - a real, hold-in-your-hands, open-up-and-write-in journal with prompts and quotes to inspire reflection, confidence, and change for the better. It’s incredibly close to my heart and something I feel driven to create. It’s giving me purpose in a time my life feels pretty unsure and not-so-purposeful. It makes me happy and excited!
But like all things that are tied to my heart and soul, I feel resistance too. I resist because it’s something I’ve never done before. I resist because there’s no guarantee anyone will benefit from it (or even like it). I resist because it’s scary. But I’m going to do it because I’m brave! At least that’s what I’m telling myself :)
Believe it or not, 15 years ago I walked away from 9th grade Lagoon day with a big smile on my face, having conquered almost every. single. one. of those roller coasters. (I don’t know who was more surprised… me or everyone else!)
“Courageous = being able to face fear or step forward into the unknown with bravery.”
This definition found its way into my journal over a year ago. I still find it comforting to know that you can feel afraid and be brave at the same time. That even though you’re scared, you’re also brave because you’re facing it and taking steps forward, not sure of the outcome. That you’re brave because you feel afraid. Everything starts with the courage to take the first step. Just one simple step toward that big move, that first date, that new job, that habit you’re dying to kick to the curb, that lifelong dream deep inside you waiting to take shape, that list of “somedays” waiting to be realized… one simple, courageous, brave step forward is all it takes.
Because at the end of the day, you don’t go to an amusement park to enjoy the scenery. You go for the roller coasters… and not just one, but a dayful of riding. It’s okay if you’re not laughing, arms out above your head. It’s okay if you scream or close your eyes. It’s okay if it’s far more terrifying than it is thrilling. It’s okay… as long as you still get on that roller coaster. The ride is worth it. Whatever it is that’s waiting for you - is worth it. And you dear reader, you are brave.