I tripped last week while telling a story to my friend, Megan. As I hit the ground, I kept telling the story I'd begun. Megan asked if I was OK and I brushed her off, I trip all the time! I'm totally fine.
But actually, it kind of hurt. I twisted my ankle but felt too embarrassed to tell her. So I kept talking and laughed it off as we continued our walk. It's OK if you need two seconds to make sure you aren't hurt. Megan told me as we rounded the corner.
Later that night, I thought about the fall. I thought about how the voice from my knee-skinned youth popped into my head in that moment and told me to be brave. In an instant, I was back on the playground, feeling too embarrassed to admit that it had hurt. Surely I could smile through the pain.
It's funny, though, because smiling through pain isn't actually being brave in that moment.
When we're young, we name bravery as things like this:
Not crying when the babysitter arrives and we have to leave our mom.
Not worrying about the monsters in our closet.
Squeezing our dad's hand during a shot, instead of crying and wiggling.
But as we get older, bravery becomes so much bigger.
Brave is crying when you're sad, even though it feels vulnerable.
It is voicing our fears, even when we might be the only one who is worried.
Brave is taking big leaps, making hard choices and letting go.
Brave is voicing fear and sadness, instead of pushing it down.
It's being strong enough to let the tears fall, even when it's inconvenient.
Brave, in fact, are those of you who email me, telling me about the big changes you've made, the big leaps you've taken.
You, dear readers, who have walked away from abusive relationships: YOU are brave.
You, dear readers, who have quit your jobs to pursue your inconvenient and exhausting dreams: YOU are brave.
You, who told your boyfriend you needed more, you had bigger emotions than he was giving you space for: YOU are brave.
You, who has stayed in a job you didn't love, to support your family: YOU are brave.
You, who has overcome an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise: YOU are brave.
You are making big changes, taking big leaps. You are letting your faith guide you, not your fear. You are being brave every single day.
In the words of my future best friend ;) Brené Brown (from Rising Strong): You are in the arena. And being in the arena is a whole lot harder than sitting in the comfy stands with popcorn.
You are brave, dear one, skinned knees, bruised heart and all. You are so brave.