You. Are. Brave.

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.

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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. 

For When You Feel Stuck

When I was in third grade, I fought one too many battles with strep throat. On a dreary, winter day, my dad took me to a specialist to see what could be done to save my raw, red throat. I sat in his big leather chair as he compressed my tongue with a wooden stick and I remember thinking it should have been attached to a popsicle. 

"It's her tonsils and adenoids," the doctor told my dad. "We're going to need to remove them." My dad nodded. I gulped, noting it felt unfair that an action as basic as swallowing could be so painful. 

"Don't look so scared," the doctor smiled at me. "I'll just grab a bow and arrow, ask you to lean back and shoot them off in no time." He laughed. I burst into tears. 

When I went back to school a few weeks later, I felt nervous to see my classmates. I worried they'd wonder where I'd been and ask me embarrassing questions about the surgery. After a few minutes in the classroom, though, I realized it was a badge of honor. I'd had surgery! I had something exciting to share. This was street cred. 

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I was, what some would call, an active kid. Others would call it clumsy. By third grade, I'd had stitches in my foot once (almost twice), my chin and, now was void of tonsils and adenoids. I learned to wear my battle wounds proudly. Yeah, I've had stitches. Twice! And surgery, too!

I thought, recently, that my first day back in the classroom is what it can be like going to a party in your 20s.

Along with small talk, there's always the question of: "So, what is new?" When you're nine, you can answer that question boldly, honestly: "Well, I got my tonsils out. An adenoids! And I'm going to camp this summer!"

When you're 28, though, there is a linear progression people expect you to follow: Get a boyfriend, get engaged, get a new job, buy a house, have a baby. Perhaps grad school thrown into the mix - or a puppy. When you can answer one of those questions boldly, there is a certain comfort for everyone involved. There's a deep sigh of relief because you've hit a common conversational topic. And, because our world is more comfortable with all of us following this linear progression as a form of accomplishment than it is with the answer of: "Honestly, nothing is new in my life." 

When you're in a stale season, which we all go through, this can be really shaming. Like me with the tonsil doc, it can make you want to burst into tears. 

There are seasons in life when everything is changing and the question can be an easy segue, opening up conversation to share that you're engaged and moving and got a puppy, too! But there are seasons when things feel dry and endless, like you're wandering in the desert. Those seasons are for resting, not harvesting. They can feel endless and tiring, though. Like all of your friends are winning a race you didn't even know you were running. 

If you're in a dry, stuck season, first of all: trust that it won't last forever. You are not going to be stuck in it for eternity while all of your friends progress ahead of you. Your time is coming. (Let me repeat: your time is coming.)

Second: know that it's OK not to have a major life update to share. Don't give into the societal pressure to move quickly through life when it's really not a race at all. Remember:

You already matter. You are already enough. You do not need to hustle for your worth.

Just take a deep breath, smile and tell them you got your tonsils out. 

PS: I highly recommend this read by Shauna Niequist: You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other.