on being brave

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Two weeks after my brother’s death, I did a radio interview. About hospitality.

(In case you were wondering my specific shade of crazy.)

It was a mix of hilarious distraction, certified insanity, and unbridled adrenaline that screamed “the show must go on!”—a cocktail I hoped would bring me back to life.

On the air, I shared a story about what staying in a stranger’s house taught me about welcoming people in. On the inside, I was living in an unrecognizable frame, refusing to let even myself knock on the door. The show shouldn’t have gone on.

I wanted applause and confetti for doing the “hard thing”, for others to believe I was strong and resilient. I guzzled pride and hurt, one after the other, thinking one ought to bring me some kind of refund for my loss. It was far from the kind of brave I wanted to be.

The kind of brave I longed for was cute and whimsical—a damsel with a perfectly-portioned amount of distress and braids that effortlessly flowed down my back. I could let it go.

It was vulnerable and romantic—a woman who loses everything and finds herself in travel and pasta and boyfriends. I could eat, pray, and love.

It was smart and empowered—an inexperienced girl who defeats her doubts hiking miles and miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. I could be Wild.

It was composed and admirable—write-a-book-about-it, put-a-filter-on-it, people-will-cheer-for this kind of stuff.

I prescribed brave as my own numbing salve and protective shield, but blindly gulped down fear instead.

It was then I realized—these characters who’d taught me about being brave? I’d stayed with them. I’d committed to their stories at page 1 and didn’t leave after page 80. I didn’t stop the movie during the hard parts. I loved them—forgotten maps, bruised knees and all—but I hadn’t given myself the same chance. I’d been willing to sit in their sadness, but ran at the sight of my own.

Running away was comfortable. I craved plane tickets, hiking boots, and magic spells, thinking they would be my shortcut to bravery. But bravery is the daily doing of facing brokenness, and I wasn’t even close.

If that’s what brave looks like, brave for me, right now, isn’t moving or leaving or changing—it’s staying. Staying with myself, page by page, story by story, day by day.

It’s staying in a painful place, sitting with my grieving thoughts, allowing the tears to come when they want to. It’s promising to stay, even on page 80 and through the hard parts, to see them for what they are and hold them up to the light. It’s committing to loving the girl who may not be able to keep it together or let it go, who forgets how to pray and hides from love, who feels more trapped than wild.

Brave right now is learning to receive the grace I’ve been refusing.

And, as it turns out, being brave right now isn’t really the point.

Hey, you! Fill this box with joy. (And comments)