Prompt: What was the bravest thing you did in 2011? It can be something big or small, did you survive heartbreak? discover a hard truth? Learned to let go? (Hope Wallace Karney)
I'm intrigued by how we define bravery as a culture as well as on an individual level. I remember a close friend telling me that he was always so impressed by how I was able to small talk with people, to work a crowd at department functions or poetry readings. "I wish I were that brave," he said, which took me aback because I certainly didn't feel brave when I talked to people. It came easy to me. To him, however, it was something to just show up; he felt uncomfortable in crowds. I could not understand this. I didn't think that connecting to people was a skill or something one had to work at or work up courage for. I just assumed that everyone had the desire and capability. Silly assumptions.
Last summer, I was thinking about bravery as part of a Mondo Beyondo assignment. I wrote about curiousity, about being authentic, embracing every moment and truly being a part of one's own life. I created a video where I quoted Seneca who said, "Even to live is an act of courage." There's such power in his statement for all of us, I believe.
In 2011, bravery came from believing in myself, in my relationship with M, trusting my happiness and facing disapproval and disappointment.
I believe it is brave to love. It is brave to have someone love you. And for some of us, it's downright terrifying. When I met M seven years ago, I was in a weird emotional place. I was very afraid of my feelings for her because she made me want to be vulnerable. One day, we were driving in the car and at a stop light, she looked at me to say something and in the moment I couldn't breathe. There was something in her eyes looking into mine that froze me; it made me want to tell her every secret I'd ever held. I was completely enamored with her and I wanted to be able to love her without losing myself in her. I was hesitant because I didn't trust myself to be good to her. I've never been a relationship-type person, or I thought I wasn't. I created distance with most of the people I liked or was attracted to. I saw relationships in week-long terms. And then I fell in love.
Before I knew what was happening, and after a terrible first start where I broke up with M in an email, this amazing person was brave enough to love me back. Loving her is easy. Showing her I love her, thinking about her before I think about myself, taking her feelings into consideration, being raw with my emotions in front of her, that's the hard stuff. Our relationship is a rhythm. Sometimes it's more discordant than others, but I can't imagine it any other way. We just make sense together. I make better sense with her than I ever did before.
I've become pretty obsessed with Ellie Goulding's cover of Elton John's "Your Song" and I love the lyrics which say,
I hope you don't mind.
I hope you don't mind
that I put down in words,
how wonderful life is
now you're in the world.
I've talked about getting married a lot in these reflective posts. It was a huge part of 2011 for me. What I might not have mentioned but you probably guessed if you watched yesterday's video, is that we had a pirate wedding at the bowling alley. If bravery is being yourself, then a gay, pirate/bowling wedding is brave. Bravery is also about putting yourself out there, putting your heart, your relationship on display. It is brave, in the face of so many break-ups and divorces, to commit to another person. It is brave with the political atmosphere, hate speech and bullying in the world today, to celebrate a same-sex relationship.
I believe it's brave to love. I believe there is no other way to love than to be vulnerable to another person, to ask someone to take care of your heart, to tend to your relationship. You have to let him/her see the darkness in you, to be willing to battle it together.
The lyrics from John Mayer's "War of My Life" seem appropriate here.
I've got a hammer,
And a heart of glass
I gotta know right now
which walls to smash
Being brave is about taking risks. With the exception of putting your body in harm's way, I can see no bigger risk than opening your heart, smashing down walls, being yourself.