When I was a child, despite my turbulent and chaotic homelife, I believe I was somewhat brave.
When I was 8, my mom would get me to sing “Scarborough Fair” in front of her friends because she loved my voice so much. I would also sing “Amazing Grace”, a song she loved so much that she made me promise to sing it at her funeral, which I did.
At the age of 11, at the end of a school-run Big Walk into the hills, I stood up and belted out in front of the whole school, all seated on the hillside, my rendition of Abba’s “Thank you for the music” (Julie Andrews eat your heart out). In fact, I did that a lot. I performed one-woman plays that I had written for friends, and would break into song whenever asked. I did this in spite of my introversion.
When I went to high school, despite always being the new girl and feeling constantly afraid, I joined the choir, wrote essays without being asked, joined the debating team, stood up for the little guy, stood up after being decked by another girl, despite having wet my pants, just to let her know that I could not be beaten, wrote a protest letter to the school newspaper.
Despite feeling fear, I did it anyway.
But then, slowly, insidiously, things changed. Fear took hold, and my bravery came to an end. And with it my creativity.
What people thought of me really started to matter.
And comparison is the death knoll for the brave.
When we start listening to that voice of Fear inside our heads that tells us that if we go down that path we won’t be accepted or liked, or we will be laughed and ridiculed, or worse, that what we have to put out into the world is meaningless and worthless, we start to die, one agonising cell at a time.
I have been dying for a long time.
And I have been in denial.
In the traditional sense, I have feared death. The women in my matriarchal line don’t seem to live much past 60.
Fear reminds me of this. A lot.
And so I stayed rooted to my spot, afraid. Afraid I have nothing to offer, convinced my soul was a wasteland. Falling further and further into a malaise.
As a young adult, I would get annoyed at my mother. She seemed so fearful all of the time. On the surface she would seem brave, but when we spoke her fear would become apparent and at times it would annoy me. I could not understand why she couldn’t just do whatever it was she wanted to do at the time, why she was afraid to take that leap.
I could not understand. Until I became her.
And I say that not as a bad thing against my mother, for I loved her deeply. I say that because through her I learned that oh so valuable lesson: that until we have walked in another’s shoes, we have no right to judge.
Life is complicated.
As a 14 year old, I remember arguing with my boyfriend’s mother against the First Noble Truth of Buddhism: Life is Hard. I didn’t see it as hard. I didn’t see why it should be hard. I certainly didn’t want to buy into it as being hard. We should rally against that, I argued. We should choose things to do in life, I told her, that mean it isn’t hard.
And then, at the age of 25, my first husband (her son) drowned. And I understood.
Life is hard.
And Bravery fell off me. And Fear took its place.
For 23 years I have been controlled by Fear.
Yet, a couple of years ago, after the death of my mother, when the grieving was ebbing, and not so excruciating, a knocking in my soul began.
It was gentle at first, but soon grew louder. It became apparent that it would not be silenced.
My small, safe, uncreative, life could continue no longer. I was dying and my soul needed me to live. The damn thing would not shut up.
Do you have that? That voice that keeps telling you, stirring inside of you, that there is something more? And no matter how much you try to tell yourself it isn’t so, it just doesn’t seem to let go. This is, I believe, because we are all hard wired to do what we were born to do. Not to make money from it necessarily, but to do it nevertheless.
7 years before my mother died, at the age of 55, with the help of my dad, she began a bed and breakfast. With no knowledge of business, or websites, or accreditation, or customer service she embarked on this thing. And she thrived. Domesticity was her calling. She loved it and thrived in it. And she finally used that strength, facing her fear, and doing it anyway, to create something for herself that she loved and enjoyed. I would watch as she excitedly would source organic sausages from local butchers and proudly type up the menu with the words Locally sourced organic sausages on them. I would adore how she would source china that was not run of the mill, but carefully chosen as she imagined her guests drinking and eating off of china that “they deserve”. My heart swelled with pride when she was given her first star, then second and third and finally a diamond for being such an amazing bed and breakfast. In the 7 years before she died she had found her north star. She had found her bravery.
And now, I am working on mine.
I don’t have as clear cut vision as my mother did. And let’s be clear. My mother’s north star was borne out of necessity. Her marriage was going through its biggest crisis and she needed an income. Having been a stay-at-home-mum all her life, she did the only thing she felt qualified to do. My dad, being the honourable person he is, helped her start that business. But in that mission, a mission of creation to prepare for the destruction of a marriage, they found each other, and a renewed purpose. They stayed together right up until her death, running HER business, a business my father still runs to this day.
That is what bravery is. It is unpredictable. It is unchartered. It is always scary. My mother was scared for her future after being with my father for 35 years. But she needed to do this. And out of that crisis, she found her bravery, and it paid in so much more than money.
I have denied this truth to myself for way too long.
I am no longer going to do that.
I am no longer going to let Fear rob me of living my life.
If I die when I am 60, then I am going to go down knowing that the preceding years, however short, were filled with honesty, and integrity, and bravery, and living.
And I want that for you.
I want you to live your life. Just live it. In any way that makes sense to you. So long as it fills you up, then do whatever it is you need to do to make you feel alive.
Writing makes me feel alive.
Often, I don’t know what to write, but I know that I NEED to write. A lot of us do. It is our way of being heard, and leaving a legacy, and how lucky are we that we live in a time when blogging exists!
For the longest time, I wasn’t brave enough to write about things that mattered to me for fear of it not being popular, or controversial, or simply not interesting enough. I love poetry, and yet I don’t write it because I worry that I am not good enough, or that it will bore people to tears. I want to write about so many things that fill my brain. I just simply
want need to write.
What is it that you NEED to do? Do that. Find your bravery. Let’s do it together.
Until next time,