Brave?

How often do I start these things with some version of- I had something else planned entirely to post. Maybe you should all just be programmed to assume that upon most posts. This week is no different. I have three drafts I could post. Three completed drafts. Yet, my brain pulls me into a different direction. So here I am- writing something new.

I think I have been fragmenting this post together in my head for a week. And in a haphazard stream of consciousness notepad entry on my phone. Each time I ponder the point, it comes out in a different way. But the heart of it is always constant- Bravery.

I must be frank- I have never given bravery much consideration. Strength- now that’s where I had my sights set. Always. I have yearned to be viewed as strong. Looking at it critically- I think my desire to be seen as strong was a hope that it would make me feel that way. If enough people saw me that way, I would then see it in myself- no longer feeling weak or defenseless.

People have told me I am strong most of my adult life. I wore it like a badge of honor. My thickened armor something I became more and more proud of.

The thing is, now I know that I am strong. I know that I can muscle through pain- physical and emotional. I can soldier on. I may hobble, but I will continue to move forward. But I have realized that durability isn’t always the attribute to aspire to. Being strong comes from my faith. From my innate stubbornness. It also allows me to hide.

18 days ago I began reading a book. I honestly could not have cared less what the book was- I was joining a book club. An elite club of two- with my addition, three. The book had no relevance to my desire, all I wanted was to seize my chance to gain affiliation. The individuals in this exclusive inner circle? My two cousins.

I have craved their attention since I was a child. Not just them. I have coveted family- the relationships others take for granted. I often feel like I’m watching my family from the other side of glass. I can see them. Hear their laughter. But I am the puzzle piece no one is missing. Part of a history that is inconsequential. A loose thread no one cares to reweave. Except for my Aunt B. She effortlessly knit me back into the fabric any chance she had.

I thought when I lost her, that I had lost that person. My weaver. My touchpoint to the familial connection I have yearned for. Turns out, my cousin became a new touchpoint. I guess it is only fitting that her daughter would take up part of her mantle. Become a comfort in the void she left.

I digress. Back to the book. My cousin did the heavy lifting. She ordered it for me and had it sent to my house. All I had to do was read it.

100 Days to Brave.

Sometimes you start things for the wrong reasons, but by the grace of God, you still end up where you need to be.

*****

18 days ago I cracked the spine of the book. 12 days ago I absorbed the first passage that touched my soul. 8 days ago I got a flat tire. 4 days ago my son asked for a hug without hesitation- and I realized I am not brave at all.

Those things probably show no correlation to you. A seemingly arbitrary list of events that transpired in my life over a course of time. For me, they were eye opening.

I have never changed a tire. I would boast, in a raucous manner that I knew how. That I am self sufficient. The thing is, I only know how to do it in theory. The reality of doing it scares the shit out of me. I have avoided it my entire adult life. I tried to avoid it last Wednesday morning- attempting to drive my busted tire to the tire shop to have them change it. Then I thought about calling a tow when the reality of driving on said tire was not going to work. Instead, I pulled into a parking lot, emptied my trunk, fought to get my jack out, and called my dad. A last ditch effort to summon someone else to tackle the beast ahead of me.

The call left me with no calvalry. So I did what any self respecting woman would do- I sat in my trunk and yelled obscenities until I broke down in tears. Sobbing that shook my shoulders as I tried to curl in on myself. I thought about how alone I was. How scared I was. I think my brain even took me down a rabbit trail about how life was “supposed” to be different. Not my finest moment. To be honest, the whole day was a rough one. I spent the majority of it is tears- yet trying to mask them. I also faced my fear. I changed that damn tire.

There is something incredible about toddlers. They are remarkable creatures that haven’t figured out fear. My son cries without worry of judgement. He doesn’t concern himself with how his tears may make me feel. They do not shame him. He asks for what he needs without reluctance. He’s brave.

There are times that I am so focused on what I need to teach Moose that I am blindsided by the things he teaches me. He teaches me monumental things, just by asking for a hug. Actually, he didn’t really ask for it. It wasn’t a polite discourse where he stood with his arms at his side and requested an embrace. He practically crawled into my lap as he cried “hug”. He knew what he needed.

I can’t tell you the last time I asked for what I need. Not emotionally, I guess. I remember sitting in the stairwell of my townhouse, talking with my ex-husband, trying to stifle my tears, and just hoping that he would hold me. Comfort me. As the years endured, he did less and less. I never asked.

Last night I needed to not be strong. I needed to put my armor down and allow myself to cry. I needed the kind of hug that would take away my defenses. I needed it in a way that I felt in my soul.

Here’s what’s crazy about cowardice- it permeates. It’s tenacious. I had someone standing before me that was offering just what I needed- and I almost walked away. I didn’t want to be a burden. I was afraid. Thank God I chose to be brave.

Here’s what I have learned about bravery over the last 18 days. It seems really basic, when I lay it out. Asking for a hug. Or help. Admitting I’m afraid or lost. These things sound so very easy. But the narratives in my head- the fears that cackle in my ear, that tell me I am a burden or that if someone wanted to do it I wouldn’t have to ask- they make it so very difficult. The lies my shadows whisper in my ear are so convincing that they paralyze me.
How many times have my needs not been met solely because I was too afraid to ask?

Bravery isn’t easy. It isn’t something intrinsic to me- at least not anymore. It won’t change overnight. Or in 18 days. But it is something I want to be.

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