That’s what I want to define my 2015. How about you?
There’s a whole bunch of fake-brave out there: machismo is usually the first impostor. But there’s also the safe-brave and I’ve been doing that dance for years. It’s why I never joined the swim team. It’s why acting and singing were diversions and not passions. Fake-brave is when you only succeed at the things you know you can succeed at. Fake-brave is hedging your bets because you’re more concerned about your perfect record than showing up, day after day, and maybe failing or maybe knocking it out of the park. Because failing feels like you’re a failure.
I don’t want to be fake-brave anymore.
I want to be scary brave.
Scary brave isn’t the same as stupid-brave. I’m not going to be jumping off any cliffs just to be “brave.” No, scary brave is the perfect marrying of faith — of stepping out into the unknown — and assurance. It’s knowing that your performance doesn’t define you. It’s knowing that even if your house is a mess and you’re a mess and you’re kids are leaving their belongings like Hansel-and-Gretel crumbs dotting the floor, that that doesn’t define you. You’re still free to cuddle your kids, to speak grace upon grace to them, and pick up the pieces. There is a new day dawning. It’s walking into that boardroom with your great ideas and knowing they very well may get shot down; but going in anyway. It’s trying that new food, or talking to the homeless man with a twinkle in his eye, instead of saying “Sorry, I don’t have any money” and walking away with your own empty eyes.
Scary brave means we have nothing to prove. So it means we have everything we can risk.
Because risk or failure don’t define us. Did you hear that? Failure does not define you.
Okay, true story here: when my husband and I were teenage lovebirds, we went bowling once on a date. Like, how cute were we? Borrowed shoes, the jean skort, rocking out to 80’s music overhead, and trying to flirt between a 10-lb. ball. Bliss, I tell you. Well, about 6 frames in I was a wreck, a grumpy, pouty wreck. Because my handsome boyfriend was killing it and I kept getting gutter ball after gutter ball. I think I seriously had 33 points. But I couldn’t laugh at myself because I was failing at bowling. And failing, even at bowling, was still failing. Do you know what that wise man said to me? He said, “Ash if you’re going to suck at something, bowling is a pretty good thing to be bad at.” Even in those funny shoes, I couldn’t laughingly embrace my poor performance.
So I kept doing what I was good at. School. Standardized tests. Cheerleading. And then College and a Wedding and Grad School. I just kept going up the mountain where the perfection path was well worn and, from the path, success looked pretty great; I looked pretty great.
And then I became a mom. We all hit a perfection wall, yours might be different. Motherhood was my wall. Oh man, was it my wall.
I wanted the perfect pain-free birth. And guess what? I had a c-section. All my dreams about “perfection” hit the fan. And there were poopy blowouts, and no sleep, and tears (me and the baby), and milk everywhere. And that baby would not stop crying no matter what I did. I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t climb that hill any longer. So most of the time, to cope, I chose bitterness. “Look at that other ____ (baby, mom, wife, husband, employed person). They must have it so much better than me!”
But we die on the vine of bitterness.
So today, I’m choosing scary brave instead.
For me, scary brave means that I’m trying out this writer-gig for real. And it may flop. No one may want to publish a word I write. You all might run and never read a word I type out again. But I’m skirting that perfectionism path and bivouacking through the thickets instead, because I don’t need to sit at the cool table anymore. I don’t have anything to prove and risk feels like the fresh breath of freedom.
Who wants in? Who wants to be scary brave with me? What dreams do you make too safe?
Your dreams can push you into failure, but that’s okay. It’s okay to fail. Failing does not mean that you are a failure. If your book doesn’t make the bestseller list, it says nothing about your dignity as a human being on this planet. Your story still means something. Because we’re all part of a much larger story, and sometimes we can’t see the beauty in the quiet moments, where our stories are forged. We can’t see how the crumbs we sweep up again and again mean something; we can’t see how the onslaught of papers or work projects affects change; we can’t see how our paltry $2 affects the woman on the side of the road.
But I think when the flames burn up all the dross in our lives, what’s left will be things like bravery and story and little acts of love to the least of these. So I’m tossing in my lot with the simple, vowing to focus on the things that matter, and to leap off the edge knowing that faith and calling come through failure. I’m ready to be scary brave this year. How about you?