Here's the truth: I shouldn't be writing this right now. I got a concussion in the middle of last week, and given the enduring headache and nausea, I think my brain is still pissed about it.
Here's the other truth: if I don't write this, I am going to lose my mind. So I'm writing it.
The truth is that I am overwhelmed. I am angry, and I am overwhelmed.
I'm angry at my body for not protecting me better from the concussion. I'm angry at my brain for not healing itself fast enough. I'm angry that I get angry about this, and I am angry that my body taking care of herself always feels something like a betrayal. I'm angry that I need to admit that my body is fallible.
I'm angry because, right now, our world just feels like a fucking awful place to live. I'm angry about too many injustices to name, and I'm angry most about people's passivity. I would love for everyone to choose the side that I think is right, but mostly, I am angry about inaction, and about passivity. Choose a side, dammit, and believe in it, fight for it, do SOMETHING, and do it with conviction.
With that said, I'm also pissed about my own passivity, and my feeling as though I am unable to make actual change. I am pissed off that I can't take ALL THE STARFISH and throw them back into the sea. I know it matters to the one I threw in...but god damn. There are so many dead and dying starfish, and that's not even getting into the little crabs and minnows and conch and sea anemone that are washed up between the starfish. That's not even getting into the fact that no one has even written a parable about those creatures, and the fact that their lives matter, too.
I think about that, and then about the fact that yesterday I went to a meeting and ran one errand...and came home and had to sleep for 3 hours...that just makes me more frustrated. Damn me with my human brain, and my human body, living this very human existence amongst other fallible humans. Damn it all to hell.
That said, I'm also aware that it is December 14th, and that I am nearing the end of my year of "bravery." I'm thinking about all of the writing I have done about bravery, and about where I sit on this concept of bravery now. I'm thinking about where I go from here, and what it will mean to let go of this nagging, chronic, pain-in-the-ass intention this year. I'm thinking about what comes next.
As I was...ahem..."resting my brain"...earlier this week, I rested my brain on several podcasts. One in particular had this piece that stood out to me -- it was from "On Being" with Krista Tippett, interviewing singer/song-writer Carrie Newcomer. They were talking about some of her music and about song-writing, and Ms. Newcomer said:
Well, it's courageous to hope, because when you do choose to hope, eventually at some point your heart will be broken, and you will be disappointed. And then you get up and you do it again. But I think courage has nothing to do with being fearless. I think courage has everything to do with loving something or someone so much that you will brave it with solid feet or shaky knees because you love it that much....We hope, because we love it that much. It's worth the risk.
I long ago rejected the idea that bravery means the absence of fear. But until hearing this, I had not yet articulated so clearly that bravery is about love. Why else would we dare it? Why else would we go through the heartache and the fear and the tears and anger? Because we believe it's worth the risk. Because we love the outcome, and more importantly, because the outcome is love.
At the beginning of the year, I defined bravery like this:
Bravery is not about the absence of fear, or the absence of emotions. Bravery is about feeling the fear, or the sorrow, or the heartache or loss, and making the choice to do the thing that is right. It is the choice to do the thing that needs to be done.
And that's right. Of course it is. But there's more to that story that I have learned over this year. As Ellen Bass says in her poem, "The Thing Is,"
...you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you.
I will love you again.
And this is also right. Every act of bravery is an act of holding life like a face in the palms of your hands, and telling it, "I am going to love the hell out of you." Or perhaps, "I am going to love the Hell out of you," because any act of bravery worth doing, not matter how small, is an act of loving the Hell out of this world, isn't it?
For the past several weeks, I've also had the last several lines of a poem entitled "Anxiety Group" by Catalina Ferro going through my head:
You can't be this afraid of losing everything
if you don't love everything first.
Because you have to have a soul-crushing hope that things will get better
to be this afraid
of missing it.
I fully admit that, more often than not, I am anxious. There are many, many times that I am afraid. I have spent a year thinking about, challenging myself, and engaging in acts of bravery. It doesn't get easier. I will be the first to admit that I am not a brave person.
But I have done brave things, and I will continue to do brave things, because I love. Because I have this "soul-crushing hope that things will get better." I love this fucked up world in a way that makes my eyes spill over. I love this world in a visceral, full-to-the-brim, bursting-out-of-the-seams sort of way. I love the people of this world in a way that makes my heart feel too big to contain everything inside my body -- I can literally feel something I can only name "love" pushing at my skin from the inside out as I write these words. In this human form, with inadequate words and language that can never say enough, I do not know how to convey it other than to say that I love. I love, I love, I love in this way that is whole-hearted, but not naive. I love in a way that is not complicit, or accepting, or passive. I love this fucked up place, with its fucked up people, with all of its brokenness and devastation in a way that does not feel like love as much as it feels like ferocity and promise that goes beyond what even those words hold.
And isn't that love? Isn't that bravery? Ferocity, and promise, and bravery, and intensity...and fear and anger and passion and brokenness...and whole-heartedness that envelops the entirety of me and my fallible body....what word do we have that is big enough for that but love?
Why else would I do anything? Why else would I be angry? Why else would I try so damn hard to be brave, when I know that one starfish is just one starfish. When I know that any good that I do is miniscule, and temporary, and insignificant at best. When I know that writing bravely, or acting bravely, or trusting bravely makes a difference to no one but me, or perhaps to the 2-3 people who witness this act. Why do I do it? Why bother?
I had lunch with a Badass Friend the other day. We were talking about bravery, and about trust, and about being badass, and she asked me something along the lines of, "How do you smile so much when you believe the world is such shit?"
I don't remember the answer I gave her, but here it is: I smile because it is the only way I know to hold that ferocity, promise, devastation, and bravery. I smile because that ferocity, and promise, and devastation, and bravery coalesces into a whole-hearted love that is so strong in its intensity and beauty and anger and brokenness that I don't have a choice.
I smile, and I write, and I speak, and I act when I can because I love.
Because they are the only ways I know how to hold a mirror to the fucked-up face of this world and keep walking.
Because I believe in promise and ferocity.
Because I believe in whole-heartedness.
Because I believe in bravery.
Because I am a ferocious, broken, fallible, devastated, brave, promise-being of love.
I think we all are.
So may it be.