Friday, January 2, 2015

Goodbye Bravery, Hello...: My 2015 Word of the Year

Setting the intention to be brave at the beginning of 2014 was, unknowingly, one of the bravest things I did.  Of course, I couldn't have known what the year would bring when I settled on this word, but it is sufficient to say that this year gave me a plethora of opportunities to be brave.  And you know?  I took them.  Sometimes I had no choice but to be brave.  Other times I had a choice - and I chose the one I thought was "brave."  Still other times, I opted not to do the "brave" thing.  Sometimes, choosing not to do that "brave" thing ended up being the bravest choice.   

I know I said over and over again -- both here and elsewhere -- that my goal was not to become fearless.  I know I defined bravery about 20 different times.  I know I indicated that I was not trying
to be the fearless knight in shining armor, and that I didn't even WANT to be that fearless knight...but truth be told, I ended the year feeling disappointed.  Underneath of the calm, wise, thoughtful exterior I display here, I really wanted to end 2014 feeling as though I could do anything and not be shaken.  I wanted to be able to say that I did brave things without fear or anxiety.  I wanted to end the year feeling badass and whole and as though no one could ever rattle me.

The thing about bravery, though, is that when you spend a year focused on it, you start to see it everywhere.  As a therapist, I have the privilege of witnessing acts of bravery on a daily basis, and holy cow, y'all.  Do you realize how brave and beautiful people are, just getting through every day?  I see it in the kids in clinic who are being bullied at school, and the kid with multiple disabilities struggling with learning to read.  I see it in the nonverbal teenager who is learning to functionally request his wants and needs, and even in the kid who gave me a concussion a few weeks ago as he tries really hard to control his anger.  I see it in the single father raising a little guy with special needs, and the mother whose husband is deployed, and the people who come into my office and laugh, or cry, or don't listen to anything I say, or are mad about being there.  Every one of them is so full of this ridiculous, beautiful, strong bravery. 

Even the most difficult of people -- the parent who came 2 hours late for her session, for the third time in a row, and then yelled and threatened me when I told her I had other patients and could not see her.  What bravery it took to show up, to attempt to advocate for her needs and her son, and to keep trying.  Or what about the elderly woman in front of me at the grocery store, carefully counting out $2.56 worth of ramen noodles?  Or the man at the drug store attempting to carefully discuss which shade of red nail polish would best match a particular dress with his 14-year-old?  And even the lady in front of me at Best Buy yesterday, yelling and threatening her tantruming 3-year-old...even her.  We can't even imagine what steps she may have needed to take to bring her to this point, now -- and yet she's here.  We all are.  Isn't that an act of bravery?  Just getting here, to this moment, now?

I may not be brave...but I can
do hard things.
I am ending 2014, then, with mixed feelings.  I do not feel brave.  If I had to live this year over again, I'm pretty sure I would still shake and feel as scared and decidedly not-brave as I did the first time around.  But I am also trying to believe that I am brave because I choose to keep loving this world, and because every action I take comes from this willingness to love.  I am brave because I love the world enough to continue trying, to continue engaging, to continue fighting and believing and acting and moving forward in the ways that I know how.  I am brave enough to do brave things, even through the fear, and the self-doubt, and the shaking, because I believe that this life and this world is worth it.  What I learned, then, may be simply that there is bravery in the doing and in the loving.  I learned that I can do brave things.  I learned that sometimes, if you love the world enough to keep doing those brave things - even if the brave thing is just showing up, or putting one foot in front of the other, other brave souls will come out and help you.  I learned that accepting love is bravery.  Loving back is bravery.  I think I needed to learn these points.  I know I'll need to learn them again.

So even though I am not brave, this is good enough.  I think this has to be good enough. 

December marks a year that I have been practicing yoga.  Talk about bravery!  When I started going, I was anxious before every class.  I was self-conscious about wearing yoga clothes, and I felt naked, judged, and exposed.  Being willing to show up and inhabit my body -- this body -- was, at first, awful.  I couldn't get out of my head or my judging mind, and I felt vulnerable.  The teachers talked about opening your heart, and being in your body, when all I had done for the past several years was attempt to hold my heart closed and live in my head.   

But in that very first class I attended, there was a moment when I was dripping with sweat from the 90 degree room, twisted into some approximation of a shape, thinking about how god-awful this was and how I never wanted to come back, when I heard the teacher ask, "how is your breath?"

Almost involuntarily, I took a deep inhale.  Just like that, I felt myself -- my mind and my heart -- fall into my body.  For a brief moment, I felt whole.  I felt alive in my body in a way that felt safe and controlled.  I felt alive in a way that filled my body.  I felt alive, and fully present in my skin.

So I went back, even though it was god-awful.  And I went back and it was less god-awful.  And I keep going back, because yoga brings me into my body.  Because it makes me feel alive.  Because I no longer panic about yoga clothes.  Because I can get into crow pose, and my eternally tight hamstrings are releasing their grasp, and because I can't quite do a headstand.  I keep going back because, on my mat, nothing else matters: there is me, and my heart, and my body, and my mind, as I am.  On my mat, I feel something like whole.

I went to yoga yesterday afternoon, and it was one of the most amazing classes I have ever taken.  I ended the class feeling grounded and so whole-heartedly in my body, it felt as though this amazing energy was pushing at the edges of my mortal form, desperate to escape into the world.  For some reason, I left the class feeling as though my being -- my heart, and my spirit, and my body and mind -- I felt that they mattered.  I felt as though I was starting this year with promise living inside of me.

Not me.  Photo from Elephant Journal.
About halfway through the practice, our teacher had us hold our Warrior II pose and close our eyes.  Warrior II is a pose that makes me feel strong and grounded, even though it can also burn like hell.  When I closed my eyes, I heard the words a dear friend repeated to me often over the past several months: "you are a warrior," she said.  I pictured myself in this pose, felt the warriorness running through my tingling, alive, burning muscles, and a word came into my head: powerful.


My heart seemed to skip a beat, and my eyes filled with hot tears I quickly blinked away.


For the rest of the practice, this word was present in my mind, gently, as though it was resting at the bottom of the screen as a photo caption.


I think my word of the year has found me.

I think back to last year and my initial post on bravery.  I think about that client I had -- the one who told me I "have the biggest, best ninja heart."  I think I'm still trying to live into that...but this year is not the fighting year.  It is not the pushing striving struggle year.  This year is the year I own my power.  This year is the year I feel that power.  This year is the year that I believe that I am a warrior.  That I have that biggest, best ninja heart.  


1 comment: