“I want to see your brave, show me how big your brave is”
– Sara Bareilles
At certain points in life we are all presented with opportunities to be brave. There are many ways to be brave but none tougher, in my opinion, than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and look deeply into our own lives. Often we are presented with chances to shed the stories, beliefs and façades that we have created along the way as a form of protection or as a way to portray an outward appearance of the “perfect life”. These opportunities do not necessarily show up as a single experience but more likely in a series of “ah ha” moments when you suddenly realize that it’s too much work to keep up the illusion.
Through the shedding process, choices may need to be made about relationships, careers, where you live or what your boundaries are. These can be huge life changes and many times can be accompanied by some pretty tough emotional challenges. From my personal experience, I know that it can take years to build up the appearance of perfect outward conditions; when it comes to ripping off the Band-Aid, it can be pretty uncomfortable and can take a considerable amount of courage and time to heal.
I have had several experiences over the years when I have come face-to-face with situations where my reality didn’t match with the way I outwardly portrayed my life. In each case, I faced a choice to either continue to live in a way that did not honor me or face it, call it by name and make the decision to shine light on the truth; opening up the door to live a more authentic life.
Years ago I came to the realization that I wasn’t being honest about the fact that how I portrayed my marriage was very different from the reality of my marriage. It took much contemplation and reaching deep to find my “Brave” but finally, I made a decision to divorce. The decision was not an easy one as we had two young children that were caught up in the mix. While staying silent and not addressing the truth of the situation create years of tough experiences for not only me but for my children as well, ultimately it allowed me to be free from the pretense and to live more authentically.
Two years ago after supporting my younger son through a series of mental health crises that included numerous hospitalizations, residential facilities and a suicide attempt, I shed another big façade by breaking my silence and writing about the experience as a caregiver and as a mother who was completely lost trying to navigate through unknown waters. Growing up with a belief, albeit unspoken, that I should never embarrass the family and having experienced stigma associated with mental illness, I kept quiet for a long time about the situation I was facing. Those who have been reading my blog for a while are familiar with this story and “ah ha” moments that brought me to share the raw real truth of what was happening with my son. In sharing, I was forced to look in the mirror and actively shed the beliefs around what it means to be a perfect parent as well as coming to terms with how my parenting, while under fire throughout the experience, was not the cause of my son’s crisis. By sharing my story, I allow myself to heal in ways that I would not have been able to if I kept my story silent; through this healing and sharing, others are also given the opportunity to heal.
Over the past 6 months, I again found myself face-to-face with the realization that there were circumstances and relationships in my life that no longer served me. These situations forced me to look at my deep-rooted beliefs around worthiness, obligation and self-sacrifice. I was presented with the opportunity to deeply look at who and what I want in my life. I am still grieving and healing, as I have shared on the blog, from the choice to walk away from these relationships, but even so, I know that I honored me in the choosing.
Most recently, and in what I feel has truly been my biggest Brave (to date), I walked away from my career. Leaping from the known to the unknown without a net. While this story is still unfolding, it was another series of “ah ha” moments where I needed to be radically honest with myself, not around whether I could perform the tasks required of the position but whether the tasks, expectations and values matched my own and honored me. They did not. What I know for certain is that this is yet another step on my path to live a more authentic and honoring life. As I move along this path, I will continue to share.
I share because I know the pain of keeping silent. I share because I am willing to be vulnerable with my story so that others don’t feel so alone. I share because I cannot keep the secret inside of my body without risking harm to my physical, mental and emotional being. I share even as I fight my own demons and deep-rooted belief systems around being judged, being worthy and being enough as a parent and as person. I share so that I can heal, and in that healing I hope others can find peace, understanding and healing themselves.
I share because I am brave.
How big is your Brave?