Often we think it’s the big gesture that counts as bravery, but it’s not. Showing up is enough. It means we are invested in developing our own courage and that we care enough to be present with other people.
My beloved hero Anne Lamott says, “The people who show up are inevitably the right ones.” The older I get, the more strongly I adhere to this truth. When life is hard and we feel beaten down, we demonstrate bravery when we simply show up.
This week I fly to Edmonton to present three sessions at a teachers’ convention (the first of three I will be speaking at this February and March). I love speaking, particularly when the message I’m delivering is one I believe to the core of my soul, but that doesn’t mean my knees won’t still knock together when I stand in front of 200+ teachers and attempt to keep them engaged and interested for an hour.
When I feel nervous, I repeat Rob Bell’s mantra, “Butterflies mean you are in the game.” I’m challenging myself by submitting speaking proposals all over the place and when I get offered contracts, I have to believe that just showing up is what I’m called to do. It’s brave enough just to do the best I can.
I adore the song in La La Land that Emma Stone’s character sweetly sings for courage in one key audition scene. She sings, “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem, here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make.” So incredibly beautiful, inspiring and true to my experience.
It’s normal for our hearts to ache and for our dreams to seem impossibly big and hard to achieve. But when we take small steps toward our highest hopes and aspirations, these moments are for celebrating. I’m really working on it being enough, exactly as the journey unfolds, instead of keening for better, different, more extravagant.
Does it seem easier just to show up? It does to me, for it means that the analysis of what I’m presenting or writing or creating is not up to me. The audience gets to decide if it meets their needs or fails to meet their expectations. My part of the bargain is to be prepared, to show up and say what I have to say. I’m going to trust that it’s enough.
If you have something to do that scares you, know that you are on the right track. You can do the things you don’t think you are ready for. You’ll never feel completely ready. At a certain point, you have to jump. This is how you stave off boredom and stagnation – you follow your curiosity and stay ahead of your own comfort level. That’s the growing zone. It’s where we feel most alive.
Try it. Believe that you will have what it takes at the moment you are thrust into the challenging situation. You won’t have any assurances while you are thinking about it and preparing for it. You’ll just have to trust that you will be up to the task. That’s what I’m doing, and so far it’s working. Showing up is brave. It feels like soaring when you’ve proven to yourself that you do, indeed, have what it takes.