I’m a big believer in not talking unless you have something to say– and not in the ‘only if you have something nice to say’ way but in the Gandhi way: “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”
All this is a long way of getting to: hello. It’s been awhile. And here we are now, in the new calendar year, fresh off New Years’ Eve, a time where endings and beginnings swirl around us as we make choices about what to keep and what to let go of and what dances should continue and which ones are done. After the whirlwind is over, there’s a sense of stillness (I mean, have you ever been outside on January 1st? The streets are empty! It seems a lot of people miss the first day of the new year they partied so hard to celebrate.) For me, that’s an easier time to take stock and do reflections, evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Fireworks and revelry will fool you, but quiet will bring you face to face with things you may have been avoiding (no hangover necessary). I don’t do resolutions anymore, since they are so easily broken. What I commit to is closer to an intention or maybe just a conscious awareness of what I want to place my attention and energy on in the coming year.
So let’s start with last year, 2015, which I declared to be (for me anyway) the year of the fearless woman. Though I acknowledged that being unabashedly brave also meant I’d be terribly vulnerable, I still chose the word ‘fearless,’ as in possessing no fear. I’m a big believer in the power of language and I believe our word choices reveal so much more than we intend, or even know. I went with “fearless” because on some level it was what I wanted and something I believed possible.
Now, please understand I didn’t mean not afraid of things I should be afraid of, like bears or sharks or magicians. I’m talking about the fear of wanting something or putting myself out there or trying something I might not be good at. These are the fears I sought to avoid and in a not surprising turn of events, it turns out its pretty difficult to be fearless. As in, it is not possible to never have fears. In fact, I didn’t even come close. In my not-expert but still very human and valid opinion, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a fearless woman (or man, or child, or even animal.) There are women who move beyond fear, but none who don’t have fears. That would be, quite literally, insane. For me, the idea of ‘fearless’ was more of a naive optimism. It was my way of ensuring I moved forward– like a mantra that enabled me to do whatever came my way: fearless, fearless, fearless. The reality of this past year is that the other word I chose, the one with less pizazz but more accuracy, was closer to the truth: brave. This year I was brave, and that bravery was only born because I was afraid.
This is the definition of the word brave: “ready to face or endure danger or pain; showing courage.” I’d add one amendment to that: “ready (or at least willing).”
Because really, you don’t have to be ready. You probably won’t be. Very few people ever are. That seems a key part of bravery: not knowing what is on the other side and thus, not being prepared — but doing it anyway.
Since I left LA and moved to London and have been doing whatever things I’ve been doing, on occasions people will tell me I’m strong. This is nice but makes me feel a bit funny inside, for reasons I couldn’t explain until now. What they’re suggesting is that I’m emotionally strong because of whatever actions and whatever alleged bravery, but I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s a bit of a dangerous mindset really, because it buys into the false idea that there are emotionally strong and emotionally weak people, a sort of “you are or you aren’t” philosophy but I don’t believe in that. What I do believe in is being an emotionally willing person, as in willing to wade into the unknown, willing to look at what’s scary and most of all willing to try.
Sometimes when you are emotionally willing, you come out looking strong. Sometimes your will doesn’t take you all the way though, for reasons unknown maybe even to you. I feel the same way about emotional strength as I do about resolutions: there has to be a better way than yes-or-no, strong-or-weak, success-or-failure. It shouldn’t come down to one moment that marks you. It’s about the continual assessment of willingness to try, in ever-varying circumstances.
Because you have to be willing to try.
That’s the start of everything: being willing to take a chance, willing to be honest about what you feel, willing to go after what you want, even willing to admit that actually, you are afraid. If you can do that, you are already way ahead of the game.
As for my 2016, I’m focused on something I consider delightfully feminine: receiving. Receiving in so many forms– receiving to create, receiving to give back, receiving simply to receive. Receiving in a wild and womanly way and receiving freedom from old narratives and patterns and habits. I’m receiving in a beautiful, bountiful way. Receiving is, as a dear friend once told me, the inhale. What I do with what I receive is the exhale. And oh, how I can’t wait to see what I receive, and then to see what I do with it.
And the beauty is there is no failure. There will be lapses, moments where I do not receive as openly or perhaps block so I don’t receive at all. But unlike a resolution, this is not a success/failure story. One slip does not mean that oh crap, there goes that effort. Nope. It just means I’m human and possibly not as willing and not as able on this one day, maybe because of circumstances or maybe because of something else. Who knows? It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is that I acknowledge when it does happen and while doing so, treat myself with graciousness and gratitude and kindness. And I return my focus to that act, bringing my energy and awareness and conscious commitment back to receiving. Then I revel in the stillness and let it be.
Happy 2016. I wish you all much luck and much willingness on your journeys.
Michelle’s note: Photo credit to the flipping’ fabulous Heather Brand.