Last week I submitted an essay for a contest called Notes and Words. The reason I entered the contest was because in addition to some amazing prizes the essayist that won received:
- Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize winner
- Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author
- John Hodgman, The Daily Show and HBO’s Bored to Death
- Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author
It was the introductions to Anne Lamott and Kelly Corrigan that really caught my eye. And so I put it out there to the Universe, in my prayers, in my heart that that is what I wanted. I wanted to be able to connect with them, to thank them for their bravery, for their words, for putting their souls on paper. So I crossed my fingers and toes, submitted my essay and let it go.
When author Brene’ Brown came to town to speak I knew that there were a million and three things I wanted to say to her and yet I knew that when I and the three hundred others stood in front of her to get our books signed I wouldn’t be able to tell her all of the things I wanted to share so I decided to write a letter to her. I was nervous, but just knew that I needed to do that. She had been brave enough to put her book out there for all the world to see, the least I could do is to share my honest response. It wasn’t until a friend said in a wistful voice “Wow, that was really brave” that it occurred to me that it indeed might be. After giving her the letter, and realizing that for me in that moment it wasn’t about her response, it was about doing it- my giving, sharing and becoming brave was more important. And it felt amazing, to be able to simply do something that scared me, that stretched me and let it go.
I wanted to make it a habit to sink into that feeling of making courageous choices, to stretch my comfort zone, to reach out in acts of bravery on a regular basis. So I made a list of things that would be brave for me, lists of people that I wanted to write to, to thank them, to share with them pieces of how they have inspired me, to celebrate what they bring to the world. And I have been committing my “Acts of Bravery” every month since. Sometimes it is letters, sometimes it is a blog post I am scared to publish, a conversation that requires me to be vulnerable, a workout that challenges me, or setting my book free into the world. More often than not it means letting go of control or the outcome in various ways. Since this commitment I have published my book, wrote several blog posts that required me to summon my courage to hit Publish, sent a letter to SARK, Brene’ Brown, Shauna Ahern from Gluten Free Girl, Jen Gray and Katrina Kenison (which is being mailed this week) and have started a list on my desktop that is titled “Acts of Bravery” where I keep all of the things that I have done, and those that I plan to do.
On Saturday I ran into some friends who mentioned “Oh Erica, you read Anne Lamott right? Did you know that she will be doing a book signing in the cities on Monday?” (Enter a chorus of angels singing) Really!?!?
An opportunity for another committing another “Act of Bravery.”
(A blurry) Anne Lamott and I tonight (with my book and my letter!)
What you can’t see is two of my friends cheering me on in the background as I committed another Act of Bravery.
I am reminded every time I do this, it is a lot easier to be brave when you have your cheering section at your side. When I share with others what I am doing, why I am doing it I have gotten amazing amounts of support. I believe people are drawn to support dreams [and I do believe you have to choose your support system carefully. As Brene’ Brown reminds us- “share with those who have earned the right to hear your story”] I believe we want to see the best in each other and we want to encourage each other to shine brightly in this world and to do that we have to give others an opportunity to support us, to be in on the dreams.
People can’t support what they don’t know- they can’t share in dreams that aren’t spoken.
I have been reminded time and time again that courage expands when it is spoken, bravery grows by leaps and bounds when given the right nourishment and that we sometimes need a nudge to keep dreaming big.
So here is your nudge to keep dreaming big, here is your invitation to bravery…
What Acts of Bravery will you commit?
The world is waiting!
P.S. The connectedness of all of this- these lessons, these themes, the weaving together of reminders I need and the ways that the Universe/God gets my attention never ceases to amaze me… and leaves me in awe, feeling known, loved and held. Tonight while going to Jen Gray’s site for the first time in awhile to link to her name her most recent blog post from March 13th included an Anne Lamott quote… grace indeed.
I do not understand the mystery of grace only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us..
~ anne lamott