Posts Tagged ‘stubbornness’

I’ve always considered myself to be a brave person.

Not physically brave. And given that a sprained toe that is supposed to take two to three weeks to heal is for me taking three months and counting, you can maybe begin to see why. I’ve got a different risk/reward ratio going on there.

But emotionally brave, absolutely.

In college it was about a ten minute walk down to the music building from where I lived. I’d be trundling downhill to go to an audition, and I wasn’t the hot shit in the music department AT ALL, so I knew the odds of me getting anything were incredibly slim at best. And in my head, I’d think, “This is absolutely insane. Why am I doing this? I could just turn around right now and go home. That is a real option for me.” And then I’d think, “Yup. And now I’m going to audition, goddamnit.”

And I wouldn’t get the part, but it kind of didn’t matter because I’d won just by showing up prepared and doing my thing. (It also kind of did matter, but after a while you get used to rejection so that it’s just this normal crappy thing that happens a lot.)

It actually became a point of pride for me, that if something made me frightened (except for physical things because I also care about self-preservation), I would make myself do it.

Recently, someone pointed out that often bravery is an action of willpower, and a lightbulb went off for me. No wonder I think I’m brave! I have willpower up the wazoo!  And I’m very, very good at getting myself to do the things I’ve decided I want or need to do.

What does this photo have to do with being brave, Amy? I have no idea, but I like it, so there you go.

What does this photo have to do with being brave, Amy? I have no idea, but I like it, so there you go.

Anyway, lately I’ve been having some trouble being brave, which is unusual for me, but, well, it’s happening. I’m having to use all my willpower, which I hardly ever do, and I’m still really struggling. Like tonight, I have to do this thing–have a conversation, actually–and thinking about it makes me feel literally ill, that’s how afraid I am to do it. But this is a great chance to notice some concrete ways to cultivate bravery, right? Right.

For instance, I know I want to avoid this conversation. It would be so easy to just…not do it. So I’ve made concrete plans around it to make it easier to do it than to not do it. And I’m writing about it here, and by the time this post publishes tomorrow morning, I’d better have done it. So I have created some built-in accountability. Yes, I could cancel the plans and I could change this post, but the effort of having to do those things will encourage me to stick to the original plan.

I’m trying to stay in touch with reality. Because reality is, this conversation does not have the power to destroy my life. Not even close. So thinking about unrelated stuff in my life that I’m happy about is actually really helpful for staying grounded and keeping perspective. Likewise, I’m doing my best to think about the conversation going well and all the reasons it might go well, and to avoid thinking too hard about the conversation going poorly. Aka I’m practicing positivity.

I’m doing my best to keep it simple. I find it’s really important when making plans to set goals I can actually meet. I don’t mean that you have to set easy goals, but rather realistic goals. Writing a novel, for example, is not easy, but I can make a plan to write a novel that, based on past experience, I’m pretty confident I can follow. So for this conversation, my goals are to show up and ask for one thing. It’s not going to be easy to ask for the one thing, and it doesn’t help that I hate asking for anything, but I’m pretty sure I can do it because at least it’s only one.

I’m being kind with myself. I’m using up so much willpower right now, that means I don’t have a lot of it left over for other things. Which means I’m not being super productive right now. But I’m being passably productive, and everything important is being taken care of, and that’s good enough.

And finally, I’m quite happy to lean on some good old-fashioned stubbornness, of which I always have a large supply.

I still think I’m a brave person. I think I will go, and I will feel queasy, and I will stammer a whole bunch, and I will have this conversation.

Just because bravery isn’t always easy or flashy or elegant or clean doesn’t make it any less true.

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“You’ve got to love the house you’re in.” – Moonface, from the album Julia with Blue Jeans On

So many flaws, so many mistakes, so many unfavorable comparisons just waiting to be made.

We don’t get a free pass for our choices.

But loving ourselves has to come first. And not just the good parts either, but the ugly, dark, and nasty bits. The things other people have been most critical of. The most unloveable aspects need the love the most of all.

Most of those shadows inside ourselves exist for a reason. Some of them, maybe even many of them, are not all bad.

When I was a kid, I heard all the time about how stubborn I was. Certainly I wasn’t being stubborn on purpose, but it seemed to be built into my character. Apparently my stubbornness caused my family no end of irritation.

I was stubborn just like this mule. Photo Credit: giuliomarziale [www.maurizioagelli.com] via Compfight cc

You know what else my stubbornness did? It kept me alive. When I was a neglected adolescent, it would have been so easy for me to become a statistic. But I watched the chaos around me, and I would not make the choice to join the downward spiral. I dug in my heels in my most stubborn manner, and I would not. So here I am.

Now, I know that my stubbornness can make things unpleasant or difficult for the people around me. I try to rein it in when I notice it or when it is pointed out. But I love the hell out of my stubbornness. I love that it kept me safe when I needed it most. I love that it’s helped me finish a musical and three novels. I love that it keeps me going when the chips are down. I love that it’s kept me focused on the things in life that are beautiful and magic and good instead of only seeing the grim and the difficult and the painful.

My stubbornness has shaped the person I am today in ways for which I am most profoundly grateful.

Let’s pick a harder one: anger. Who among us has not done or said something out of anger that we wish we could undo or unsay? It is so difficult sometimes to handle anger with grace.

But what is anger? It is a warning system. It is a red flag that something is wrong. Maybe it is telling us that we aren’t being treated well. Maybe it is telling us that we are unsafe. Maybe it is telling us that this person has no interest in helping us. And knowing these things is important.

That doesn’t give us a pass for learning to deal with anger in a productive way and learning how to read anger’s signals so we know what it’s really saying. We are still responsible for our behavior. But knowing that anger is just trying to keep us safe makes it a lot easier to love. And that love, in turn, makes it easier to control the anger instead of allowing it to control us.

So when we talk about loving the house that we’re in, we’re talking about all the parts of that house. Sure, we appreciate the sunlight and the counter space and the gas range. But we’re also talking about the leaky roof and the inadequate closet space and the way the circuit breaker overloads when you run the microwave and the hair dryer at the same time.

It’s our job to learn to love it all.

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