What does bravery mean to you? Does it indicate a willingness to dive off a stable cliff into the ocean at precisely the right moment so as not to crack open your skull or jump from a perfectly good airplane, praying that your parachute opens and you waft gently down to earth? Those kind of activities have never appealed to me, although I do know people who would be pumped to engage in them or something equally physically high octane, like being shot out of a cannon.
Mine take the form of what I refer to as ’emotional bungee jumping’, during which I take all sorts of risks that involve putting my heart on the line. For most of my life, I have kept my heart partly sheltered, bundled beneath a fleece blanket. I made it appear that it was wide open, when in fact, it was ducking under cover so as not to appear too eager, too outreaching, too (dare I say it?) needy. Ewwww ick. I would NEVER want to appear that way. I have allowed it to go meandering about, offering a safe harbor, a shelter for others who have lodged in it for awhile, until they have felt able to step away and move on in their lives. Some have been clients, others friends. It seems natural in a professional context, but more challenging and at times painful when it is personal. Over the years, there have been those who have, for their own reasons, chosen to step back from relating. I have, of necessity done what in 12 step parlance is called ‘a searching and fearless moral inventory’ when I explore my role in our interactions. If in all honesty and integrity, I can declare that I have done all I can to be loving and supportive, then the choice is theirs, for their own reasons and I have no need to feel guilty. I have learned that although I am responsible at all times for my interactions with others, I am never in charge of their feelings or interpretations of said interactions.
I am also keenly aware of the temptation to take personally, someone else’s request that I change something I am doing. Most of us like to believe we are cruising through life, doing what comes naturally to us, not intending to step on the toes of others. When people have pointed out that they would like me to do something differently than my inclination, I take pause and consider the choice to maintain the same actions, determining the likelihood of healthy relations with them. These days, I more often respond out of self examination and mindfulness than knee jerk (how dare they!) reaction. Also becoming more assertive and setting boundaries; a skill that has become more habitual in the past few years, even though I knew it was necessary eons before. As a result, my relationships are far more harmonious, in integrity and alignment with my values. I have been (even if it is challenging), bravely stepping back from relationships that no longer support themselves. A friend challenged me to consider that if I am the only person rowing the boat and I cease doing that and the boat stands still, then I may need to be on another boat.
I wanna see you (and me) be brave!
http://youtu.be/dyAfjUHlFSM Brave by Sara Bareilles