Let Your Little Light Shine

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Do you remember the day I bravely announced that I was leaving my unfulfilling life behind?  Do you remember my insistence that what I do, still matters?  Do you remember when I swore that I would never sell out (frequently quoting this poem that my friend wrote)?

Well, security carries with it a siren call.  It tricks us.  I entered this city as a shrinking violet, telling myself that I would follow everyone else’s lead, before doing anything outstanding.  Then, I fell back into the trap of “ducking the radar,” so that I could make sure that this new life stayed secure, for my husband and daughter.  After all, they did move across the country for me.  We’re 1200 miles away from home; shouldn’t I do all I can, to maintain the stability that we do have?

But, then, I faced a frustrating and discouraging situation today.  I described it to a friend of mine, beginning with the usual “underdog” scenario.  I’m just doing what I can to survive, right?  And I really have no choice.  I would be hurting others if I took any “risks,” right?

And even as I was writing it, I knew it was wrong.  I am not here for security.  I left all that behind.  I have not been as happy here as I could be, and a great deal of that is likely because I have been hiding in the shadows.

I have ideas–great ideas that could bring about a lot of positive change.  Or they could fail completely.  Either way, they are ideas, with potential, that deserve a chance.  Shrinking away, in the name of security–giving in to the fear that I have projected onto those closest to me–with not serve the world or humanity.  That is not why I am here.

Three months ago, I watched the only place I ever knew, fade from my back window.  I made the bold decision to leave it all behind.  I gave away my house, uprooted my family, and started over, completely.

I didn’t do it, so that I could cower and be paralyzed by fear.

Never will that happen again.  Never.  Again.

I am here to let my light shine.  Even if I am terrified.  It will shine brighter.  Even if I feel alone or wrong.  It will shine brighter.  Even if I think it is foolish.  It will shine brighter.

I am here to shine.

Survival is not the issue.  We will eat and have a home no matter what.

The risk is that I will die before ever living.  And I am here to live.

And so I will shine.

DSC_0057

Thoughts on Courage

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

At least once a week, I am told that I am brave.  And my reaction to this praise, is to laugh.  Me, brave?  I am a person whose life has been dominated by fear, for way too long.

DSC_0055

I’ve held back from trusting people, because I feared being hurt.

I’ve hung back in the shadows, afraid to stand out, because I feared rejection.

I spent 10 years in a situation that no longer suited me, because I was afraid to try something else.

I spend one year getting nothing more than one chapter done on my book, because I feared that it wouldn’t be good enough.

I’ve remained silent when I have seen other people being mistreated, because I feared that it would happen to me.

DSC_0048

We’ve all let fear get the upper hand, and we’ve all acted in ways that we are less than proud of.  I can criticize survival mode, because I’ve spent much of my life experiencing it.  Fear has been a constant state for me, for most of my 34 years on this earth.

So what does it mean, to be brave?  Does having courage mean that we’re never fearful?

DSC_0018

I don’t believe that it does.  I think that courage is simply a matter of making a choice.  It’s a matter of realizing that the risks of maintaining the status quo are greater than the risks of making a change.  It’s a matter of taking a situation that could destroy you, and using it to create something amazing. 

There is fear involved.  Great changes always involve some amount of fear.  But courage involves understanding the fear, acknowledging it, but moving forward anyway. 

DSC_0015

I was terrified the first time I sailed through a storm, but the prospect of never being on the water again was even more frightening.

I was terrified when I requested autism testing for my daughter, but I was even more afraid of her not getting the help she needed.

I was terrified the first time I opened up to all of you on this blog, but I was even more frightened of not accomplishing all I can with my writing.

I was terrified when I quit my job and moved across the country, but I was even more afraid of staying in a situation that made me unhappy.

I was terrified the first time I rode my bicycle to work, but I was even more frightened of not discovering another source of joy in my life.

DSC_0011

The risks of doing nothing, of staying on the shore, are almost always greater than the risks of trying something new.  Stagnation should scare you more than failure.  We humans have the amazing ability to get back up, after we fall flat on our faces, but we do not have the ability to turn back time, and to do all of the things that we wish we would have done.

We all experience fear, every one of us.  But have courage–work through it so that you will not look back on your life, and see nothing but a list of things you wish you would have done.  Our time here is precious, and it is up to us to make sure that we live fully.

DSC_0007

Weekly Inspiration: Looking Life in the Eye

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” – Helen Keller

“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.” – Virginia Woolf

When we first started Beanie in speech, we heard stories of other families, of friends-of-friends, who had kids with similar issues. These kids were older than Beanie, still not talking, and their parents were insisting that nothing was wrong. I’ve heard stories of kindergarteners who came in, not talking. By then, their issues were worse, and often not able to be corrected completely.

I’ve written before, about the dangers of being in denial, but I’ll say it again: Ignoring a problem doesn’t mean it’s not there.

It surprises me, sometimes, how big the elephant in the room can be, and, still, nobody talks about it. Somehow, things do not seem real, if we don’t acknowledge them. We think that we can keep them, indefinitely, from feeling real.

The problem is, as much as we’re ignoring the problem, we’re thinking about it. Worrying about it. Fearing the worst. By not dealing with an issue, we’re allowing it to grow. We’re allowing it more than its due amount of space in our mind. We’re letting it keep us from enjoying life.

If we deal with that elephant, if we call it out, is the result likely to be as bad as that worst-case scenario that we keep playing out in our mind? Probably not. And after we’ve called the problem out, we can deal with it, then move on.

This is why I took the initiative and asked about testing Beanie for Autism Spectrum Disorder at school, rather than ignoring the problem and dreading the day when someone else would suggest it.

This is why, if something is bothering me at work, I set up the meeting to discuss it.

This is why, if life becomes overwhelming and stressful, I reach out rather than pretending everything is all right.

This is why, if something is causing me to be fearful and I have the opportunity to face it, I do.

It takes strength, for a moment to face life head-on, to look it in the eye. But that strength is nothing compared to the burden you’ll bear for so much longer, if you don’t. It is nothing compared to all the time you will spend worrying about something much worse than the reality. It is nothing compared to the amount the real problem could grow, while you worry but refuse to deal with it.

So much in life is not within our control, but we’re rarely without choices. But owning the problem, by looking it in the eye, we begin to call the shots. We can’t make the problem go away, but we can choose how to handle it. I couldn’t make Beanie not have a disability, but I can choose the team that will work with her, and choose how her education will be handled. I couldn’t change the fact that I thought knowing about my past and my flaws would drive friends away, but I could face that fear and tell that story, choosing to know for certain and lay that worry to rest.

I had a choice. You have a choice. Look life in the eye and stop hiding and worrying!

Weekly Inspiration: Dipping and Soaring

Today, I am going to elaborate on a quotation that I have shared with you before:

“For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.”
― Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living

I have shared this quote in reference to Hafemania and to my own life, when I needed to take some time off. These have been words for me to live by for some time; I actually have them posted at my desk at work.

I have allowed fear to stop me more often than I would like to admit. I’m slow to make changes in our life, because I fear a lack of security. I’ve been stopped many times, for fear of failure. So often, I’ve thought that I would rather not try, and know that I have a chance of succeeding, than try and fail.

Staying put seems like the easy way. But it isn’t. It leads to a lifetime of wondering, of “what-if”‘s. It leads to a life that is unfulfilled, to a potential that is never reached. It takes courage to risk failure. It takes courage to take that first step into the unknown. But it is infinitely worth it.

We took a risk when we decided to embrace minimalism and live apart from mainstream culture. We took a risk when we decided to buy an old, derilict sailboat. And we took a risk when we decided to live aboard that boat for an entire summer, with no home port.

There will be more risks. There are more things we have to do. There will be more opportunities for us to raise our sails and dip and soar in the breeze.

And trust me, we will not be remaining on shore.

On Courage

I’ve never considered myself to be brave. In fact, I’ll tell you a story…

When I was 19, I went on a canoe trip with Rob. This was just a day trip. It was beautiful when we started out, but eventually we noticed storm clouds in the sky. We tried to hurry, but we had hours ahead of us, and finally the squall hit. We were unable to steer, and our food floated away in the river.

What did I do? Did I heroically paddle, with all of my strength to shore? Did I follow Rob’s command (as he was in back at that time) and assist in his maneuvering?

No.

Just like that Italian cruise ship captain, I bravely jumped out of that boat and made for shore.

And we were just on a river. A calm river. The AuSable. We were in a canoe. Sober. And wearing life jackets.

I like to think that I’ve since redeemed myself. I piloted Moonraker through a storm, and brought her into port while we were sinking.

Before that, I wasn’t brave. After that, I wasn’t either. It was the realization at that, that I was still Moonraker’s helmsman, and that I had done all that, that made me see that I could conquer anything.

Like kindness, courage is in all of us as well. We can go against the flow, and we can speak up for what we believe in.

And after we’ve gone through a storm or two, it will become second nature.