I was raised on fear. Fear of EVERYthing. Fear of being “bad”, of divine judgement, of doing something that would cause someone else to stop being a believer. Fear of all the things that were certain signs that Armageddon was imminent – hatred, earthquakes, wars, famine, disease, civil unrest, family strife…that reads sort of like the news reels today, doesn’t it?
I was a staunch, unquestioning, loyal believer for about 35 years. I lived my life and molded my personality as I was told. When I lacked the desire to do more religion-based activities, I thought my lack of desire meant that I wasn’t spiritual enough, and I was pretty sure that meant that I wouldn’t make it through Armageddon.
Eventually, I left the life that was so carefully and prayerfully planned out for me by my parents and launched myself into a new life, one that required that I think for myself, make decisions that I had never had to make before, and trust. A lot. In myself, in the people I invited into my life, and in the basic good of humanity.
I don’t know that I felt brave back then, but of course I was brave. Being brave means being willing to face and endure danger or pain. The choices I made required it, but I didn’t really think of it. I just moved forward one day at a time, enjoyed moments that could be enjoyed and gritting my teeth through the ones that could not.
I soon found that there were so many more moments to enjoy, experiences to be had, and laughter to be shared than I ever thought possible, and gradually life became impossibly good. Not without trials. But truly good.
About a year ago, I sat in a little Italian restaurant with two beautiful human beings who I have the privilege of calling friends. Over wine and a thin crust funghi pizza, we discussed, as we always do, things that matter to us as women, our concerns about our kids and the world they are attempting to navigate successfully, and our upcoming year.
I asked the question, “What is your word for 2020?”
My word for 2020 was “Becoming”. I was still working on writing my first memoir and I was hoping that I would “Become” the person that would have the courage to finally let it go out into the world. In so many areas, I wanted to “Become” better…braver, stronger.
When we think of the coming year, of course it is usually with hopefulness but always without full knowledge of what it will bring our way. Looking back at the past year since I had that conversation with my friends, and staring down the final weeks remaining in this year, I am confident that few, if any people would have predicted the way this past year would have gone. I have been at a loss for words – literally – for the past couple of months as I have watched and witnessed the overwhelm of the world, the grief and above all, the fear. So much fear. It strikes me as I watch, how similar it is to the way I felt in my younger years before I knew what I know now.
I have learned some lessons from my life, and thankfully so – I am staring down my 44th birthday and believe it would be dreadful if I hadn’t picked up a few useful tools as I grew in age and spirit.
While a large part of the world has seemingly single-mindedly focused on the dreadful-ness of 2020, when reviewing my year I have found that I consider myself to be excessively fortunate. I have loved my people harder this year than ever before. I have bonded, I have laughed, I have cried. I have danced. I have held space for friends who have needed to speak their pain, celebrated the joys of others and have made new and wonderful friends that are from completely different backgrounds. I have watched incredible feats of humanity and kindness.
I have seen bravery.
Not because anyone has felt brave. It’s because the indomitable human spirit requires us to press on, knowing, hoping, trusting that it will get better.
And it will.
Perhaps the biggest show of bravery is to find those moments of laughter, moments of humanity, and of love when we are facing down what some believe is heralding Armageddon.
Because it does get better. This past year absolutely will be remembered by all of us – the moments we choose to remember are up to us.
This year my word was “Becoming”. And I did become – I became brave enough to publish my book (barely meeting my self-imposed year end deadline, but meeting it none-the-less), to face down the fears so carefully instilled in me as a child, and to became strong enough to own my story at all costs.
This year, I danced.