Show Up Shaking

The first time I attended the Storyline conference, one of the speakers made a statement to this effect: “try to do something that scares you every day”.

While my outside body smiled politely and took notes, my inside body was shaking its head in a violent “no”.

Fear has been a dark shadow by my side for as long as I can remember. Sometimes normal, appropriate fears, many times gnawing and anxious, or downright irrational. There are few things I hate worse than feeling afraid. The toll it takes on a mind and body left me desperate to avoid provoking it and living pretty much exactly the opposite- trying hard NOT to do anything that scared me every day.

For so long I viewed courage as something only the bold and confident had, and the rest of us should just try to play it safe because we hadn’t been so lucky when the courageous sauce was dished out.

But Storyline offered a new perspective on living well. If you want to live a good story full of meaning, you have to be open to receiving new invitations, and the invitations almost always include conflict (=fear). The people doing big and brave and world-changing things, the Donald Millers and Bob Goffs, aren’t, as I’d assumed, fearless. They’ve just discovered that on the other side of many fears was more meaning, purpose, and courage.

I started looking more closely at my life and others’, and realized a game-changing fact about fear and courage. All the brave ones are scared first. fear is actually the prerequisite of courage! Doing something, however noble, that we’re not afraid of is great, but it isn’t courageous, it’s just doing a noble thing. Being afraid and doing it anyway is what creates courage.

It’s when we say “yes” to a new opportunity to lean into a meaningful life, RSVP to an invitation that is outside our comfort zone, our skill set, our range of experience, that courage comes to play. The more we say “yes”, the less fear messes with us.

So I have a new hobby called courage-watching. My favorite sitings are those who aren’t hiding their fear in a plumage of false confidence, machoism, or religious verbiage. You know what I clap the loudest for and remember the longest?

The speech where you shared a hard story and had to blow your nose around the mic.

The vowels you spoke when you went off script and your hands shook like 60 holding the ring.

The conversation that had your heart pounding like a snare drum behind your shirt.

The song you wrote and then sang for a crowd through a cracking voice.

The prayer you offered that was mostly tears and “help”.

This is what courage looks like to me. Not bungee jumping or doing a back-flip off the high dive, though I may admire (and shake my head at) your guts.

Please don’t be embarrassed of your bouncing knees or quavering voice. Don’t be ashamed of your tears or sweaty palms. Most of all, don’t let fear keep you paralyzed. Show up shaking. Others will find strength in your vulnerability. It allows us to see ourselves in you, see that we are all so much the same.

Strength shines through in weakness.

Your showing up is courageous. Your shaking inspires us to take our own shaky knees and sweaty palms another step into a meaningful life.

This blog is one place where I practice showing up shaking. Literally, I shake EVERY time I hit “publish”. My introvert person would rather keep conversations limited to my family and dogs. My non-confrontational person would rather not publicize any deep(ish) thought that could create argument. My people-pleasing person wants to make all the people everywhere well pleased by only talking about how cute kittens are, but then it got word some of you don’t even like kittens so now it’s rocking in the corner.

When my sweaty courage person wins and the “publish” gets pushed, it’s because I’ve remembered that writing is how I figure out what I think about life, how I find beauty in messy things, how I unravel chaos and rediscover grace. And sometimes it’s most meaningful when I share it with you and hear your stories and thoughts and we find ourselves stronger together.

Writing here enriches my life, and I dearly hope it can and will yours too. But honestly? Blogging isn’t my main jam. I don’t promise regular posts on guaranteed topics and days, at least for now. I wouldn’t be the real deal if I did.

I like blogs for certain things, as a reader and a writer. But what I love is the up-close look, the unpacking of details, and the whole picture that comes in reading a book. And based on the growing number of documents that faintly resemble chapters accumulating in a special file, I might be taking my book relationship from reader to also…writer. (Sometimes courage is almost imperceptibly small, right?)

That’s all the info I’ve got for today, guys. My bravery says “over and out”.

Do you want to join me in this courage-watching journey? Are you also interested in some opportunities to participate in behind-the-scenes booky (I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this in normal words yet) stuff happening down the road?  the newsletter is where it’s going to be, along with some extra inspiration, ideas, and usually goofy goings on! Hop over to the side bar and sign yourself right up.

Thank you for being here with me. I hope we get to hang out in each other’s inboxes soon, and most of all, I hope I see you showing up shaking. Remember, what feels wormy and sweaty to you, feels like hard-clapping pride to us watching on, hoping that we can be like you and do brave things too!