Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cultivating Bravery

I have a good friend who has two children. One boy and one girl. Her little boy is all energy, playfulness and wit. Her daughter is imaginative, serious and sassy. They are both amazing kids. And like most children their age, they love Disney. Unlike most children, they both LOVE Disney. Everything about it. The amusement parks, the cartoons, the characters. I should mention that their love is only rivaled by their parents’ love for Disney, so they do come by it naturally. 
At a birthday party for the little girl a couple of months ago, I gifted her a bow and arrow play set from the movie, Brave. In the interest of full disclosure, her parents had informed me that she would love the gift, since I’m not that great at picking out gifts for children. As she opened the package her eyes lit up as she recognized the red-headed girl immortalized on the cardboard packaging. She recognized her from one of her favorite movies. Recognized this character she has begun to look up to in a way. As I watched her reaction to the gift, I found myself hoping she would always look to women who are brave. Women who defy social, political and even familial boundaries placed on them because of their gender. I found myself hoping she would always choose to be brave.
Last summer I competed in a sprint triathlon. Its a sporting event comprised of three sections: a 500 meter swim in the lake, a 20k bike ride and a 5k run. I had never attempted anything so diverse in movements, nor so long in duration. I trained half-heartedly, growing weary of the early morning swims and late evening runs about two months before the actual race day. I showed up to pick up my race packet and almost lost my lunch due to butterflies in my stomach who seemed to be high on methamphetamines. I was beside myself with nerves because I was setting out to do something I had never done. Something I felt like was out of reach for me, mainly because of limits I had placed on myself. As we drove into the parking lot, though, I saw familiar faces. One of my mentors from high school, a good family friend and a former basketball teammate were all standing near the registration table chatting. Immediately my fear washed away in a wave of relief that seemed to speak to my hypertensive heart, “See. You can do this. They are going to be there, too. You can do this.” The short of it is that I competed, did better than I thought I could, and it the midst of my inner turmoil realized that something very important was happening in me: I was becoming brave. 

And now this morning. As I write these words a very good friend of mine is somewhere between mile ten and fifteen of the 26.2 it takes to complete a marathon. She is an amazing mother to her daughter, wife to her husband, and friend to me. She began running a couple years ago after becoming frustrated with weight that wouldn’t drop and clothes that wouldn’t fit. She began slowly, running a couple miles at a time at a leisurely pace. She has now completed numerous 10k’s, a couple half marathons, and is completing her first full this morning. She is tough, determined and brave. And she is not the only one. I am constantly amazed by the women in my life who lay aside social norms to do things they’ve never done. Things they have never have seen anyone demonstrate for them. Things they maybe never thought they could do. These women encourage me and spur me to begin again on forgotten dreams. To stand back up where I once fell. And to continue to cultivate in my life a bravery that I hope younger generations will see, and realize they are just as capable of.