A few weeks ago my church started a group call God In Real Life (GIRL) time and I attended their launch event. At the end of the get together the associate pastor Bonita gave us this challenge: to do one brave thing.
I had been wanting to talk to my friend Melissa for a while about the things that were going on in my life, but I always chickened out. When Bonita gave us that challenge I couldn’t help but feel like now was the time, especially given that Melissa and I had a lunch date set for later that week.
So I did.
I told her about how hard it has been since losing Jamie, and how now we are facing fertility tests and treatments. How I can’t work due to my PTSD being so severe, and I even told her that my PTSD is from being abused as a kid. I was so nervous.
But she just sat there and listened. She let me say everything I needed to say and when I was done she gave me a hug and told me she would be praying for me. I left the lunch feeling like I had wrestled a grizzly and won, and in a way I did. I have been wrestling the monster that is silence for years, and very rarely have I had a victory. While I felt drained and raw, I also felt more relieved and elated than I could have thought. It was as though with each word I spoke, with each secret I revealed, some of the weight started to lift.
On Sunday the women who attended the first GIRL time event were asked–if they were willing–to write down their one brave thing and e-mail it to Bonita. This is what I wrote:
My brave thing starts with a dream: to publish a book. And to claim that dream means eventually revealing all of me to anyone who cares to read it, and that absolutely terrifies me. So I’m starting here.
My brave thing was to show part of the real me to my friends Melissa. And I don’t mean ‘me without make’ or anything like that, I mean why I’m me. I onloy ever show the real me to a few people, everyone else gets a reflection: the me that says “I’m fine” when my heart is breaking. The me who when asked about herself gives the highly edited version so she doesn’t actually reveal anything.
And what kills me is that I want people to see the real me. I’m oproud of who I am. I’m proud of how I’ve handled the trials in my life, how going through them has turned me into who I am today. By telling my story, by revealing the real me I hope to help someone going through trials of their own. But I’m afraid to reveal the real me because I feel too exposed. Too vulnerable. For years God has been telling me not to hide who I am and what I’ve been through, but to share it and (hopefully) let my story change someone’s life.
So tonight I’m doing my second brave thing: telling this to all of you. And I pray that these brave things will lead to–someday–helping someone else to be brave.
Bonita wrote back to me on Tuesday, the morning of the event and asked if I would be willing to share my One Brave Thing story that night at GIRL time and I said yes. I did ask her to print me out a copy of my story (our printer is broken) because I do not do well in front of groups and I would do best to read it straight from the page. What I didn’t tell her was that by having the piece of paper in my hands I would be much less likely to chicken out and make up a different story when I stood up to speak. I knew I could still back out, but I was doing everything I could think of to make myself feel as comfortable as possible so that I wouldn’t.
The GIRL Time meeting wasn’t until 630pm so I had pretty much all day to think about what I was getting myself into. And every time I started to get nervous I just kept reminding myself that even though I was scared, it was also the right thing. It was the God-prompted thing. So even though I knew I didn’t possess the strength to do it on my own, I wasn’t doing it on my own. I had God.
I got to the church early and saw that we weren’t meeting in the classroom like we had at the previous GIRL Time, but where in the worship hall, and that made my anxiety jump through the roof. I really do not like public speaking. I knew I was gearing myself up to freak out, so I just kept myself as busy as I could. I helped set out the food and carry coolers. I talked with a friend who was there. I did anything I could think of to keep from getting too scared.
The meeting finally started and I sat at a table with a few women from choir, the pastor’s wife, a friend from Bible Study, and one woman I had seen before but didn’t really know. To be honest I don’t remember much of the first half of the gathering. I know I ate and that we sang a few songs. I also made plenty of jokes to try and calm myself down and–to be honest–not let everyone see that I was terrified. A few times I almost started crying.
I was the 2nd of three women to share my story, and I only made it about two sentences before I started to cry. There were several times when I actually had to stop reading because I was crying too hard to speak. About halfway through my story one of the women at my table, Marilyn, came and wrapped her arms around me from behind and whispered in my ear “You can do this”.
My voice cracked and tears ran down my face, but I finished reading.
I felt this overwhelming sense of anticipation. I was waiting for the judgement, the scorn, the superiority I was expecting and yet praying I wouldn’t receive. Instead, I was applauded and several women came and hugged me, a few of whom I didn’t even know. After I sat down Bonita took the mic and said “My favorite part of that was the sentence ‘The me who when asked about herself gives the highly edited version so she doesn’t actually reveal anything.’ Can I get an Amen? I think we have all done that”
we have all done that
In those five words I felt not only the validation that it was okay to feel what I feel, but I also felt a sense of community. I wasn’t alone. I may edit my life story in different ways than other women, but I’m not alone.
On my “Why I Write” page I talk about how silence is a secret burden. Silence makes us feel completely alone. Some how we convince ourselves that what we have to say, what we feel, isn’t important. That it doesn’t deserve to be voiced. That we don’t deserve to be heard. By sharing my One Brave Thing story I took a risk and revealed part of me. I put myself out there in order to try and prove to myself that I do deserve to be heard.
So this is my third brave thing: starting this blog. This is my way of moving forward. Of proving to myself that trusting God and being brave was the right thing. And I still pray that someday these brave things will help someone else feel brave.
Now I am one step closer.