Have you ever watched someone - I mean, realllllly watched someone - take a risk? Have you witnessed their fidgeting right before, the overt translation of mental anxiety pouring into their every movement? Their starts and steps back. Their shallow breath. Their hesitation. Their eyes closed. Prayers silently whispered. The eventual launch.
Before reality tv and before facebook and instagram everything, I feel like we were much more likely to witness each other in the flesh in these human moments. We had less entitlement to glory and more patience with the guts of life. We weren’t so positive pyschologied. We weren’t mantra-ed or manifesting. We were okay with getting ready. Beyond that, we weren’t constantly having to document every step of the process either through a status update or a visual representation. We had more room to win ugly.
And anyone who has faced a massive risk knows that the moment you refuse to win ugly is the moment you either stop taking risks or never meet them because you’re more worried about how it looks. It's the moment you rob yourself of the focus needed for the task at hand.
Imagine if Eleanor Roosevelt had felt this sort of pressure before standing at the Sorbonne in France issuing her speech “The Struggle for Human Rights” or before writing This is My Story. What would the distraction of visually or verbally representing her impending glory do to those speeches and thoughts? Would they have changed it? What would have been left out or added? Imagine the tragedy of that.
Or imagine Muhammad Ali pausing before getting hit or before throwing a punch because he was unwilling to show the ugly part of his sport.
Or Diana Nyad giving any sort of moment’s notice to how she might appear after not only failing 3 times to swim from Cuba to Key West, but then finally doing it. Holy hell.
Or great musicians of the last century who were able to create under a less intense microscope. Or historians like Howard Zinn. Or artists. Great athletes. All of them. All of us.
The pause we take in considering the glory over the guts is the moment where we steal the profundity from the risk. Why? Because we’re afraid to do the work required to get ready for the risk. Real work isn’t pretty. Real work makes us exhausted. Real work requires sacrifice. Real work means testing every comfort zone you have. Real work digs up the weaknesses you have and exposes them to the light. Real work does not feel good. And we have very little tolerance these days for any of these things not only in ourselves, but in other people.
We need to tolerate the guts and expose our disguise of glory.
For instance, did you know I’m a pretty extreme introvert? Yeah. If I ever see you in public and I greet you with a hello, a handshake, and actual eye contact, you should know that right then and there, I have taken a risk. A huge one. Or if I walk into your store to drop off postcards, just know that I’d rather be invisible while doing so and not talk to you. And if I have spoken to you, just know my armpits are sweating.
I’m awkward. I hate visibility. I’m beyond private. And I’m introverted and need massive amounts of alone/quiet time.
Cue this morning. Barbie and I decided yesterday that we were going to do a live outdoor workout, in response to our new flesh driven brand expansion strategy (we love you). No longer protected by my bubble here in the house, this meant that I was going to have to A) get dressed; B) talk to strangers; C) enjoy the “pleasantries” of a ginormous sign with me in a tuck jump posted up in a very public park; and D) talk to strangers (that was worthy of repetition). I woke up in the worst mood I can remember in a long time. Grumpy. Itchy wool sweateritis. I wanted to stomp my foot on the ground like a toddler and say, “NO FUCKING WAY do I want to do this.” And I would have could have made up any excuse not to show up. Except ...
Except ... This is worth it to me. And I am past the point of caring what it looks like in the process. I have signed up to do whatever it takes to get the message out. And my own personal comfort zones need to be busted in order to get “there.” Taking that risk this morning was not pretty. I texted Barbie with some crazy outlandish pity party texts (to which she was like, annnnnnd so?). I showed up distracted and half-present, a half-sick kid in tow who I was tempted to take to the doctor instead of doing the workout. A perfect out. Right? Righto. Yet. Instead of being afraid of the ugly side of risk, I faced it.
Magic. Support from amazing women (thank you each of you for coming out). A great workout. Strangers interested. My child witnessing me in my zone. And, of course, a new level of MommaStrong reach. The flesh of me meets the flesh of MommaStrong and there is one more stitch sewn in the hem of its momentum. And now I know I can do it again. And again. And again. Expansion.
I read a quote recently that says “ ... but do not fool yourself by saying you would like to help usher in a free society, but you cannot sacrifice an armchair for it.” (Voltairine de Cleyre)
What is it that you want? Maybe it’s little or big or heavy or light. Whatever it is, what are you willing to do for it? Are you willing to wake up earlier than yesterday? Or work into the wee hours? Are you willing to physically support yourself to the cause? Are you capable of being grateful even for exhaustion when it means you're alive and ticking? What risk can you take today that demands a surrender of all the hesitation modern identity formation creates?
A list of Risks that may apply. Be risky. Pick one of your own, get yourself ready, and do the work. Oh, and eventually win ugly:
- Stop being shiny if you're not shiny.
- Stop eating like shit if you're unhealthy.
- Stop drinking if you're numb.
- Stop gossiping if you're isolated.
- Stop hiding if you're wanting to be seen.
- Stop wasting time if you're feeling busy.
- Stop giving your time away if you're feeling drained.
- Stop being sedentary if you're weak.
- Stop watching tv if you're creatively empty.
- Stop being comfortable if you're stuck.
- Stop saying no if you're broke.
- Stop saying "I got it" if you don't.
- Stop hesitating if you need expansion.
- Stop bingeing if you crave self-esteem.
- Stop being good if you want a change in your/the world.
- Stop blaming when you're lost.
- Stop thinking you can't when you can.
- (Add your own and sky diving does not count here)
A few more pics of my most recent risk. Primal level discomfort now conquered. Oh, and one of the fellow MommaStrongers helped get that sign in the ground with first a stripper shoe, then a crow bar, and finally a doorknob sample thing. Swoon. I'm surrounded by badasses.