You know those fateful moments in life? The ones that come along and you don’t even realize they’re about to send you into a tailspin? The ones if you saw coming, you would take a left instead of a right? Or maybe eaten at Chipotle instead of the local brewery? One of these moments happened to me recently.
I love Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble is my happy place. I love books, can feel the story pulsing in my hands, can sense the world hidden inside. Like any other book enthusiast (a.k.a. obsessed-hoarder of all the stories, whose favorite characters are friends) I appreciate being around all that creative genius stuffed onto rows and rows of shelves.
Imagine this. I’m in my happy place, surrounded by genius, with my man, loving life, thinking about writing and my year of bravery when lo and behold, at the end of an aisle, in prime book real estate, sits a glorious title.
Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes.
It speaks to my soul.
What better food for my brain during my year of bravery than to read about someone elses?
I buy it. I go about my week. I keep hoping to get to it. I have a break in the busyness. I pick it up. Devour it. I can’t put it down.
You know those times when you’ve had just enough to drink that another glass of wine sounds like the best idea? That little voice in your mind keeps nagging a whole bottle of wine isn’t the best idea, but you wave it off, because one more couldn’t hurt. Until you wake up in the morning, dry mouth, pounding migraine, head still spinning.
This is how I turned the pages of Year of Yes. I wanted more. And more. And more. And more couldn’t hurt. I sipped more words. Until it did.
Reading about Shonda’s fear and how it held her back felt like holding a mirror. I kept nodding and whispering, “Me too.” I kept sipping her words, getting drunk on the fact that this woman was my kindred spirit and she didn’t even know it. (One day soon she will. One day soon we will meet and we will chat and she will love me as much as I love her.)
I was so word tipsy by the time I got to Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth, I thought “Preach it sister” and kept guzzling until I got to this gem of a passage:
(Context-Shonda, an alumni, is delivering the commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class at Dartmouth).
When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. They have wisdom to impart. They have lessons to share. They tell you: follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until your dream comes true.
At this point my heart sighs. Yes. This is what I’m doing. I’m learning to dream again. I’m taking brave steps to achieve those dreams. I even have a Dream throw pillow and a Dream sign sitting on my bookshelf of Dreams. My new kindred spirit says I am on the right track. Then I turn the page and read these words:
I think that’s crap.
Wait what? I sit up straighter, turn back a page. I must have gotten two pages stuck together. I mean, has she not seen my Dream throw pillow and my Dream sign sitting on my bookshelf of Dreams?
But I have not skipped pages. My heart sinks. Suddenly, I’m not feeling so kindred. I am feeling dry-mouthed and spinny. I keep reading.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.
The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they think and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be . . .” or “I wish . . .”
“I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.”
Really? She picked my top two. My greatest longings. As Shonda so often and eloquently says: Rude.
But she doesn’t stop there. On no, she twists the knife:
You write in your journal about your dreams. Or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it. You’re planning it. Kind of. You’re blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should do. Right? That’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?
Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.
Double rude. You have offended my Dream pillow.
Stupid kindred spirit telling me to stop dreaming. (Love you, Shonda.)
We know this though. Logically, we know we won’t live our dreams if we don’t get off our butts and do something. Still we stay immobile. Why?
Probably for as many diverse reasons we all have for being brave. Which means it comes down to fear. It always comes down to fear, doesn’t it? And if it comes down to fear, it means I need to step up my game.
Sure I might be doing something brave everyday. Sure these brave acts are tiny steps forward. But the truth? I’ve reach a point in this journey (now 46 days in when this blog posts) that I need to step up my game.
This realization hit mack-truck hard as I stood there in deer-like, wide-eyed shock.
But, how? I whined. I couldn’t pull up a single way to step up said game. Not because I’ve overcome fear. But because I’ve buried all those dreams so deep inside that I can’t access them. They are in a coffin buried six-feet underground. They are shriveled corpse dreams. They are decaying worm food.
I need a shovel.
I need a shovel because I am still terrified of putting myself out there for my career. I am terrified of telling a complete stranger my book blurb. I am terrified of public speaking. I am terrified of tracking down local magazine editors to interview to figure out if I even want to write for them. Much less submit an article? TERRIFIED. I have not done these things. I have put them on the back-burner and allowed all the other less terrifying things to happen. Write a novel. Easy. Query agents. Mundane. Going on the radio. So fun.
Not exactly getting me out of my comfort zone and achieving growth is it? I so badly want to get over this. It’s why I started my year of bravery. So I grabbed that shovel and did the only thing I really know how to do. I made a list. I am currently staring at a list of 18 things to do, all with various rankings on the terrifying Richter scale. They will keep me busy doing for months.
So here is my call to action.
Here is me metaphorically handing you a shovel.
Get doing. And share with me all the mud-flinging, terrifying fun you have doing it. Maybe, if you’re brave enough we can chat about it on my Acts of Bravery podcast (#5 on the terrifying list)!