Bravery Doesn’t Leave Room For Blame

 Image credit: Dylan Spitz

Image credit: Dylan Spitz

"A life with love is a life that's been lived"

The fear sits heavy in my stomach. Lately it’s split between fear for myself and fear for others. I weave in and out of my own mind and into conversations that have to do with my own life and with the lives of my people. My life is up in the air and how the pieces will fall is still to be determined based on my own heart, but my people’s lives? For the most part they’re in full motion.

They’re contemplating mortality, navigating the beginning stages of hard seasons, finding ways to not let fear consume them when looking at the last few months of their loved one’s life. 

Sometimes, I sit by them and just listen and land on how small my problems seem in comparison. I’m more afraid on behalf of someone else than I am for myself. In some ways, what a blessing. A blessing to both know love in that kind of way and to be so anchored in my own self that I have room to love and care that freely. Sometimes free of pain, most times not. All the time centered in how I know and define love — as a feeling that’s given unconditionally and without expectation of anything in return. 

Accountability, responsibility, showing up, kindness, repentance, forgiveness, going to war for someone and not against them — they all exist under the umbrella of a relationship that’s based on love, but love itself, that's a brave, solo act. One where you show up every day no matter what just because you’re moved to. 

With that in mind, I walk through streets highly aware that I’m doing more than just surviving, I’m doing life my own way. It feels good. I've found happiness and peace through my pain, instead of shame and bitterness. Belonging comes easy when I’m living my truth. I still meander a lot, but not in a lost kind of way, more in a “I’m finding myself" kind of way. And more often than not, I find myself paying attention to others and learning how they love and show up in bravery.

I take in the strength that exudes from a friend who is determined to learn from the season in their life. The uncertainty is coming from all sides but still they are determined to not swallow and pretend like all will be okay, instead, they want to be changed by this. They want to know that the experience led to growth and not just emptiness. My friend is who I strive to be like, always.

I’ve looked into the eyes of someone who knows that the end is a matter of when and not if for someone they love and it was like looking back in time. I’ve been there. I know the pain, the desire to run, the pull to stay. Lord is my friend making staying look so grace-filled and gorgeous. 

When I read line after line from a friend who is at the beginning of a season of uncertainty, of not knowing how slow or how fast, of wanting to tap out, and yet is still showing up. I sit in awe. To face life with bravery is sometimes not an option, it’s a calling. 

And, that’s one of the bigger truths I’m landing on — when you’re sitting in bravery there is no room for blame. You don’t have time to point fingers and jot down equations until the answer adds up to someone who isn’t you. Life is so much more layered than that. I look at my people and just want to take in everything they can teach me about not projecting onto others, about love, about forgiveness. They are living testaments to the agency that is born when we choose to take responsibility for how our inner self may be impacting how we view the outside world.  

Before this season, I had a tendency to take on hurt that wasn’t mine and that wasn’t caused by me. I would internalize it, let it change my mood, and then find myself apologizing on behalf of someone else’s feelings and triggers. It was the perfect marriage — I had a tendency to volunteer to be the symbol, or holder, of other people's frustrations and they had zero desire to be the owner of their own. I’ve grown a lot and the ruler for that is that I’m now catching myself before taking on someone else’s pain or internalizing their bitterness. All the blame that is mine, I rightfully own. All the pain that is mine, I sit in therapy once a week for. All the ways that I fail, I ask for forgiveness and grace for. The rest can be coat checked to someone else's name and charged to someone else's card. 

In relationships, I’m learning to help support without usurping. I'm learning to make clear that my ability to hold a mirror up to someone in no way makes me responsible or the cause for what they see. I do this, mostly because I like being able to go to bed lately and sleep soundly because my conscience isn’t keeping my longing company and rustling me up at 4am. 

I like not looking over my shoulder every five minutes thinking that someone is out to get me. My monsters get stared at and stared down in places that are safe for me, so that I don’t see them in every essay or every window as I walk to work. Defining my self-worth has helped me take ownership for my missteps as well as my successes because I know that regardless of the day or the season, I am still worthy of love, grace and forgiveness. It makes owning blame easier. It makes knowing what I am to blame for clearer.

I walk with the same gait because taking the time to ground myself, to know I'm worth the chase, to identify what is mine and what is just not, it was all to my benefit and made it possible to keep my momentum going. 

I’m in line with my integrity, my values, and the speed I’m deciding to move in. I’m in awe of my people, their experiences, and their bravery. 

I’m sitting in pain, anger, and happiness, all at once. It’s freeing to have them all co-exist. 

During hard seasons, I don’t pray to be rid of all pain, I pray instead for clarity to see what is mine to own, for strength to navigate the hard and for open eyes to be able to see the good in every day. God still hasn’t let me down.