I had a hard, but good, conversation with an old friend yesterday about healing, change, courage, and fear.
I went to bed thinking about these things and early this morning I awoke with the strangest dream: I was still my 32-year old self, but living with my parents in my childhood home. Brené Brown and her family came to visit us. Those of you who have been following me for a while (or who know me personally) know I'm a huge Brené fan and would love to spend a day with her. All throughout the dream, as I interacted with her, her family ,and my family, I was trying to access my authentic self, but I just couldn't do it. I ended up behaving like some warped version of myself.
Even as her family ordered and consumed virgin cocktails (yes, Brené, you are sober even in my dreams), I tried and tried to be ME. And I kept running up against fear, judgement, anger, and frustration. And it royally pissed me off.
I awoke from my dream bewildered. I thought it odd and somewhat amusing.
Then I began to understand.
You see, I've learned a lot from Brené's teachings about courage, vulnerability and authenticity. And that is exactly what she represented in my dream. She was the embodiment of those things.
Being in my childhood home was the story of fear and judgement in my life. I have a great family, but I spent a good deal of my childhood and young adult years living in fear of what me being my most authentic self would mean for me and the world I live in.
To be more specific, I was terrified to come out of the closet.
The fact that in my dream, my fear (represented by being in my childhood home) and my authenticity, courage and vulnerability (represented by Brené) couldn't understand each other or meet in the middle, or even co-exist without anger and frustration, made me finally understand this truth:
There is no courage without fear.
There is no vulnerability without fear.
There is no authenticity without fear.
The space where they all meet is where the magic happens.
I've been thinking for awhile now that I could be vulnerable while controlling the fear. That I was being authentic "enough" -- while avoiding the discomfort or the fear of how it is to truly be ME in the world. I thought that I could be courageous, while staying firmly ensconced in a controlled and calculated risks-versus-benefits environment. It's as if I've been waiting to be authentic until it was "safe" enough.
I'm beginning to understand what this really means.
Being vulnerable means I choose to have the hard conversations. Sometimes this means the conversations that make me feel like I'm going to puke.
Being authentic means I choose to learn to love myself and to be me, no matter where I am or who is surrounding me.
Being courageous means I choose to try. It means I choose to love. It means I make choices for myself that feel right, even if it doesn't appear "right" to those around me.
This is really effing hard.
I am not suggesting that living an authentic life feels like being mired in crap and fear all the time. In fact, I think the more we choose to live an authentic life, there is infinitely more joy available to us.
What I am starting to understand is that being authentic means that I do choose, however, to have those hard conversations when necessary, because I care about creating and preserving joy in my heart.
What is calling you? What truth are you ready to live?
As Ash Beckham recently said in her TED talk: "All a closet really is is just a hard conversation."
I'm learning this as I go. But I can say, if Brené Brown and I ever sit down to drink virgin cocktails, you bet your ass I'll bring a flask and my authentic self.
A note for those who may be scared to come out . . .
Since I am talking specifically about coming out of the closet, I want to provide this disclaimer: Due to the sometimes dangerous physical or emotional harm that can be brought to someone if they choose to come out, sometimes having courage lies in your ability to understand your environment and wait to have conversations until it is safe to do so. I'd encourage anyone who is wanting to speak their truth, but is afraid of physical or emotional harm, to find ONE safe person and speak their truth to that one person in a safe environment. The Trevor Project is a good resource to help LGBTQ people with the coming out process.