BE BRAVE FRIDAY
I was going to write about so many people being brave in our high school’s lockdown this week, but I’m not ready for that yet, and this came out instead.
It’s long (I write novels), but I hope you’ll give it a look anyway.
I was talking to a man at the Chamber of Commerce dinner this week and I hadn’t seen him in a while.
Okay, let’s face it. I haven’t seen anyone in a while unless you count Halloween and picking up the farm share and going to the farmer’s market.
And I told him how terrified I was about going up to get an award for being someone that the Chamber president thought did good things for the community or that they admired or something like that.
“We’ll be rooting for you, Carrie,” he said. “You’ll be great.”
“God love you for a liar,” I said.
“No! No, you will.”
Two minutes before I got the award, I went to the bathroom and realized that I put the Spanx underwear I’d bought on backward and the lacy parts were not on my front, but on my butt, making my already non-existent butt even less existent.
“No,” I half yelled.
A woman in the next stall made a shocked noise.
I was not alone. I was with someone who made shocked noises.
Here’s the thing: I could have done one of two things. I could have taken my underwear off, turned it around, and have her see in that space below the stall me trying to yank up my underwear over my big, knee-high boots that are supposed to make me feel like Wonder Woman.
There in the bathroom stall of the Atlantic Oceanside, I did not feel like Wonder Woman. My boots were highly recognizable. She’d totally figure out that it was me who yanked her underwear off and did a switch-around in the stall.
I imagined going up on the little stage and having her stand up and shout, “THIS WOMAN JUST TOOK OFF HER UNDERWEAR AND SWITCHED IT AROUND! SHE CANNOT EVEN PUT HER UNDERWEAR ON CORRECTLY! DO NOT GIVE HER AN AWARD!”
I did not have that kind of courage right then, and I yanked those stupid underwear right back up backward and flushed the toilet and opened the stall. I washed my hands, but I couldn’t even look in the mirror.
“Coward,” I whispered. Not very self-love, I know.
A tiny bit later, Nina Barfuldi St. Germain said a bunch of super lovely things about me and my news blog and I heard none of it. She said my name. I stared. A million years passed. Well, they did in my head.
Alf Anderson, the director gave me a sympathetic look and for a second, I thought he knew about my Spanx, but no. He knew about my stage fright, which happens before I speak, but especially happens in front of people I know locally. The smaller the crowd, the worse I am. Shove me in a school, put me in another state? Put me in front of 1,000 strangers. I rock it. But my own community? With backward Spanx?
I stood up. I walked over. I got on stage somehow, hugged Nina and thought, “Her shoulders are so tiny, how does she do so much, how does she hold so many things together?” And then I thought, “I bet she isn’t wearing her Spanx backward.”
But I looked at Alf and Nina and the lovely man from the beginning of the meeting and Shaun, and they gave me safety.
The award was supposed to be about me, but I knew it wasn’t. The award was about community and people loving you and you loving them even when your Spanx are on wrong and everything might seem backward.
While up there, I told this story about how my daughter and I were once stuck in a flash flood in Charleston and how we hunkered under an awning, watching water spew, filling up the road, thundering down around us, and a kid looked at me and said, “ ‘Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced,’ Soren Kierkegaard.”
And I was sort of flabbergasted because here I was in a flash flood in Charleston and a pre-teen, barely teen, guy was quoting Kierkegaard at me. I wasn’t flabbergasted that he knew the old philosopher because I know teens are smart and amazing. I was flabbergasted that he gave me that quote like an offering. It was a special offering because in one of the book that I had coming out, the teen protagonist is a big Kierkegaard fan.
And my own little quote came to me, “Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.”
I gave that to him and he smiled. He said, “You either brave it or you don’t. But I will root for you.”
And that’s what it’s all about. It’s about rooting for each other and sometimes our own selves. It’s about giving offerings like Nina of the strong but tiny shoulders did. It was about all those people in that room, working hard, being brave, supporting each other and the kids and the employees, and places like the library, and making community.
Helping others is an act of bravery because it’s an act of hope.
Caring about others is an act of bravery because it’s an act of empathy.
Rooting for others is too because sometimes they might not be wearing their underwear correctly.
I promise that I will root for you through all the forces, hidden and unhidden, and I truly hope that we can all root for each other—in good times and bad—and maybe especially bad. I will root for you. And sometimes that’s a little brave.
*These paintings are some of the first I did and they are on bookshelves because I thought only ‘real’ painters used canvas. And I’m sharing them here because for me they are about hope and becoming. And they remind me of all the people I’m rooting for.