The Arena

Last night I watched Brene Brown's Netflix special- well part of it.  Her book Daring Greatly has changed my perspective on so many things.  I don't know how or why I started reading it; I had owned it for a while after watching her TED talk, but I don't know what made me sit down and read it.  I do know that once I opened it, I couldn't put it down. It changed the way I parent, how I saw the world, my marriage- all of it. She opens the book with a quote by Teddy Roosevelt-

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

RIGHT!? Doesnt that make you want to cry or take up bull riding? She used that quote to inspire the reader to live a life full of vulnerability- a life that we are actively playing a part in- no matter how afraid we are.  She gave examples of what vulnerability looked like and what it could look like.  She talked about how being vulnerable required so much courage and how valuable doing difficult things in the midst of fear was.  She challenged the idea of a life that looks like everyone else's if we are all gifted in unique ways.

Then, last year I picked up Rising Strong by Brene and it truly changed my life.  Daring Greatly changed how I saw the world, but Rising Strong changed how I saw myself.  She challenged me to really act on the vulnerability that she had proven to be vital to a wholehearted life, as she calls it.  She told stories of people getting up from being knocked down, or just being brave enough to change some of the things that were holding them back.

She took us back to the arena and this time we had had the courage to get in, but we had fallen down in front of everyone, hard.  I feel like I haven't gone into the arena on many occasions because I didn't know what people would think of me if I did.  I think that the arena was sometimes small- just posting on instagram something vulnerable. Sometimes it was big, like deciding to go on medication for the depression that I had been struggling with for a couple of years and felt so much shame about.  Those arenas (mostly) brought so much freedom and peace, but there were some that completely backfired.  Some left me in bed, underneath a pillow in a lake of tears.  In the past few years, I have been in a lot of low and dark places.  Some just because of my depression and no actual events.  Some not.  But I have felt so much shame for struggling with depression when I have no tangible reason to be.  I have desperately wanted to be understood, and yet I didn't understand it myself.  Thankfully Jeff would listen to me cry over and over and would never tell me I was wrong to feel that way.  I had amazing friends that had been where I was and who I could call while locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor, and ask if I was ever going to be able to get up.

In Rising Strong, Brene talks about deltas.  A triangle is the greek symbol for delta and it means 'difference'.  A delta is also where the river meets the sea.  In a delta, it is dark and stagnant and hard. It isn't pretty or easy to get through and may take time to make it to the other side.  But once you make it through- you are in the ocean.  It is vast and beautiful and you come out on the other side completely different than how you went in.  She helped me give a name to those dark, low and stagnant times.  Without the delta, there would be no chance to be different.  I have always known to value the hard times and blah blah blah, but for some reason her explanation of it really gave me perspective.  I want to allow them to change and grow and move me, even though I want to complain and cry.  And boy have I done my share of complaining and crying, wow.  But I am not a victim of the delta- the delta is an opportunity.  I dont want to have shame about being in it- I want to help others who are struggling in their own delta.

So, about last night.  I watched the beginning of Brene's special but stopped right after she quoted Teddy and talked about the arena.  I paused it because I want Jeff to watch it with me and I moved on to Beyonce's Homecoming.  And WOW.  There are very few words for her incredible talent and that show in itself.  I was completely captivated in every way.  I couldn't look away.  Her talent and the talent of the people in the show was one of the most astounding and incredible thing I have ever seen.  Their hard work and creativity led to such an unbelievable show.  She wanted to bring African American culture to Coachella and wanted everyone who had felt marginalized to see themselves in her dancers and musicians.  She literally brought people into the arena.  Dancers, singers, musicians, choreographers, so many more- she brought them into the arena and they dared greatly in front of millions of people.  She took a cause that she felt so deeply about and they all put themselves out there in the most vulnerable way.  They worked tirelessly for hours and hours to perfect their performance so that when they went out there to share their message with the world, it would be perfect.  They showed aspects of African American culture in such a personal way.  And she reveals not only her culture, but she shows snippets of her life and all the work behind the scenes that went in to it in the film.  She gets even more vulnerable and real by showing video of her family, kids, her missteps, and even telling us what she eats.  She was vulnerable in every way she could be.  And man was it fun to watch.  It was absolutely transformative.

I want to be willing to work hard and get into the arena for a cause that I feel so passionate about- without any regrets.  And be myself while doing it.  My arena is much smaller and my causes different, but the threat is the same.   I want to teach my kids that being yourself and putting yourself out there to do what you were made to do is so much more important than being liked.

I wrote all of this down the morning after watching those specials because I wanted to get it all out in the open and I wanted to remember it.  I put a post it note on my mirror that says 'get in the arena' because I want to be reminded how important it felt the other night.  I don't want it to be a passing feeling that is more fleeting than it is life altering.

Then, I began reading the memoir by Dani Shapiro called Hourglass.  Through story telling of her life, she shares insight into her marriage.  But I was more enthralled by the stories of her life, than the ups and downs of her marriage.  She is an artist in so many forms- she hints on so many arenas that she has created for herself- books, memoirs, authors retreats, screen plays, movies, tv shows, children, and so much more.  She only shares small moments and feelings through these times, but I am caught by how much fear she carried through each one.  I understand that fear so well.  She is afraid the entire time she is in the arena and then afraid once it is over.  That's something I also understand so well.  There is no peace, and it seems that there is little joy once the moment has passed.  She never seems to enjoy the chances that she is taking and the beautiful, unique life that she has knitted together.

So, that is something that I want to add to my post it note today- 'get in the arena and have fun'.  I want to trust God that when I am out there doing what I feel He is calling me to, that He will guide and lead me and I don't have to fill my head with anxious thoughts about what is coming next.  Or what will happen if it all fails.  I know it is for a reason.  That is the difference between Dani Shapiro and I.  "I know whom I believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day".

Brene showed me that I want to be in the arena before I even really knew what it meant.  Beyonce showed me that I wanted to be in the arena working hard and having fun, but I was encouraged still by Shapiro that being wrought with anxiety afterwards and throughout is also something I want freedom from.  I want the clear headed joy of doing what I was created to do with the peace of Christ pulsing through my body even if I am laying down in the dirt.  I don't want to be sitting on the sideline weighing the pros and cons and reminding myself of everything that could go wrong, and all that I am risking by getting in the arena- I want to remind myself all the life, fun, and peace that I am risking by not getting in the arena.
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