Last fall my sister and I attended a Brave Souls Day in High River, AB. I saw it advertised in my Facebook feed. Knowing very little detail, I thought it looked interesting so I purchased two tickets. The minute we arrived I felt like I had found something special - I think that is the first thing I said to my sister. The outpouring of love was genuine and permeating.
The day was filled with music, speakers and dancing. It really was a celebration. The message I heard was, "Stacy you are lovable in all your messy messiness - and because of all your messy messiness!" I was like, "I am? My imperfections make me lovable?" The concept was quite frankly, liberating.
For most of my life I have worked very hard to be likable - I wasn't even trying to be lovable because I honestly felt that was an impossible goal. I have never felt worthy but I have always tried to be. I have lived in constant fear that everyone around me would discover I was a fraud. I just wanted people to like me - to find me a kind & useful person - I still do. I wanted to please people but found it near impossible because well, depending on the day, I can be shamefully inconsistent, easily overwhelmed, overly obsessive, a bit manipulative, hopelessly absentminded, totally self-absorbed and annoyingly insecure- which makes me awkward as a rule.
I mean well but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions so...I'm pretty much screwed. That's how I honestly have felt most of my life. I just tried to keep my head above water. If I pleased others, if I said the right thing, if I did the right thing maybe I'd qualify for something. A place in heaven? Acceptance from my peers? Respect? If I faked it long enough, maybe I'd make it. I lived in fear that someone would see me or sense that I didn't have it together and then they wouldn't like me anymore.
I think over the years, I developed a mutated lung which converted air into anxiety.
And so with my mutated lung, I walked into Brave Souls Conference and suddenly found that I could breath a little bit easier. No one was telling me that I had to be a certain way, they were meeting me and accepting me where I was in my journey.
Something about feeling that made me believe I could embrace my full potential. Something about admitting my inadequacies made me feel for the first time that I was stronger than my shortcomings. I didn't have to hold the shame so close anymore. I was given permission to be imperfect. I felt like I was breathing for the first time...
Lately, I've tried very hard not to go to places or be around people that tell me I am not good enough unless I do more or try harder or go faster. By saying this I definitely separate myself from many (but not all!) of my peers and set myself up to be rejected - the one thing I have feared my whole life. It means the community I've tried so hard to impress might see me as a disappointment because more has been too much; harder has been too hard; faster has always been too fast. And I know some will move on and leave me behind in their dust. And they may say I deserve the road I've paved with my intentions.
And maybe they are right...
But what if they are wrong...
Because, in part, it has been through all my trying harder and running faster that I have been choking on anxiety. I use to think my anxiety was serving a necessary purpose - keeping me motivated and vigilant and somehow, an acceptable life-traveler .
I'm learning how to breath in a new way- with a new lung that filters everything through love, compassion and peace. I think that is why Braves Souls calls to me.
There is a meme out there that reads:
"One day you will tell your story of how you've overcome what you are going through now and it will become part of someone else's survival guide."
This really does sum up perfectly what Brave Soul Day does. I sat and listened to many people share their stories of heart ache and suffering, how they overcame the trials in their lives and how they have kept moving forward bravely. When they say, "This is me. This is why." I find strength and courage to keep moving forward.
If any road is paved with good intention it is the road of life - and that's not a bad thing. I see that now. There are countless others who have already paved the way before us with their imperfect & inspiring intention. We all travel the same road - just in different shoes. We are never alone. I guess what makes the difference is who we choose to travel with. Some may leave you in their dust. And others will walk beside you - I have found myself in good company on my journey. I hope those souls you travel with are understanding, kind and most of all, brave.