Bravery is the focus of the new year for me. As I write this, I’m eating chocolate on a train through the Swiss Alps with one of my oldest and dearest friends who gets me completely (what a gift), taking in a view that I’m so grateful I get to see it brings tears to my eyes. Reality check, pinch me...creation is a miraculous thing and life is feeling pretty great.
As I waited at the train station before I got on, I caught up on some of my reading and, amazingly enough, the Wall Street Journal led me back to my faith. Peggy Noonan writes this week about political correctness and the arts. It’s a good read of course, take it in and let me know what you think.
As she talks about the experience of the artist she says:
“All artists are meant to be free and daring. Their job, whether in drama, comedy or music, is to approach the truth—to apprehend it, get their hands on it and hold it up for a moment for everyone to see. That’s a big job, a great one, and you can do it only if you’re brave.”
Now, brave is not something that I have ever considered myself. In fact when I took the VIA Character assessment, (try it here- it’s fun and interesting)
it didn’t register high on my list of character strengths…my top two were fairness and forgiveness. The cool thing about positive psychology though, is that every trait can be improved with dedicated work. The more I write and explore my faith, the braver I get. I have the heart of an artist, a writer in my case, and the pull of my intuition is not something I can ignore. If I do, it leads to the worst feeling of stagnation and deep dissatisfaction.
Pope John Paul II, in his 1999 Letter to Artists, noted something that, when I read it in Ms. Noonan’s column, struck a deep cord of understanding in my heart, and prompted me to read the entire letter.
Here it is in - just in case:) Pope John Paul II is one of my heroes from as far back as I can remember. He had such a gentle way with wisdom and power.
“The artist faces a constant sense of defeat. You’re working, you’re trying, but it’s never as good as you wanted, as you dreamed. Even your most successful work only comes close. Artists are looking for “the hidden meaning of things.” Their “intuitions” spring from their souls. There is an “unbridgeable gap” between what they produce and “the dazzling perfection” of what they glimpsed in the creative moment. They forge on anyway.”
Oh my gosh, yes. That feeling of never quite good enough and always looking for the hidden meaning…every single day. I love it when something that I didn’t know was “a thing” is so brilliantly articulated. But despite any frustration, the infinite possibilities keep pulling me back to the vision...like “A Million Dreams” from the Greatest showman.
What I have discovered in my soul searching adventure, is that while I’m not wild, I am free, and free looks wild to many. I think what causes this perception, is when we don’t allow our own souls to be free, and we resort to judging others out of dissatisfaction with ourselves. We all have the ability to be true to ourselves and focus on our own best self, if we are brave enough. That’s the life I want, and the example I want to set for my kids.
We hold ourselves back from our fullest life for so many human reasons.
My top three:
Afraid of the judgment of others
2. Afraid of failure, which comes in more forms than I can count - broken hearts, financial loss, lost relationships, being misunderstood…(Big scary stuff that only faith can conquer for me)
3. Making the call as a parent that doesn’t produce the smile in the moment, but wisdom and intuition tell me is the right choice for the long haul (so much harder with teenagers than when they were little).
I experience freedom though, as I confront and work through these things, and the experience is equal parts exhilaration and deep contentment and, as always, mixed with a little fear. As I walk the path, the truth beats the fear when I am brave enough to confront it. Wishing you the brightest and bravest 2019. Here’s to the accepting the challenge of staying brave.