How to be Brave

You may have noticed by now, but I write most of these posts as a sort of note to self, which I truly love sharing with you all in hopes that they bring you a little more happiness and positivity in this wild world. I’m not so perspicacious that I can say I am, for example, brave all the time and forevermore. In fact, I had a horrible nightmare last night. I think my dream was driven by the news I read right before bed (terrible, I know: I even set a reminder to put my phone on Do Not Disturb and read an actual book 30 minutes before bedtime – I ignored the reminder last night) about overturning the Affordable Care Act (check out the retweet from Politifact below) and white men both saying racist things and being sensitive about anyone calling them white. The news has been “depressing” for years, which is one of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of Upworthy. I think we could all use more uplifting news in our lives. The world is (I believe) a good place full of kind-hearted people, we just hear more about the awful stuff. But let’s be honest: since it became increasingly clear that Trump had a chance at becoming President, the news has been straight-up TERRIFYING. The fact that I’m white, able-bodied, and straight doesn’t escape me; I understand that I’m a lot more protected & privileged than many. Plus, I even have a job, AND I like it! But I’m also learning more about the discriminated-against reality many people face, and I’m scared for those people and for myself as a Jewish woman. Look, I don’t need to tell you how scary the world is. Sadly, we’re all (the majority of us in this country, anyways) far too aware.

So my nightmare last night started with a large group of white people chanting “Constitution with a K!” on the sidewalk of my college alma mater (it was a dream, no judging) and a black friend I went to high school with ran up to me and said “this isn’t okay, let’s do something to stop them!”

We alerted a police officer and our (mostly white) friends around a picnic table, running and running out of breath as we described the protest and what we suggested to contribute to the discussion. Somehow, I got pulled into a big car with two men I didn’t know, one of whom was clearly a “bad guy” and somehow (again, dream) knew I’m Jewish and hated that. The driver seemed neutral – he might have been my chance for escape. I found a cell phone on the floor and asked if it was his, and he shook his head and grinned at me, showing me his cell phone with a photograph of a shotgun as the background. He pretended to cock it and laughed, and I asked if he liked hunting. He said “sometimes!” and then I woke up.

Today is Friday the 13th, and a full moon! According to all of my favorite old wives’ tales (by the way, why are they all wives’ tales? were the men too busy showing each other shotgun pictures to tell tales?) today black cats are bad luck, werewolves turn into…werewolves, people go howling mad and it’s definitely a bad idea to have a baby. Because Friday the 13th! But here’s the thing: black cats, just like white cats, and Asian and Latino and Native American cats, are born not knowing what color they are, and the black cats I’ve known are sweet and need love too. Werewolves and crazy people are who they are throughout the lunar cycle, and maybe the full moon and lucky number day make them feel like they can be themselves. You do you! and my wonderful friend Katy is about to pop and would probably think it’s a GREAT day to have a baby…it’s about damn time! (update – she had her amazing little girl on the 16th! Congratulations, my friend!)

I happen to think today is a perfect day to write about how to be brave. Luckily, my writing brain (tooooootally independent of my regular brain – it decides when we write) agrees. Recently on Instagram, one of my Insta-friends (Kylie at the awesome Everblossom) challenged her followers to think of key words for 2017. She chose “live fearlessly” and at first, I picked perseverance and peace. And then I decided to choose courage.

To be clear, I’m talking about choosing courage over fear – this isn’t a polemic against people with anxiety (mental health is SO important, and when I feel twinges of high-level anxiety, yoga, meditation, exercise, and therapy help me work through it, and I know others who benefit greatly from modern medicine; anxiety is important to recognize and treat, never to scoff at or brush off) but a rallying cry to be brave in the fact of scary news.

So, today I’ll share how I plan to continue choosing courage. This isn’t a just do it challenge like deciding to chase your dreams (although steps in the right direction, just like chasing your dreams, help me a lot when choosing to be brave!) but one full of strategically chosen components that combine to create a cohesive plan (by the way, hi I’m Eliza, and I’m a planner).

As always, my steps only contain what came from my one head, and I know full well that many of you face challenges I have not. Please consider sharing here, or with others, ideas and solutions for life’s challenges! I KNOW two heads are better than one, and three are better than two…three’s my lucky number but even four ideas would be outstanding! 🙂  The theory of choosing courage over fear is awesome, but some situations are actually unsafe. Here’s how I deal with fears (physical, existential, etc.)

  1. Fear: Being abducted/attacked by crazy and newly-empowered neo-Nazis/misogynists/all-around wackadoodles
    • Solution: Be aware, alert, and informed. I also use the Safetrek app, and HIGHLY recommend it – you hold your thumb on a button if you feel unsafe, and when you’re safe, you release the button (on the app) and enter a PIN. If you don’t enter the PIN, the police are alerted and given your location to help.
  2. Fear: Death. My loved ones’, my own.
    • Solution: Perspective! If I’m so worried about what will inevitably happen all the time, then I’ll look back from my deathbed (if I get that chance to reflect) and think “what was I so worried about?” And if I spend the precious time I have with my loved ones worrying about them, same problem. Isn’t life worth really LIVING? Well, take those fears about dying and flip them – be afraid of not really living – the best solution to a fear of death is to live your life! Oh and also, you know, take care of yourself and others. Exercise, eat well, meditate. Meet your friends and family for walks, instead of hours sitting in a bar. Or in addition to 🙂
  3. Fear: The world is crumbling (insert anything on the news) and our new POTUS is going to destroy human rights advances we’ve made over the past few decades.
    • Solution: Do your part as a citizen. First of all, vote – any chance you get, make your voice count. Grit your teeth and read/watch the news: my grandparents, at 83 and 90, watch CNN and then FOX news so they hear both sides and in their minds, “maybe get the whole story”. And once the verdicts are in, stay informed (Politifact is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, internationally-recognized fact-checking organization) and insist on truth; stay involved by signing petitions, calling your senators, marching, and having the tough conversations. #writersresist

  4. Fear: Climate change/the environment is rapidly shifting and deteriorating and it makes me sad and scared.
    • Solution: Again, do your part as a citizen to make a difference. There are huge and small ways to make a positive environment, from living more sustainably (see post 1 and post 2 about it – one of the most important things I’ve written about) to donating to the Sierra Club and having fun in the process, to making your voice heard about environmental issues (see above – call your representatives).
  5. Fear: Public speaking/underperforming at work/relationships not working out
    • Solution: Practice, do your research, and communicate. Be respectful, do your best (push yourself here!), and be informed – that’s the most anyone can do. Also, power poses are amazing.

Time for a reality check yet? These tips don’t replace fear – I get that, I promise. But I share them, and this extra-long post with you, because I’ve spent most of my life worrying about stuff (I have a Let It Be tattoo to remind myself that I can’t control everything, also because The Beatles are the best band ever) and have discovered that I REALLY prefer to take action, side-lining my fears in the process, instead of doing nothing and being scared.

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So when I feel fear, if there’s a legitimate root cause there (I have to give a giant presentation that scares the tailored work-pants off me, or the worst possible candidates are being placed into high cabinet positions) then I take action, which actually helps me feel better. It always surprises me how much better I feel once I take small steps, in my small way, towards fixing the problem. If my fear is rooted in too much going on for me to even pin down the source, I slow down and pay attention to my body: is my heart racing? Assuming I’m not in physical danger, I’ll try jumping jacks in a pinch, although I prefer a long, fast walk in the woods or a power yoga class. Is my mind racing and my stomach hurts? I’ll hug my dog/husband/friends/family/self and focus on breathing deeply to calm down until I can actually solve the underlying problem, or if it persists, I’ll call a therapist for professional guidance.

Friday the 13th, 2017 is a beautiful, sunny day and the same day as my year-end review at work. I woke up scared from a nightmare, wrote about it, and have prepared for my review (and will again right before so it’s all fresh). That’s what I can do, and my body is still telling me I need to chill, so it’s yoga time. If you’ve stuck with me this far, on my longest blog post EVER, you are a true blue friend/devoted family member 🙂 Thank you! Let me know what you think or what I missed – and I know I don’t know everything about bravery.

Sending courage from our home to yours!


A Happy Wife

Happy Wife, Creative Life

Happy Wife, Creative Life

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