“I used to be tough.”
A friend sent me a text message recently, feeling hollowed out and empty. The tough person I knew—full of smarts, courage, humor, an extraordinary capacity to love—is now a shadow. My heart tightened for him.
I have been exactly where he is now, emptied out, feeling raw and vulnerable and splintered. This is what fear does—it scoops out everything that we are and leaves a cracked shell. But being a big gaping hole of nothing can also be a good thing: it means we can fill ourselves back up again with everything we really want and need to live the best version of the life we always wanted.
This song, these brave, fire-spark words by Sara Bareilles, came into my life when I was my own big, black vacuum of sadness. Almost a year later, it still lifts my heart and makes my eyes smart—that’s a tear of gratitude, of strength, of that deep-stomach knowing that what she’s saying about courage and being brave is all the truth we need:
So, this is for you, that dear friend who sent me this despairing message a few days ago. It is also for anyone who has ever wavered, struggled with doubt or felt that fear when “sometimes a shadow wins.”
I wanna see you be brave.
And to be brave—what is that anyway?
To “say what you wanna say”
To do the things that will nourish you, not anyone else
To follow that tiny, barely-audible voice that’s telling you things that (it seems) nobody else agrees with
To be unapologetic about wanting to play, sing, laugh, break out in dance
To live in joy
To breathe, if that’s the only thing you can muster up for the day
To do what feels right, not what everyone is saying is right
To look after yourself
To let go of pain
To follow that dream
To choose love over fear
To love and love and love (yourself, above all)
I’d love for you to show me how big your brave is (and how you got there). But most importantly, show it to yourself.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Ronen Rosenblatt/Pixoto