It’s been many years since I’ve had to turn anything in for school, but I just submitted my final exit project for the Living Brave Semester I did through Brené Brown’s education outlet, Courage Works.
Okay, there wasn’t an exit project nor was anything graded, but as it is with life, sometimes lessons just happen on their own.
In January, I’d seen a friend post about the class online and decided this would be a great way to begin the year. I planned on doing the class myself, but at the last moment risked asking a friend if she’d like to play along.
“Sure,” she said.
The Living Brave Semester curriculum included reading two of Brene’s books: first “Daring Greatly,” then “Rising Strong.” There were weekly assignments to be completed and logged online and we were encouraged us to utilize the online groups and forums for discussion – or bring your friends along and discuss lessons with them.
Neither my friend nor I had a clue what we were getting ourselves into, but we both knew we wanted to grow and were committed to doing the work and required reading it would take to do so. There ended up being four of us total who did the semester together, two out of state, and two of us in the same neighborhood (two more joined in on just the reading). We communicated mostly through text messages; sharing favorite quotes, bible verses, screen snapping snippets of chapters, passing along TED talks or other videos and being as honest as we could with each other during our class.
My local Living Brave sister and I went for walks and talked about the material as it pertained to our lives, our marriages, our kids and our friendship. We texted paragraphs of process to each other after the kids went down and talked on the phone after dropping kids off at school.
There were days of silence in between lessons as we chewed and digested the chunky material. For instance, Chapter 3 “Understanding and Combating Shame,” wrecked me for almost a week. I read and reread sentences over and over in an effort to wrap my head around what I was hearing and what it meant to me. It was pretty terrible because I didn’t like what I heard and was terrified at the prospect of changing.
I ruminated (thinking that gets caught in the spin cycle without immediate resolution) and had the same two conversations with my friends and husband for too many days in a row. Thankfully, these conversations and supportive people were part of the healing and growing cycle and so eventually my thoughts popped out of spin and into the rinse.
But life still happened, as it does.
Along the journey I discovered a lot of truths, but I also discovered untruths, mixed-up messages tangled from years of playing emotional telephone, “big fish” styled stories I’d perpetuated to glamorize unhealthy coping mechanisms – intuitively I knew most of these things, having worked through the bulk of this in my graduate program in Clinical Psychology (I mean, have you ever done a genogram? I have), but some things run deep and deep things require digging to get at.
I also discovered that although I’ve never had a problem daring greatly, I’ve spent most of my life in the arena – by myself because I didn’t trust anyone else to be in there with me. I was too afraid to go into battle with other people because battles get ugly and battles get real; but that’s exactly why I needed them in there with me.
People are an important part of growth. They help make things real.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand,” Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit.
That may have been the biggest lesson I learned from the work. Don’t battle alone, no matter how Texan you are. You need other people.
As the time went on, assignments made things muddier, not clearer. Things I’d known or thought for years were now confusing and jumbled. It took time in prayer, conversations with friends, stepping into arena after arena to work though things. But as I worked through each situation, themes, stories and passions kept fighting and scrapping their way to the surface. It was at this time, my husband offered me a challenge.
Get in the arena, yet again. This time bring people with you.
People are important agents for change. The right people can challenge you when you doubt yourself.
And so, my husband, my Living Brave friend, and myself put on a clinic.
A volleyball clinic.
It could have been an underwater basket-weaving clinic, it didn’t matter. What mattered was getting in the arena, bringing some people with me and trying not to steam roll anyone in the process (okay, slight steam rolling moments because some things just run deep).
I was terrified, but resisted the urge to run off and do it by myself. I resisted the urge to hold my breath and white-knuckle it. I resisted the urge to hand off the work to someone more capable, more qualified or with a better sports marketing pedigree than me.
And here is what happened: Each of us did what each of us does well and each of us pushed each other in the process.
At the end of it all, my Living Brave friend asked me “you have to be happy, right?” But it wasn’t happiness I felt. What I felt was whole, complete.
The kind of complete you can only feel when God brings all things together in your life to benefit others, to encourage others, to help those who have helped you and hope to return a bit of that back to them. It’s the kind of complete you feel when you are living out your passion, purpose and expressing it in a creative way.
My favorite part? Getting a front row seat to watch the whole thing from inside the arena where everybody else was already daring greatly. I wasn’t in there myself, I was in there with those who have been with me all along.
I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I know I’m brining people with me.
Priscilla Tallman is a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ. She holds her Crossfit L1 Trainer Certification as well as the CrossFit Mobility Certification and an undergraduate and graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has written for FloVolleyball, Volleyball Magazine, The Art of Coaching Volleyball, Gorgo Fitness Magazine, CrossFit Fury and the CrossFit Games. She is married with two children and in a former life played collegiate and professional volleyball. This blog is a collection of her own opinions, stories and process and do not reflect that of the sites or magazines for which she writes.