Be Always In The Arena

It is not the critic

 

Theodore Roosevelt has long been a hero of mine.  But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered this quote.  Over the years I have heard it in bits and pieces, but have never known the true power of the words until I heard Dr. Brené Brown speak on Super Soul Sunday.  The title of her latest book, Daring Greatly, comes from this quote.

My intent, however, is not to rehash her book, it is to question my own absence from the arena.  For the longest time I have stood by and watched others live the life they dream.  I have questioned their choices, given advice (whether is was solicited or not), and made judgements.  I would do this with family, friends, strangers, it didn’t matter.  All the while I comfortably stood outside of the arena, never stepping in.

Growing up the only thing I ever wanted was to be on stage.  I dreamed of being on Broadway.  Singing and wowing audiences with my voice (let’s not even get started on the ego involved here).  I would audition, even though I was petrified of failure.  I spent most of my high school years living inside my local theatre.  When it was time for college I auditioned and was accepted to several colleges for musical theatre.  My dream school; NYU accepted me.  But, fear of debt and ultimate failure kept me from going.  I wound up in a wonderful program at a small school in North Carolina, Catawba College.  I auditioned, performed in shows, won accolades, trained and rehearsed.  After two years it was no longer financially feasible to attend.  I transferred to Florida State University and stepped out of the musical theatre arena permanently.  To this day it is my greatest regret.

My latest passion has been writing.  Full disclosure: I’d love to find a way to do it as my full time job.  But, I do not dare step into that arena.  How could I?  I have bills, I have debt, I have a house.  What would people think?  What would they say about this decision?  How could I really earn a living at writing?  So, I stay on the outside of the arena.  Convinced of failure but never fully investing in a new and daring dream.

I do not dare greatly.  I do not stand proud with a face caked in dust and sweat and blood.  I am not a man Theodore Roosevelt, my hero, would be proud of.

The day has come to step into the arena.  I will screw my courage to the sticking place.  I will brave the ridicule and judgement, whether it’s from others or from my own inner critic. No longer can I stand on the outside looking in.  I must launch myself into the arena and find my happiness, live my passion, and fulfill my dreams.

Take my hand and step into the arena with me.  We can go together.  Courage is greater when we have each other to depend on.  Join me here.

Namasté
Matthew

How Do You Do It?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine.  We were discussing how we were both feeling overwhelmed by our personal and professional obligations.  My friend is a passionate educator and a devoted wife and mother.  She juggles her theatre students, shows, her son’s theatre schedule, and her other son’s soccer schedule.  She and her husband have been together since high school.  And through all the storms of life, she makes it seem so simple.  And that observation will drive her crazy.  She related to me, while we spoke, that it frustrates her to no end when people ask her, “how do you do it?” Her polite reply is always, “I wish I knew.”  Her interior monologue is, “what the fuck are you talking about?  I’m barely holding on to my sanity!”

 

Cover of "The Invitation"

Cover of The Invitation

These feelings she shared remind me of an excerpt from the book, “The Invitation” by Oriah. In the book she says, “It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.  I want to know if you can get up, after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.”  This is an extremely powerful statement.  Can you?  Have you? Will you?

 

Often we are completely unaware of how we keep going.  We walk through our pain and grief, and despair much like Jacob Marley, weighed down by the chains we have forged in our lives.  The honest truth is I rarely know how I make it through the tough times.  My last major heartache I survived with anti-depressants, alcohol, and a violent temper that ignited far more often that I am even comfortable thinking about.  I am not proud of that time in my life.  And I know we all have those moments that we think back upon and hang our head in disgrace.  But each of these moments is an opportunity to build on our mindfulness to deal with the next moment.  Every pain, every heartache that we suffer is the key we can use to unlock our genuine selves.  Each of these moments in which we wonder how we do it, how we make it through, holds the answer to that very question.  Are we brave enough to look to see the answer?

Some times that answer may be as simple as FDR’s advice, “if you have reached the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.”  All you may be able to do in those moments is will yourself to place one foot in front of the other and keep moving through your life.  But, it is the courage to take one more step that makes all the difference.

In her book, Oriah also wonders, “It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.  I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.  I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.”  Those times that overwhelm us, those times that kick us in the face and laugh as we lie crying on the floor, those moments where we just don’t think we can go on; how have we faced them?  Is it straight on with bravery, compassion, and love?  Or, is it like a zombie that cannot feel pain because it isn’t truly alive?  Or do we face this life filled with anger and resentment?  Acknowledging our true coping skills is the first step.

I readily admit that my ability to face the toughest parts of life with bravery are far less frequent than my zombie approach or worse my anger.  But, as I consciously work to improve myself I find that love and compassion move in more quickly to take the place of the resentment.  I by no means have all the answers.  I often wonder how I have the nerve to write some of the things I write, when I clearly do not have my shit together.  But it is a start, it is a hope, it is a fervent passion to change myself that keeps me moving forward.

I wish for each of us the ability to face our toughest moments with love and compassion. That does not mean we don’t feel pain, heartache, or despair.  It means we can sit with that pain and move forward with a lighter heart.

Namasté
Matthew