Happy Birthday to Me! + Thoughts on Bravery

It’s my birthday! I’m in Pescadero, CA with the beautiful Kyrstin Lulow, and it is crisp and chilly but sunny outside, a great day to spend time outside, and also a great day to spend time in a coffee shop in a cute little town. It’s a great day to be alive!

I’ve been struggling with my writing process. I said that the blog was going to continue, and it’s been sitting here stagnating. The desire to write is here, and the desire to post things I write is here, but I’ve been getting in the way of myself in my process somehow. So this is a post I’m going to start AND finish, because dang, who cares if it’s not perfect? At least it will be something. And I want to always at least be something instead of nothing.

The things on my mind this week are bravery and new birth, which are concepts that go hand in hand.

It takes bravery to birth something new for yourself, to break out of the old, to take a step in a new direction. It’s vulnerable! So much of what we do is habit; we are creatures of habit. Our habits are what we know; they ground us and make us feel safe. If you want to try doing things in a new way and you bump into a feeling of fear, it’s probably because you’re stepping outside your normal habits, outside the normal bounds of your self-enforced safety bubble. In that moment the fear produces self doubt. Why did I want to do this? What if I’m wrong? What if I fail? What if I get hurt? Maybe I should go back into my safety bubble.

If you ever want to change ANYTHING in your life, you are going to come to this moment. In this moment the easy option is to listen to the self doubt and retreat back into your safety zone, into your comfortable habits. And if you take the easy option, you tell yourself that you’ve explored the other option and found you didn’t like it — which is a lie. If you come to the fear and listen to it, retreat before pushing past it and finding out for yourself, then you’ve come one step too short.

The harder option in that moment is to push forward through the fear; to be okay with the discomfort of not knowing, and to step forward despite your desire not to. This is what bravery is.

We make out bravery to be fearlessness, but the truth is that the people that do truly great things with their lives face just as much fear and doubt as anyone else. There is NO WAY to avoid feeling fear and doubt in our lives. What distinguishes the brave from the boring is the choice to move forward anyway, to acknowledge the fear but not be crippled by it.

I think birth is a great metaphor to use to talk about bravery. Your current set of habits, your own personal safety bubble, are sort of like the womb. Once upon a time you lived in the safest, warmest, most comfortable little bubble. All your needs were met without any conscious effort on your part. But… you had to leave that perfect little bubble of an existence. You had to, because a whole world, totally outside your range of perception, was waiting to be experienced. What is the point of life if we live perpetually in a little bubble? What is real life if not a fantastic opportunity to explore and grow? One of the great lies of our time is that comfort will bring you happiness. That’s bullshit: the pursuit of comfort keeps you in the womb. It keeps you in the safest places, because that’s what feels most comfortable. Pursuing comfort keeps you from experiencing real life, experiencing the thrill of having some skin in the game, of taking risks, of putting yourself out there, of learning for yourself what life really is instead of accepting what other people tell you about it.

Of course, for a baby in the womb it’s an easy choice. Babies don’t know how uncomfortable the birthing process is. They don’t know that they’re about to enter into a world that is infinitely complex, that they will experience pain beyond anything they’ve ever known, that life will be difficult. They’re just sort of pushed out into the world. We all were just pushed out of the womb, in an intensely uncomfortable process called Birth, into the world.

If you’re here, it means you survived that uncomfortable process. You (as a little baby!) survived one of the most physically uncomfortable things that anyone could ever experience: hours and hours of being squeezed and squeezed and squeezed, forced out of your warm comfortable home and into a totally overwhelming place where all of a sudden you need to breathe for yourself, and your body sends you signals when you’re hungry that you don’t understand but that hurt, and you experience a range of sensations on your skin that you don’t understand, and you can’t make sense of anything. You not only survived this process but you made sense of it. You grew up. You’re here! That transition is so far behind you that you don’t even think about it.

Life continues to give us opportunities to be born in new ways. We are always coming upon chances to try new things, to step slightly out of our current womb and expand our universe, but we rarely see these opportunities for what they are. We see them through the lens of fear of the unknown, and we immediately turn away. This process is so automatic and so normal we don’t realize that we are doing it. We can do this our entire lives, because unlike the baby who doesn’t have any choice in the matter of their birth, it is up to us to give ourselves a push. Rather, it is up to us to choose between keeping ourselves comfortable or stepping into the unknown to expand ourselves.

Ask yourself, who are the people you admire most? What do you admire about them? How do you think they got to where they are – by always making the safe choice? Or by being brave when their fears came up, by doing what they knew they had to even when it was scary? Who do you want to be in this world?

I’ve been using kind of vague language this whole post so far because I know this applies to virtually anything difficult but worthwhile in this life. And YOU know what it is that’s been scaring you, the choice you’ve been shrinking back from. I’m here to remind you that you can do it! EVERYBODY is capable of looking their fear in the face, sucking it up and taking a leap of faith. And when you do that… you are born. Your new life begins. Yes, you are uncomfortable at first, and things are different, but you make sense of it and move forward, just like you did when you were a baby. A whole new universe is presented to you. 

So, what is being born in me right now? Why am I talking about bravery and new birth and whatever else, aside from the fact that it’s my birthday and it’s about time I put some content up on the blog?

I’ve been in a womb for the past few months. I’ve been living at home, not working, spending a lot of time connecting with myself and exploring ideas and figuring out what I want to do with life next. It’s been extraordinarily comfortable in many ways. And it’s given me the space to really wrestle with myself and sort through some of my thoughts and feelings. I’m not going to go into the full story of my mental/emotional/spiritual journey over the last few months (at least not right now), but I will say that after much deliberation and consulting with myself, after many moments spent looking at the wall of fear and not knowing what to do, I’ve finally stepped through it.

I put money down yesterday for massage school. I’m starting classes in January at the World School of Massage in San Francisco.

You guys, it was so hard. It’s even hard to say this publicly because of my own self doubt. There are a million reasons why this could be the wrong move right now, a million things I could be doing that would be “better”, or that people would be more impressed by, or that would be more in line with the image I’ve held of myself – the image that feels safe. But this is what I want to do. This is what I am choosing to do. This is what feels genuine to me right now. Despite my fears, I am SO excited to discover the universe that I’m stepping into.

If you want to talk more about fear, bravery, massage, or whatever else is going on in life, feel free to reach out! (Especially if you want to but are too afraid to!) Thanks for stopping by and sharing this moment with me. Happy holidays!

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me! + Thoughts on Bravery

  1. Peter Ferrarese

    Emma, You go for it girl, this is not a blind jump; you will be good at it. Think of the alternative, wondering later in life if maybe you would have enjoyed being a massage therapist. Your grandfather tells me you can achieve anything you wish; so do I. Thank you for sharing your last few months with me, I enjoyed every blog. You have the wonderful gift of communicating. Peter Ferrarese

    Liked by 1 person

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