Most things I don’t do on purpose. If I hurt feelings, it’s never intentional. My timing, even when it’s impeccable, is usually by happenstance. My words aren’t always methodical, and my actions tend to stem from last minute gut feelings. And some of my most inspired moments occur when I’m in the most unexpected of places.
So, when I saw in her a seed I had planted, I had to realize that maybe, just maybe, what I don’t do on purpose doesn’t mean it didn’t happen deliberately. At just the right moment. Just when one is completely open to hearing what I was charged to say. Unexpectedly. Not with any particular goal. But still, none the less, planting something more in the heart of someone who needs it most.
My dad told me the night before that he planned on taking the kids to a cave just outside of our city. You would think, living in the Ohio Valley where caves are prominent, we would spend more time traversing them. But the honest truth is that my daughter had never stepped foot in one. This summer, when my dad watches her and her brother once a week, he plans adventures with the hopes of creating lasting memories with two people he loves more than life itself. I kept it a secret, knowing the adventure that lied ahead, excited to hear how she liked the experience.
When he dropped her and her brother off that evening, it was obvious that they had had a day that would be unforgettable. For my oldest, Eli, he was most excited for the coins he collected deep in the pits of Marengo Cave, not knowing that they were coins that others threw up on the ceilings trying to get them to stick for good luck. The ones he collected were fallen wishes, but full of luck as he saw them. My daughter, Lyndi, was most excited about her mermaid backpack that my dad bought her at the gift shop afterward. A girl to the core, she loves anything that allows her hoarding tendencies to occur without anyone knowing.
Before bed, I sat her down, asking about her day and what she thought of the cave. Was she scared? Was it exhilarating? She told me about the stalactites and the stalagmites, although she has much more creative names for each. She glistened as she shared how she accidentally touched one when no one was looking. The claustrophobic space didn’t faze her one bit and when I asked her how she felt when they turned off all the lights – a moment that I always get extremely uncomfortable with – she told me what only now, after I’ve let her comment sink in, makes complete sense. Why else would she say anything different? Of course, in one word, she summed up how she handled that feeling of complete fear deep in a cave with no lights on for a brief second… she told me that she was brave.
I have to believe that I am not the only person who walks around this world and thinks in song. Seriously… when someone asks me a question, usually my answer pops up in a lyric from a song that I’ve gotten stuck in my head. My current favorite is when my oldest asks me what time it is. Immediately, I answer “It’s time for lunch” – whether it’s lunch time or not – and hum the tune of a Bubble Guppies song where that lyrics is ever so present.
Or when I just stare at the beauty of my children, wondering how I got so lucky, I sometimes find myself belting out Van Morrison’s “You, my brown eyed girl.” Or when I get stressed, concerned if I have the capacity to complete a project set before me, I may just be found answering myself with one of my favorite lyrics from a Troll’s song, “I really hope I can do it. Because they’re all depending on me.” With the tune of Get Back Up Again, it’s always promised to remind me that no matter what, I can and will always get back up!
Some songs become meaningful responses to questions that occur in my daily life. But others… they become full, blown out anthems. They become lyrics to live by and ones that I find myself belting out when I am alone in a completely quiet car – or when the car is so loud that I need a reminded of why I am doing exactly what I am doing. For me, there are many songs that have deep meaning, but only one that is truly my anthem.
I’ve never seen her in concert, but I feel like I know her. I don’t have every song of hers memorized, and quiet honestly, there’s not a ton of them that I even like the beat to. But from the tune to each lyric of her song, Sara Barielles’ Brave is my spirit song. It is my chant. I recite it on the daily. And without knowing it, it has given me purpose – and without my knowing, it gave her purpose too.
Haven’t heard it? Stop reading. Pause and let each word that she wrote and each word that she sings fill up your core and remind you that you have the power to be amazing. You have the power to use your words for good. You have the power to go out on a limb and try something new. You have the power to be different. And at the end of the day, all you really had to do to tackle the day head on was to be brave.
Brave. My daughter has, without my knowing, likely heard me sing this song hundreds of times. So much so that now when I belt it out in the car, I can point to her to fill in the lyric blanks and 9 times out of 10, she’s spot on. Her eyes light up when I pull it up on my phone and many times, when it’s just her and I riding from one place to another, she will request “our favorite song.” And without her having to say anything more, I know exactly which song we will be singing.
It’s interesting, though, that she chose to use that one word on a day when I needed to hear it most. She likely didn’t choose it on purpose. I am confident she hadn’t mapped out her day with the intention to share that she was brave, much the less with the goal of reminding me that I needed to be too. But that day had been a hard one, and I needed to stop time for merely a second and allow the lyrics to soak in.
You see, for months I had been dealing with something I hadn’t come to accept. Odd symptoms didn’t fit together in a nice package and I found myself at a point of just wanting to give up. But a doctor’s visit told me that I wasn’t allowed to get to that point yet. I had more fighting I’d need to do. More tests that needed to be run. That the answer may not be there yet, but now was the time to figure it out. Helplessness wasn’t an option. And like my daughter, deep in a dark cave with the lights turned off, it was time that I remembered to pull out my life’s anthem and choose to be brave.
When my daughter couldn’t talk and her peers easily could, she was brave. When she struggled curving her tongue in the right way for the right words to flow from it, she was still brave. When kids in her class and others who said they cared for her mimicked her words when they weren’t perfect, she continued to be brave. Never, ever has she let her personal struggles define her. She has always seen her life as amazing, and she has learned to believe in her core that her momma – me – just “wants to see you be brave.”
I sat there, pondering, what brave really meant. Does it mean that you accept your fate? Does it mean that you walk the tight rope even when doom is lingering? Does it mean that you sit in a box with snakes? Sure, people who do that are definitely brave. But I think my Lyndi is living proof that being brave doesn’t mean you have to live in extremes.
Instead, being brave is standing up for what you believe in, even if it is against other’s opinions. It’s being you in a sea of people who may not understand you. It’s smiling in the face of challenges, for you know that your struggles will make you stronger. It’s taking a deep breath and continuing your walk down the path of unknowns. It’s believing that something bigger is to come. It’s knowing that despite the outcome of the lingering tests, it really all will be okay.
Being brave doesn’t mean you accept your situation. Instead, it means that you accept the you in your situation. You accept that you have the power to only control you, and despite the struggles to want to give up, you choose not to.
It’s beautiful how someone so small has the power to do something so big. My little 5-year-old, with her authentic smile and her simple word choice, reminded me to stay true to my anthem. Just when the darkness feels like it can consume you, she’s living proof that you should be the bravest you’ve ever been. Because, just at that moment, someone has their hand on the light switch ready for you to step back into the light.
No matter what, please remember “I wanna see you be brave.”