How many people do you know that actually own their truth? I’m lucky because I know a lot of folks who are not afraid to be seen, some are cyclists and some are not. Some are quiet and introverted while others are brazen and you couldn’t miss them if you tried, but what they all have in common, what I truly admire about them, is that they are true to who they are and what they believe. I wonder what does that take… to really be visible? What does it take to be true to yourself? What is the cost of playing it safe?
There are so many things that help keep you safe as a cyclist. Having the proper equipment such as a helmet and a good working bike, understanding the rules of the road and so forth. But I would argue one of the most important safety aspects in cycling, especially for a road cyclist sharing the pavement with other motorist is being visible.
Yes, being visible all times is paramount, hence the brightly colored jerseys, light reflective vests, LED lights on helmets and on bikes themselves. No one wants to get flattened.
It’s an interesting contrast to the way many of us seem to go about our lives. Which is to be small, quiet, not make waves or at least make only the right kind of waves… essentially be invisible for the purpose of staying safe. Safe from judgment, ridicule, and isolation. We learn early the importance of fitting in. It’s cultural and somewhat sad.
In Life, Does Invisibility = Safety?
I was thinking about this yesterday morning on my bike ride. It was 5:30 am and the sun was just starting to kiss the sky. My favorite time to ride. My favorite time to reflect.
How much of my life have I spent trying to be invisible? Trying desperately not to draw attention to myself? Or more accurately to draw only the right kind of attention to the right kind of things. Lots. That’s how much.
I think of all the times I didn’t ask a question and risk looking uniformed, (which is a nice way of staying dumb) or refusing to try something new if I couldn’t do it well.
Now I’ve done many things, especially in my youth, that put me in front of others. Sometimes I did it because I truly wanted to, like that 4th grade talent show. But when I was in front of people and didn’t really want to be I learned to pull it off like it was natural but I was never comfortable being truly seen.
What Does it Mean to be Truly Seen?
What do I mean by truly seen? Well best I can explain is it’s the opposite of wearing a mask. For me, I had a pretty good one. Dependable and often impenetrable. What was up general observation was actually a facade that I put on to protect me and hoped no one would really see the less than version of myself I was so desperately trying to hide.
So that’s the truth of me back then… hiding in plain sight trying to keep the insides small… Why? Because I didn’t think those insides had much worth as is.
Value and worthiness came from the doing of deeds not from simply being… Funny thing though the more I did and accomplished the less internal value I felt. Oh when I would make good on a goal there would be a sense of satisfaction or relief but it was always fleeting.
Lately I’ve been asking myself, what is it that I need to keep me safe these days?
What do I need to be ready to step from the shadows of my own making and be visible. Put out in the world who I truly am flaws and all and be completely vulnerable? Am I ready for that? Is that what I really want? What does it even mean?
Berne Brown has said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and connection”. Yet being vulnerable was exactly the thing I tried to avoid all my life up til now and not so ironically, I never much felt any creative spark or joy. Never felt any true connection with the work I did in the world.
She also says you don’t just share your vulnerability with anyone… only the chosen few who are worthy of hearing your story, especially if you haven’t healed, accepted or come to the other side of your rawness. So who is that? My circle of trusted friends most definitely. But what about others that I want to help? Those who have felt just like me… the outside plastered with accomplishments the inside as hollow as an old tree? Well I guess the who to share with depends on how safe one feels. Again not so ironic.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss
I’m grateful that I’m not the girl or even the woman I once was but I am also grateful for her experiences and the lessons those experiences taught.
These days I’m way more comfortable in my own skin and I’ve learned that there are very few guarantees in this life except that if you don’t try you have already failed, if you don’t speak no one will ever know you cared and if you don’t act you will always wish you had. It’s those particular guarantees I’m trying to avoid these days. Turns out it means I have to let go of the idea that staying small and acting small will keep me safe.
I think the truth is this… I’ve learned to be my own anchor and I am safe but I’ve had a lot of help along the way.
Seven Years of Sober Living
Today marks my seven years of sobriety from alcoholism. Yes that right. Here’s the big vulnerable truth. I am an alcoholic and a damn grateful one at that. Grateful because I’ve recovered from a seemingly hopeless state that so many don’t come back from. A condition which has noting to do with morality and I am damn lucky.
Why do I share this? Why make this visible? Whose business is it anyway you might be asking? Well it’s mine. I claim it and today I share it in the hopes that it will help someone else who is down there in the dark, who so badly needs a hand like I once did. Someone who’s terrified but willing to ask for it, because you have to be willing and that usually means you’re god damn desperate. Without the key of willingness it’s the old “you can lead em’ to water but…” you know the rest. Lastly I share it because I’m not ashamed of it anymore. It’s simply part of who I am and I like that person today.
As I write this I’m embarking on a new path, one that is creative and scary as hell. One that will take years to bring to fruition if ever. Well, likely anyway. It’s the reason I’ve been absent on the blog scene the last couple months.
I am writing a book. Not just one, but several. And I’m putting my work out there in the world for feedback because I want to be a better writer but also because I believe what I have to say might help someone and at the very least entertain them.
In the future I’ll invite you to take a look at some of my writing which will be bad, maybe good or none of the above because I’m just learning the craft of storytelling… Wow, that was scary as all get out… I plan to put up a spot on my blog where I’ll be posting some short stories and portions of the book I’m writing. I can’t believe I just typed that but it’s true! HAHA.
So here’s to doing it, whatever your it may be. Riding a bike, making an apology that’s overdue, getting sober, writing a book or trying anything new or scary for the first time. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not know how it’s going to pan out, because in the end, eventually it all pans out. What really matters is that you took a shot.
My advice: Do the hard shit. Do it badly, but just do it. Keep people around you that remind you to do the hard shit, and that will call you out with love and kindness when you’re slacking.
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Grace Hopper
My hope is that this post makes you feel something and makes you wonder why you felt that way. Do you identify? Do you disagree? What are you afraid to let other see?
Be well dear reader. My vulnerable ass is right here in the thick of it with you; learning to visible, learning to be comfortable with who I am because I think that is the most valuable asset a person can come by in this world. As it says on the coin that has guided me the last seven years, “To thine own self be true”.