He stands in the doorway to my office with a huge grin on his face which seems to last for an eternity. I can only think, “Uh-oh, what now??” And then he says the words I’ve been dreading for two months, “I want you to write our next blog.” My heart races, my palms get sweaty…can I crawl under my desk?
Who is this man? Well, he’s Mr. Cross, my boss. And why am I so nervous to write something as innocent as a blog post about Daring Greatly? After all, I’m reasonably intelligent. I have a college degree; in fact, I have two! I write emails and memos every day and most of them make sense. I am, however, someone who needs affirmation from others for my accomplishments and, because of this, I rarely put my vulnerability out there for all to see. I have never been able to look from within for that atta-girl confirmation.
So what does it mean to a mom, a secretary, a runner, to dare greatly? Are we only defined by the roles we play in our lives instead of the lives we live? Are we meant to be satisfied with getting by instead of getting out there and inspiring those in our lives? These are some really heavy questions to ponder in between the “what should I wear to work today” and “why can’t I ever find a parking spot at HEB” reality of a day in the life. As I began this new school year with these questions, I searched for the “right” answers. And I found them in Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.
This summer, my daughter got married and my son began his first job. For 26 years, I have measured my worth by getting my children through the peaks or valleys in their lives. They are beginning their own journeys now, no longer needing my direction. And there’s an emptiness inside me. How do I forge a new relationship with these adults I used to feed and diaper? By daring greatly. Brene wrote a Parenting Manifesto to use whenever she feels vulnerable or fearful. Her final thoughts have become my salvation in this time of uncertainty: “As you begin your wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly. I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.”
Two ladies who I’ve worked with in the front office for over 10 years left for other opportunities this year. Instead of everyone knowing their roles in the flow of the well-oiled machine we’d become, we would welcome two new staff members from different campuses. I would need to step forward as the leader to set the tone for our changing team. I don’t see myself as a leader; I’m more of a team player. How do I adapt my approach to ensure we will continue to provide the excellent customer service for which Cinco Ranch is known? By daring greatly. Brene refers to this situation as “Minding the Gap”, looking at the space between where we are and where we want to be. When I stepped back from the familiarity of what used to be, I began to reevaluate some of our procedures and make changes to improve the work we do. Along the way, I grew as a leader and became a better secretary.
For 9 years, I have tried and failed to run a marathon. I’ve done a few half-marathons but can’t seem to take that next step. But I have great excuses: I missed too many long runs; I blew out my IT Band; I just can’t seem to find the right outfit to match my running shoes; blah-blah-blah. Are these excuses masking the real reason I stop at 13.1 miles…that I’m afraid of failing, of telling everyone I’m going to do this great thing, of asking them to come watch, only to see me carted off by the medics at Mile 17? How do I reach my goal? By daring greatly. Brene examines how shame contributes to our inability to be vulnerable. She says that in order to be vulnerable, we need to develop a resilience to shame. She refers to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech ‘Citizenship in a Republic”, often referred to as “The Man in the Arena”. She asks us to identify who is in the arena with us and challenges us to walk into the arena not when we are perfect and bulletproof, but when we realize that to do so will afford us with great opportunities to use our gifts to make unique contributions. Do I have a gift for running fast? No, but what I do have is a passion for running that can be used to inspire others and ultimately myself to reach the finish line.
What have I learned from the time spent writing this blog and facing my vulnerability? I enjoy the time I spend with my adult children as we explore seeing each other as we really are. The front office is still that well-oiled machine, version 2.0. The marathon…well, if you see me trudging the streets of Cinco Ranch, be kind and don’t run over my prone body. We all have our “uh-oh” moments in life that make us afraid to go on. Define them, but don’t let them define who you are.
Anita Kuhlmann, Secretary to Mr. Cross