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18 February 2018

B.R.A.V.E.R.Y.  or  courage

Bravery is simple. We complicate it. 

Fear is a part of life. How we handle it is, in some sense, how we live our lives.

The New Museum, artist?, 2015
Not every fear is “bad” or “wrong.” Fear is a tool used by instinct to tell us danger is ahead. And, sometimes, danger is ahead. Sometimes it’s not. Some dangers are real, and the risk versus reward quotient isn’t in our favor. Do I need to jump off this cliff? Maybe not. Do I need to risk my heart with this person? Maybe not. We need fear to keep from dying, following paths that are not right for us, and a million other dangers that pull us from our souls’ paths and our bodies’ survival. We need fear, but we also need bravery—when danger is not real, when it is imagined, or when danger is present but worth it.
Recklessness is not bravery.

Bravery is regarding fear and pushing past it.

So, what’s courage?

Do you have the guts for this?

 Courage is pushing past fear with heart. If bravery is facing fear; courage is facing fear when pushing past it can mean a new us, a new world, a transformation, a rising from the ashes, or even just one moment of progress, regardless of how it is measured or valued—pulled from our soul, our muse, our will, our intuition.

For Dr. King’s Day, my first best friend, Chandra, wrote to us of courage: the value in pushing past fear or discomfort or conflict—even anger and violence—because if we do not combat hate and racism and patriarchy and the Western hegemony that is destroying humanity, we will lose our collective and individual souls.
Dodsworth, Bushwick, 2015

This year, challenge yourself to not be silent. Don’t turn away. When something happens, close to you or halfway around the world, where the darkness of injustice requires the light of equality, are you watching? Are you listening? Are you making yourself knowledgeable? Are you talking to others to educate or educate yourself?  Are you silent?

This fall, I wrote about the straight-up necessity of learning from Black and brown cultures, minds, hearts and souls: collective and individual. (Yes, my bestie is Black, Beautiful and Powerful. I raise up her voice here now because she has something incredibly important to say.) Let’s wax on, let’s dig deeper. Let’s build on Chandra’s call to action with what we can learn from the Lakota people.

Some Lakota say there is a set of 12 virtues the People honor and practice in great earnest. This year, I’m going to focus on them to explore Lakota ways that have taught me about those values, what they mean, and how I can learn from them to lead a more meaningful life—as a writer, a mother, a woman, a human being, a friend, hopefully an ally. Let’s tip 2018 off with Chandra’s encouragement to courage.

Woohitike, courage, requires vulnerability. Whether or not we are safe, in vulnerability we don’t feel safe. Safety in itself is perhaps a mirage, and how much of it any given person wants or needs is variable—across time and in contrast to what another person may need or want.

In moments of courage, I try to see that vulnerability and stand strong in it. Because being able to be vulnerable is strength. And in that moment of so-called duality, I stand in a space where I can take courage, take heart, to walk down the path my soul presses me toward.

In this moment, I do not find myself thinking of the great strong men, Gall or Sitting Bull or Black Elk or Geronimo. I think instead of unsung women. Of the women who stood with their children, sisters, husbands, fathers, who survived, out-lived and pressed on in vulnerability. “Ordinary” women who loved extraordinarily, bearing great pain in order to love men who would not return home, children who would not survive to naming, smallpox epidemics, the Dawes Act, flooding the Oahe in South Dakota, and letting go of daughters married into another lodge—only to be visited once a year when certain summer moons came toward us.

We need heart, courage, for so very many things. To become who we are made to be, to put ourselves honestly out into the world, to start the businesses and non-profits we desire to create, to apply for the job we really want… But most of all I think of the courage it takes to love another human being. Romantically, yes, but platonically, communally, tribally.

On Valentine’s Day in South Florida, several beautiful children lost their lives. I think of their immediate families, but I also think of us as a community, a society. Can we love with more courage? Can we let go of our need to “protect” violently, to greedily hold onto “rights” that give us a false sense of security--denial of our intrinsic vulnerability--but take others’ whole lives, whole loves? Can we courageously love one another as Americans? I believe the Native women I’ve had the honor to read and hear from, to meet and listen to, had that courage, because real love requires vulnerability. I urge us to live in the vulnerability that real love means, and to live courageously in that love. Justice will require courage.

Marthalicia Matarrita, 2016