holding back

This comic is actually from an assignment in my Comics Studio class. Our first meeting was this past Tuesday, and one of the assignments I gave was to make a comic from first person POV about a moment that changed your life.

Giving birth was a huge life-changing experience for me, in so many ways. This one little moment could be lost in the rest, but I come back to it again and again. I thought I was working as hard as I could. I’d been in labor for so, so, so many hours. I’d already been pushing for an hour and a half at the point the nurse said this to me (and I still had two hours to go).

This feeling of holding back– I have it when faced with jumping into water from a high place, rafting, doing anything that involves physical risk in that way.

Sometimes I think I am brave. Other times not.

I didn’t understand how to push, how could I, having never done it before? No one really tells you what it’s like, and even if they try it’s impossible to understand until you feel it. But I did feel that “pulling back at the last second” thing the nurse chastised me for. I pushed and pushed right up to the edge, and when it felt like the pain would break me I backed off.

How do I learn to push through the unbearable pain, through to the other side? I just do it, I guess.


being brave

IMG_9993 being brave in my tree. 

Today, before I did anything else publicly in the world, I went to the coffee shop to write. I hadn’t done this in a long time, pretty much since I got my own apartment here in town. Before, when I had to take the bus in and had time to kill before my shifts at work, I would sit there for hours writing and drawing while taking advantage of the unlimited hot water refills on my tea. So, today: my apartment was messy (still is as of this writing), I needed to do a hundred different life-business things (still haven’t done them), but instead I went to the coffee shop, got an americano and a bagel with raspberry jam, and did some work. It was wonderful, and I think set the tone for the rest of my day.

Recently my mom asked my dad, sister and me, “What was the best compliment you’ve ever received?” I answered differently at the time, but I’ve been thinking about this question for days, and finally remembered a truly beautiful, unexpected compliment that has stuck with me for about nine years now. I was in a dance class in college, and for the first day of this particular class we partnered up, and had to tell the rest of the class something about our partner. My partner said, “Anna is a brave dancer.” I was blown away in that moment. I know that I am a brave dancer, this is a big part of who I am. I will be the first on the dance floor at any party or Bar Mitzvah, and I will really move. Part of the reason is that I’d rather dance than make small talk, because that way I am participating in the party while still being my true self, rather than feeling fake by trying hard to talk to people I don’t know. Also, it’s just fun. But hearing this girl say, “Anna is a brave dancer,” touched and surprised me. I didn’t think anyone else could see that about me. Especially someone I hardly know. Hearing her announce this to a whole class of dancers made me blush and swell with pride. I almost felt like crying. Someone can see me, I thought.

I’ve been auditing ballet classes at the local college. I’m in an advanced level now, and it’s really hard. Often, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I try to go for it anyway. On the first day of this advanced class the teacher told me I was fearless. “Just keep being fearless,” she said. I love thinking of myself as fearless, and for others to see me that way. I’m afraid of so many things, which can easily take over my mind. But I am fearless. And brave. I live a fucking amazing life, and I really do it, every day. It’s okay to be proud of that, in fact I think it’s good to be. It feels glorious to recognize that in myself and appreciate it.

Tonight I went to a performance with my friend Janet. We had no idea what to expect, and it was perfect that way. It was a one man show, and I don’t think I can quite describe the experience here, but he owned it. He loved it. I could see it in his eyes that he loved it. And I thought again about being brave. How you can do anything you want onstage and if you are brave about it people will be captivated. Because you are being true, being fully yourself, and that is the most beautiful thing to watch– whether it’s a performance, dancing at a party, or just doing your job (being a doctor, lawyer, teacher, barista, whatever).

Being brave is easier when you have people who love you. Right now I’m in a really scary time in my life. My mom is dying. Every day I get emails or voice messages from friends and family, and even though I don’t call or write them back, I hope they know how much that support means to me. Just knowing they are there, that they see me, gives me a little cushion to lean back on, and it makes things a little less hard.

Anyway. This is what I’m thinking about today.

Now, go take a look at Shana’s blog, because she wrote something very beautiful about forgiveness.