Brene Brown begins her book Daring Greatly with the following passage from  Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic”:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end the triumph  of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

 A few paragraphs later Brown writes: “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into an arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn out backs on our gifts, those unique contributions only we can make.”

When I first read these words from Brene Brown, I was reminded of something I learned long ago and I have practiced imperfectly ever since. That is, life is NOT a spectator sport. Life is to be lived fully. It is a gift to savor and even when one discovers that she has been travelling in the wrong direction, it is about fully participating in your own life! No one else can live our lives for us. No one else’s judgment is important to us. What really matters is to be in integrity with oneself.

When you make the decision to fully participate in your life there will be times when nobody agrees with you, when you feel abandoned and unsupported, when you want to crawl under the blankets and let someone else do it. It is not easy but it is completely rewarding.

When we were sorting through my mother’s things we found her acknowledgement of what commitments she had made to herself at at course called The Wall. She wrote: “I commit to trust. I commit to participate fully.I commit to tell the truth.”  Many of the participants of The Wall made similar commitments to themselves but it was really moving to see the words written by my mother.

Of course, when I was a child, I thought my mother was very confident, skillful and capable. She acted as if she were ten feet tall and bulletproof. As far as I could see, she did fully participate. She was worthy matron of the Order of the Eastern Star, she was the superintendent of our church Sunday School, she has active in Parent-Teacher activities. When she and my dad wintered in Mesa, Arizona, they had an active social life. Mom won a whole room-full of trophies for shuffleboard and she loved to design costumes for the annual parade. She was creative and full of life!

Now thinking back that this confident woman had taken this course when she was in her 70’s and had committed to new behaviors of trust, participation and truth-telling, I realize that she too had insecurities and self-doubts. And she also was willing to change her current paradigm.

I am still learning from you — Lela Clark; I see that you did dare greatly!

Lela Clark dressed in her Sno Bird Costume riding her bike