For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on my courage. My new year’s resolutions have been various iterations of “be bold!” and “be brave!”. I don’t mean anything too big by this. For me, this (at this stage) means stepping out in front of people. It includes teaching dance lessons, submitting papers to conferences, and seeking out criticism on my work, rather than hoarding it away because I know it is flawed. I’ve also started this blog to force myself to put my writing and my thoughts where people can see them. It’s scary – I agonize over posts, afraid I might be missing something important from my view, adding something extraneous to waste a reader’s time, or that I might be oversimplifying complicated things.
It’s safer to keep everything locked up tight because you’re scared to lets your flaws be seen, but if you put yourself out there and are ready to handle opposition and criticism with grace and generosity, you’ll actually get better. Avoiding criticism just allows you keep and protect your errors and confusions. More often than not, others will be more constructive. My inner critic says “see how terrible everything you write is?”, while the outside perspective says “here’s where your argument is flawed.”
One of these things is way more useful than the other.
So here’s to bravery – even my small, tiny, minute form of it. In honor of this, I’m posting a little children’s poem I wrote on the subject.
A Tail of Bravery
by Michelle Joelle
There once was a cat who was sweet and was brave,
But his courage was all in his tail.
The rest of his body was always afraid
and he always would hide, without fail.
He ran at the clanking of dishes and spoons,
and he couldn’t abide pots and pans.
He quaked at the swish of the mop and the broom,
and the whir of the old ceiling fan.
The places he’d hide often varied.
He was as clever as he was afraid.
When he found what he thought was an excellent spot,
there’s no telling how long he would stay.
He’d always choose someplace comfy and warm,
a place well-equipped with a view,
so he could happily sit and wait out the storm,
and know when it was safe again too.
Now recall what I said at the start of this tale:
that this cat was both sweet and so brave.
In spite of his fright (and his subsequent flight)
there was something keeping him safe.
It would rise like a beacon – a flag, no – a sign!
from the edge of where ever he hid,
ready to face whatever danger it’d find,
while the rest of him stayed where he hid.
It’d lay down and keep still, and slink slowly aside
with the patience of a ferocious great snake,
then strike all at once with a terrific loud thump.
What a startling noise it would make!
It could ward off intruders with a deliberate wag
or entice you to come rather near.
This part of the cat, regardless of fact,
would never succumb to its fear.
For wherever this cat would run or would hide,
he was protected each time without fail.
While the rest of his body was always afraid,
he was always kept safe by his tail.