Braving the Bridge
Last week, my neighbor and I had an amateur photo shoot. She's honing her photography skills on her fancy camera and I needed some high-res photos for my website. We worked out a trade which I am still convinced leans further in my favor, although her custom apparel side hustle may have found some free advertising in the form of the t-shirt she made for me. Being one of my funniest friends, we shared a lot of laughs on the photo shoot like flashing my "muppet smile" and making 90's modeling references.
I have another friend who works at a local ranch property and it made for the perfect setting. We couldn't bring the Hamilton property to us, but the awe and beauty of my future farm life is evident here. With our amateur eyes, we wandered around trying to capture the perfect backdrop and the best staged-while-authentic poses. We were drawn to a bridge spanning the duck pond but as we approached, we realized most of the planks leading onto the bridge were missing. We would have to scale the metal frame, reminiscent of a narrow train rail, for several feet. At that point, we could use the top railing to pull ourselves up, which we did. Once on the bridge, we discovered that while rickety, the planks were far less treacherous than we made them out to be. In fact, this bridge ended up being far safer than the wooden rail she suggested I sit on at our next stop. I may be brave, but I drew the line at risking a 20' drop into a trickling creek for the sake of art (it was probably just ten but art sometimes involves dramatic effect).
Each new step I take in the journey to hone my message of courage and compassion brings new challenges and the footing is certainly unsure. I have to put my money where my mouth is and tap into bravery by learning new skills. I didn't have it in my budget to hire a web designer, so I learned basic editing skills and launched on time. And by "on time", I mean the incredibly tight deadline I set for myself so that I didn't chicken out or procrastinate. The next one in September is looming up ahead. I'm headed there one creaky plank at a time.
I worried for a few days that the kindness message was lagging behind. The pandemic certainly doesn't offer as many opportunities for compassionate exchanges, but I still get to see my Meals on Wheels clients each week. They remind me why I began using my voice in the first place. I'm nearing two years on my route and after a two-week absence, my clients lit up as they answered their doors. "I wondered where my baby'd been!" exclaimed Miss Helen. Another client called me "precious" and when I departed with a "see you next Friday!", she responded with my favorite quip of optimism: "God willing!"
This new journey is not an either/or. There is no amount of bravery I could display that would be more gratifying than my service to others. I'm bridging the gap between courage and compassion. I long to be nice and I also to be brave. I build that bridge by taking one baby step at a time. Share a vulnerable story that resonated with someone? I breathe a sigh of relief when my foot lands without crashing through the bridge. Pay a compliment or support a friend? I practically skip across, flinging fear into the water below. I don't always know what the next step will be but I have faith in God should I lose my footing.
It's possible that some ideas, like my novel, will get left on the banks for now. I have started to make peace with that. Liz Gilbert talks in her recent novel, "Big Magic", about ideas that move on if neglected. In fact, she shares quite a mystical story about her idea transferring into another author with a single kiss. Nobody else had my Granny or my drinking story, so my hope is that the idea will stay tucked safely on the shore like clothes left behind during a skinny dip. I certainly feel raw and naked as I take each new step, but I've never felt more certain that I need to explore what is on the other side of that bridge.
"So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?" -Elizabeth Gilbert