…as someone who has spent a lot of time in the arena, I’d like to focus on one particular piece of Roosevelt’s speech: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”- STOP. (Imagine the sound of a needle scratching across a record). Stop here. Before I hear anything else about triumph or achievement, this is where I want to slow down time so I can figure out exactly what happens next- Brene Brown
And so, we fall. Often.
The process of living a life means that, practically automatically, we will be taking risks and consequently also sometimes making mistakes. Can I cross the street safely now? Should I tell that person I love them/ am angry at something they said? Should I try eating oysters/ olives/ cilantro?
Some risks are bigger than others. Some risks will leave you more vulnerable if you fall. Some risks will take every ounce of courage and bravery and effort you’ve got and yet you still might end up face down in the arena, wondering what on earth comes next.
This happened to me on Friday. And I want to share what’s been going on as I pause, here in the figurative dust on the ground, waiting and thinking and processing, instead of rushing ahead to my old friends Shame and Unworthiness.
I decided I should make a concerted effort to learn how to drive, after not driving since failing my road test twice over twenty years ago. That little (actually, huge!) detail meant that getting behind the wheel of a car again has taken a heroic effort of courage, an incredible driving instructor, and a tremendous amount of time and effort. I passed a full and comprehensive driving course plus did extra lessons, in addition to living my regular life of teaching full time and parenting my most favourite bee in the whole world (that would be you!). The sheer effort of all of this has left me even more tired than I ever thought possible, and then…
I took the road test for the THIRD TIME in my life and failed, again.
I wish I could say that I came out of it feeling graceful with my head held high. I wish I could, but I didn’t.
I held it together in front of the examiner and then sobbed all the way home in front of my incredibly patient instructor.
And then the shame stories started. “You’ll never learn to drive! You’re stupid! You suck! You’re embarrassing and a huge burden on those around you because you don’t drive and they drive you everywhere! You are less than others and simultaneously far too much extra work all at once.And the worst one of all: you, Carrie, are not worthy of your life or of those around you.
Now, you might (most likely, in fact) read those shame stories and think: holy moly what baloney!
But they are there.
And instead of rushing to the triumphant ending (*side note: at this point, there IS no Hollywood “Carrie passes the driving test on the 4th try and goes on to drive for the rest of her days” ending), instead of rushing past feeling all the feelings and hiding the shame stories (only to have to carry them around for 20+ years, which is what I’ve been doing by the way), I’m just letting them out in the open and thinking them through.
Because, dear bee, what if those shame stories aren’t true?
We can’t all do all the things. And to be honest, it would be boring if we did do all the same things. But when there is something we get to choose to do, we need to make sure we’re choosing to do it for the right reasons (*I say choose because sometimes things will happen or sometimes we will have to do certain things that we have no choice over except to accept and give it all we’ve got. Driving is not one of those things for me, though).
I told myself that I was learning how to drive for legit reasons this time. Turns out I was not. Turns out I was listening to the shame stories and learning how to drive because I’ve felt ashamed and unworthy for so long that I wanted to try to fix it by getting my license.
And you know what I’m realizing, lying here in the dust and dirt after my third failed attempt?
Getting my driver’s license wouldn’t have fixed any of those stories because it is so easy to find reasons to feel unworthy that I could probably list 17 different things before breakfast. And as soon as I had passed my driving test I would have latched onto one or two or seventeen of those other reasons.
And so I think I’ll stay down here, on the ground, for a bit longer. Because I want to make sure that when I get up and brush all the dust off a bit of the unworthiness brushes off with the dust, too.
And while I don’t know if I will take the driving test again, let alone pass it on my fourth attempt, at this point I’m not even sure if that’s the right or the most brave answer.
Maybe the most courageous thing I could do at this point is to live my life feeling proud of being brave in the attempt AND most importantly not ashamed that I can’t drive, yet.
I don’t know yet, and the truth is, dear girl, I don’t need to know just yet. When I figure out the next right thing to do, I’ll do it.
And in the meantime, I’m going to celebrate – not the third failed attempt, but the courage to share the story.