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Answering My Call to Courage:: Finding Joy and Gratitude

brené brownI recently watched the Brené Brown: Call to Courage special on Netflix. My husband has been a fan of hers for awhile now, so when he saw that she had a talk coming to Netflix, he was excited to watch it with me. I reluctantly put down my mindless social media scrolling for the night and prepared to either be bored or an emotional mess from yet another one of his documentaries he insists I see. I didn’t know anything about Brené Brown, her studies, or any of her previous Ted Talks, but that all didn’t matter because within seconds I was hooked, engaged, and hanging onto every one of her statements.

Choose Courage over Comfort

This is not a CliffNotes version of the Netflix special. If you don’t have Netflix, or a family member’s password by now, it’s time to sign up! She discusses some really great topics about living an authentic life by choosing courage over comfort. And one part of finding courage is feeling joy through gratitude. I promise she does a stellar job in explaining this, but basically what she has found in her research is that people have a hard time feeling joy because they fear it will be taken away. We imagine the alternative, or “dress rehearse” as she calls it, losing whatever has just brought us joy. Thus joy becomes foreboding. The people who do lean into joy, who don’t “dress rehearse” its tragedy have one thing in common: gratitude. She interviewed people who have lost a child, lived through a mass shooting, survived harrowing experiences, and she was curious how they could find joy after such experiences and they all shared one common theme: they were grateful for their life, family, and friends.

Minimizing My Joy

This got me thinking about my own life. How the second I start to feel joy about my life and about what is going right I instantly have a voice in my head say “and all of these great things can be taken away in a second.” Which then causes me to minimize these great things: if I don’t celebrate the greatness, then when it’s taken away, it won’t hurt as bad! And that sucks! It’s exhausting mentally and emotionally. I’m not living fully in some moments for fear of what might happen. I thought I was living with a realistic view of the world, but really I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop and missing out on some really great opportunities for greatness. So after drying my tears (I blame hormones and lack of a good night’s sleep the last 4 years), I made a promise to myself: to enjoy the little moments in life, to lean into the joyous moments, and be grateful even when it’s hard.

brené brownFinding Joy, Not Perfection

And, no, I have not become this nauseating, joyful person where nothing fazes me. I still raise my voice. I lose my marbles when I have to repeat “get your shoes on” six billion times before we can leave the house. And you better believe I get annoyed at bedtime when my overly tired toddlers request “fresh water” even though I just gave them “fresh water” five minutes prior…because I’m human! One of the couples Brené interviewed in her research was a couple who had lost a child. They said that it was the memories of the little moments, the slamming of the screen door that they had asked their child repeatedly to not slam, that they missed the most. So much in fact that they’d find themselves slamming the door just for the simple memory of their child. So after hearing that kind of perspective, the moments that you struggle to find joy come into view with a different light. I’m not perfect, I have to take a lot of deep breaths, and repeat my new favorite mantra “Be grateful for this moment. Find joy in this moment.” But it helps bring a new perspective to the moments that I would not have previously been grateful for. 

brené brown
Brené tells a really great story about her daughter’s senior prom night and how Brené was nervous and scared her daughter would get in a car accident. But not wanting to ruin the moment, she stood at the porch waving and saying “I’m so grateful. Have fun honey! I’m so grateful for this moment. Have a great night! Drive careful! I’m so grateful.” And even though her husband and son looked at her like she was crazy, she was helping herself find her joy. So even though you’re losing it on the inside, recognize your feelings and be grateful for that moment. It will help looking back on the memory with joy, and not the stressed out, frantic lunatic you were feeling like on the inside. I am actively utilizing this strategy daily…”I’m so grateful you want to buckle your seat belt even though we are running late and I can do it faster.” “I’m so grateful you want to get every toy out of its place and then throw a fit when I ask you to pick it up.” “I’m so grateful the one time you wanted to wipe your butt you decide to use half a roll of toilet paper and I get to use the plunger“…It’s about being grateful for the little moments!

And like I mentioned, Brené Brown discusses other really great topics of vulnerability, courage, and being brave that I encourage you all to go watch. She has a great Ted Talk about vulnerability that went viral a few years ago, and she mentions the aftermath of that experience in her Netflix special. So even though I discovered this amazing, influential, strong woman because my husband chose our Friday night entertainment, I believe these moments all happen for a reason. People come into your life at the most perfect time and have a way of refocusing our viewpoint and the path our lives are leading us down. And for that I am Grateful. 

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our a**es kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.
—Brené Brown, Call to Courage

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