Be still, be gentle, be brave.
I’m not sure where this phrase came from – it was either read somewhere then forgotten and re-remembered or it popped into my head out of the blue one day. But it helps me control the anxiety I’ve struggled with for years. Usually I repeat the first part – be still, be still, be still – until I’ve calmed down enough to process the rest of it: be gentle, be brave. It’s simple and maybe even a little silly to some people, but it grounds me.
That little mantra also become my three-part New Year’s resolution for 2018. Hopefully, it will help me leave this year a little more grounded than when I left the last one.
Last year was unexpectedly big for me. At the end of 2016, I got into my first romantic relationship in seven years; it shook my world up like a snowglobe, and from the word “go” 2017 was a glittery whirlwind of new love, new goals, new jobs, new friends, and a new home. I accidentally fulfilled a dozen unmade New Year’s resolutions by the time 2018 rolled around. It was both exciting and stressful, satisfying and terrifying.
I just want everything to settle down. All the changes I went through in 2017 were necessary but gods, they were exhausting. For the overwhelming majority of the year I was just screaming internally from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep.
Be still. Be still. Be still.
Well then. If I can’t make everything else settle down, I’ll just settle myself down. I’ll work on controlling my thoughts and emotions a little better. I’ll set a routine for myself and stick to it. I’ll be more purposeful in how I use my free time, instead of flitting from whim to whim until I fall asleep.
This isn’t to stay I don’t want adventures and new experiences – I do. But I want to make them happen instead of just letting them happen to me. If that metaphorical snowglobe gets shaken again I’d damn well better be the one who’s shaking it.
Until then, I’m content with watching the glitter slowly settle around me.
For years I assumed that I wasn’t strong – even when other people claimed I was. I believed that strength was a hard, sharp, violent thing, like pounding a rock into gravel. It was only recently that I realized that strength can be gentle, like a stream smoothing the surface of a stone. That’s the kind of strength I have; it’s the only kind I want.
Getting through 2017 didn’t require an extraordinary amount of strength for me, but it did require gentleness. And being gentle is surprisingly hard.
While anyone can be unintentionally violent and hurtful, being gentle is always intentional. So I often have to remind myself to be gentle to others as well as myself – especially when I’m frightened, anxious, or stressed.
Be still, be gentle.
So how can I be gentler this year than I was in the last? By accepting that nobody can do everything, not even me. By letting myself rest when I need to instead of pushing myself to exhaustion. By understanding that changing the world in small increments may be all anyone can do, and that’s okay. After all, wearing a stone smooth takes time.
If the first and second parts of my mantra are commands to stop and reorient myself, the last part is a call to action. Be brave. You can’t be brave without doing something – even if that something is simply existing.
The only people who think existing doesn’t take effort have never had to fight for it. I have. It’s never been against an external enemy; it’s only been against myself, or more accurately, my malfunctioning brain. I won’t dwell on it. I just want to acknowledge it, because I know I’m not the only one. And you out there, nodding at what you just read: you’re not the only one either.
Be still, be gentle, be brave.
So whether it turns out to be good or bad, I’ll turn to face 2018 head on. And whenever it knocks me off balance, I’ll try to breathe, soften, and go forward. I won’t always remember to do it – sometimes I’ll still stumble and lash out thoughtlessly.
But I’ll still keep trying. It’s all I can do.