The art of being willing to love



I'm For Love

Today, bravery looks like being willing to love.  

With my oldest son’s wedding this weekend, I have “Love” on the brain.  And have decided that loving, really giving our hearts to another person, is perhaps one of the bravest things we can do.

I am an incurable romantic.  Though surprisingly single at 54, I have had the fortune to know love in many forms. The new, so big-that-it-overflows-your-heart, fiercely hopeful for great things, can’t breathe for thinking of another person kind of love.  The steady, sharing a quiet space when no words are necessary, reaching for each other’s hands at the same time kind of love.  Oh yes, I’m a very big fan of love.

Having re-entered the dating scene for the first time since the birth of MTV, I’ve had a LOT of lessons.  The one that stands out with the advent of my son’s marriage is this: Dating is easy… love is hard. Tweet This

Why is that?  What makes love so hard?

If we do it right, love makes us vulnerable.  We put our welfare in the hands of another, and have to trust that they will treat it, and us, with respect, kindness and care.  Trusting like that can be very difficult.

Madonna To be brave is to love someone unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. To just give. That takes courage; because we don’t want to fall on our faces or leave ourselves open to hurt.

Love is also messy. Let’s face it… most single people have control issues of one kind or another, and we design our lives to fit our own solitary needs. No compromise is necessary when we live alone. When someone matters, we need to shift away from our perfectly ordered lives to make space for them and their habits and needs.  This can be uncomfortable, and for some, frightening.

Maybe hardest of all is that love is risky. As much as we wish it otherwise, we have zero control over the outcome of romance. We might not be loved back.  We might lose the person we care about so greatly. This is where the pain lives, and scares people away from really putting their hearts on the line.

We have talked before about how a leap of faith can lead to transformation. That in stepping off of the ledge of what we know creates a space for the most amazing things to happen.  This is never more true than with love.  Loving regardless of the risk of self and possible pain takes courage, and a willingness to understand that the greater return is worth any risk of the heart. If we let go, I believe we can find the big love we are looking for, and more.


What love looks like on Ben and Pilar

I have great hope for my son and daughter-in-law to be. When I look at them, I see that love lives.  The Beatles sang, All You Need Is Love.  And while love may not be all they need, it really is a damn good start.

I hope you’ll share your stories of your own bravery in love.  It’s such a tenuous, wonderful thing.  Your story will contribute to the hope we are building as a brave community.

Be brave. Be unafraid. Go love.

The art of taking a stand



Today, bravery looks like taking a stand.

I had planned to post about another topic, but want to acknowledge the brave acts of civil disobedience in Hong Kong. When thousands of people stand for something without breaking any laws, it is impossible to ignore. It’s also a worthy lesson for all of us in bravely confronting a wrong.

If you have been following the news, you know that the growing throng is showing their dissatisfaction with the Chinese government for limiting their voting options.  This rising tide is more than a “Demonstration,” it is a “Movement,” an awe-inspiring public stand to create change. Regardless of how you feel about the political nature of this experience, I defy you to find fault in the method, or question the success in sending a powerful call to action.

A very dear friend of mine was part of the stand against the government in Tienanmin Square until a police state was enacted some 15 years ago. This tiny but fierce woman has a brilliant mind, a poet’s heart, and more courage than most. She shared about the nonviolent stand the students took, and how she experienced the threat of tanks and other violence while living in the underground tunnels beneath the Square. Watching the drama unfold in Hong Kong today, I have an appreciation of the risks being taken to further a cause.

Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

Mahatma Gandhi

Nonviolence as a stand against injustice was a focal point of the Civil Rights movement.  The Nashville Public Library’s Civil Rights Room offers video examples of training for nonviolent demonstrators bravely sitting at segregated lunch counters, preparing them for ridicule and possible violence they would face. The willingness of these individuals to put themselves in harms way was beyond impressive. Their commitment to change, unquestionable.

I know, these are larger than life events. What does this mean for us in our own backyards?

At this time in our lives, we know what “Wrong” looks like, and how badly it feels. We know it when we see it, and if we can see it, we can stand against it. We each have our own lines in the sand, and recognize when they have been crossed… the question is, what to do about it.

Take A Stand (1)A tender spot for me is around gossip; it is a harmful, mean-spirited act.  When I hear people gossiping about others, I will at first try to redirect the conversation.  If that does not work, I will say, “Y’all know you’re gossiping, right?”.  Yeah, I’m that girl. And it’s almost always uncomfortable for everyone involved.  But well worth it to me to take on the battle.

While confronting wrong often pits us against others (often friends, co-workers), it doesn’t matter.  When wrong is wrong, we will risk that relationship. Wading in to right the wrong, even when it’s uncomfortable, makes this a brave act.

Right now, the streets of Hong Kong are teeming with hopeful forces for change. Here at home, we can be a part of our own brave movement.  What stand have you taken? Write and tell me about your own brave acts.

Be brave. See the wrong. Take a stand.

The art of knowing when to say “When”



Sometimes, bravery looks like knowing when to say, “When.”

I am fortunate to have many artists in my life.  These are creative talents with a wide range of specialties and equally diverse styles and creative processes.  Some jump right into creating without much concern for the end product, while others mull over what they want to create until they are ready enough to dive in.

Regardless of these creative process differences, they share one element of bravery in common~ the courageous act of letting go when something is not working

I recently met Klina, a quilt artist, and got a chance to see a magnificent king-sized comforter that she was completing for her son.  It was a brilliant reflection of her artistic gift, where craft meets skill meets imagination; really, it was such a gorgeous work of art.  After two years, she was finally close to being finished.  Looking the comforter over, it occurred to me that when working on something with such breadth, there had to be plenty of opportunities to lose interest, perhaps “hit a wall” and put the work aside.  It seemed to me to take a LOT of bravery to fight through those opportunities to procrastinate and stick with it to completion. 

When I told her I was writing about everyday bravery, instead of going down the path of “Being brave is fighting through the urge to get pulled off task”, Klina took me to, “Bravery is the courage to stop when something’s not working.” Tweet This

There is a moment that every artist faces,” she explained, “when we have to say “When.” You reach a point where you know it’s not working, and as much time, effort and pieces of yourself you’ve put into the project, you have to stop and put it away. 

It was obviously a painful subject for Klina.  I could see it in her face, as she so clearly saw her art as investments of herself; saying “When” to a project was tantamount to passing a judgment of “You’re not good enough,” and near heartbreaking for her.

The pain of putting aside something we’ve invested in personally is very familiar to me, as it would be to anyone that has lived a life.  How often are we confronted by things/people/experiences that are wrong for us and feel a growing need to say, “When?” 

I had a job in my late 20s as an administrative assistant in the Human Resources department of a large company. While I excelled in the “Human” aspects of the work, I was beyond inept at the administrative tasks.  I’m not being hard on myself, honest… they are probably still looking for documents I misfiled some 25 years ago. The job lasted a very long, awful year, and served as a great lesson in “Goodness of fit” or the lack thereof.

I am not sure if it was worse for me, taking a beating to my ego with every problem I caused, or my manager, who was confronted on an almost daily basis by the ramifications of my mistakes.  We all knew I was wrong for the job, that I needed to leave, but like my quilter friend, I could only see leaving as “Failure”. When I finally did give my notice it was a relief for everyone involved.

Why did it take me a year to leave when I awoke almost every one of those 365 mornings iso unhappy? Let’s see if these reasons sound familiar to you. Reason 1: It’s not in my DNA to quit, and I perceived leaving as a “Failure.” Reason 2: I am an optimist’s optimist and thought that things could and would change, even with mounting evidence to the contrary. Reason 3: I had completely lost touch with what great, engaging work felt like.  I had normalized a mediocre situation and while it was awful, chose the comfort of that mediocracy over risk.  In hindsight, none of these were reason enough for me to stay, but I did, even when all signs pointed “Out”.  

The courage to say “When” requires us to stand for ourselves and what we want. To move forward, we need to put “Us” at the center, and redirect our efforts regardless of how much we’ve invested.  Recognize that putting a stop to something is not “Failure” but turning strength into action. Ultimately, this single act of bravery, of saying “When,” can propel us forward beyond where holding on and trying to make it work ever could.

20140907_165725The good news? Possibility birthed out of loss. Back to Klina, pictured here with her remarkable finished quilt.  She told me that sometimes an end is not an end, but a part of an ongoing process.  Sometimes, the things we put aside because they’re not working for us can be repurposed, reopened in the future and approached in a brand new way.  I like that idea, as I think that even when we let go, we can keep the lessons inside of us to inform our work, our lives, and our relationships for the better.  Not failure, not wrong, just not right for us right now.

Does any of this feel familiar to you?  Take a moment to share your stories about your own brave acts that have moved your lives forward.

Be brave, let go, say “When”.

The art of making the leap


Leaps of faith require bravery,
though we don’t always embrace our “Inner brave”.

When I moved back to the Northeast in March of 2014 after almost 20 years in Tennessee, I did so without a job.  This was a strange thing for a woman that loves a good plan to do.

Don’t ask me why, but I believed that if I released myself from my known path, opportunities would open up for me that I couldn’t begin to imagine. It was an intentional act, creating a purposeful space between my old professional life and whatever new one was waiting for me.

On hearing about my leaving like this, my friends and loved ones reacted with concern (“I mean, Lisa, who leaves without work?”), wistfulness (“I wish I could do that”) and/or complete and total support (“You go, girl!”). Those with a more spiritual orientation to the universe completely understood… it was an extraordinary act, a leap of faith.  They knew, as I know, that I did not need to plan for the great thing… that if I put positive energy into the world, the great thing would happen on its own. So I stopped planning, and began my new journey.

The release was ridiculously confronting and lacked the comfort of the familiar. The only way I could get through the initial stages was an often continuous recitation of my mantra, “You can’t move forward if you don’t let go”.  Stepping into the gap, I had to trust that even if I didn’t see things happening, it did not mean that they weren’t happening.  That space where anything can happen was open, and was, for me, full of possibility, but also very scary. Tweet This

You can’t move forward if you don’t let go. – Lisa Pote, Brave Girl

Driving out of Tennessee I was exhausted and battered by my leaving experience, but, also excited.  Finally, I was moving forward.  That I didn’t know what the end point was didn’t matter… it was the leap that mattered. And I’d done it.

As a part of my landing, I had some great conversations with a developing peer network in NYC, Philadelphia and DC.  I told my story over and over and heard, “That was a really brave thing to do”.  My first interpretation of that was “You must be crazy”. I couldn’t identify with “Brave” which to me, had always been very big; “Brave” was more fitting for first-responders, life-threatening illness survivors, heroes…  But that was my definition, and the true definition of “Bravery” includes some words that DID apply to me, and my new life in the gap:

  1. courageous behavior or character.
    synonyms: courage, valor, intrepidity, nerve, daring, fearlessness, audacity, boldness,dauntlessness, stoutheartedness, heroism; More

I knew that if “Brave” applied to me, then it also must apply to others as well. I began to talk to everyone I met about bravery, from Chamber events to online communities to training seminars.  I started asking, “What does bravery look like to you?”  and heard some wonderful examples of what I now call, “Everyday bravery.” People were so generous in sharing their stories, their fears, their accomplishments. They talked openly about how it felt when they fell short and how proud they were when they rose to the challenge. These stories, these people tugged at me; as a writer and motivator, I sensed an opportunity to redefine what bravery looks like, to create a “Brave Community.”

Here we are. Here it is.  Lisa’s “Next Thing.”

All you brave souls, or brave “Wanna-bes”, this blog is for you, for us.  Let’s co-own a space to share our risks and rewards, identify what works for us and what doesn’t. Let’s build hope here and help each other make leaps in our everyday lives so that we can have the lives we deserve.  Go big or go home, I say.

What is YOUR story? Today, bravery looks like “Lisa’s big leap of faith”. Tomorrow belongs to you.

Be brave. Be bold. Make the Leap.