There are a couple things I've mastered in this life: the not-too-annoying-but-just-whiny-enough voice that makes Steven get off the couch to get me a glass of water every time, the art of making a bed using hospital corners just how my grandma taught me, how to put my contacts in without losing an eye, and the brave face. I've really mastered the brave face. I use it almost daily to conceal negative emotion, to shield me from bad news, to lessen the pain of brutal blows. But lately, I reach for that mask first thing in the morning and refuse to discard it until late at night when the lights go down and I can allow the awfulness that's been festering in my mind all day to flood me, washing over every inch of my body and soul. I seem to never give my brave face a rest.
"I'm nervous," Steven confided to me last night...and even then I held on tightly to the brave face. But the truth is I'm nervous, too. I'm nervous that the doctor's appointment I have today may bear bad news, I'm nervous that I lack those maternal instincts they say surface when you hold your baby in your arms for the very first time, I'm nervous I may have to leave my baby to go back to work after 3 months, and I'm nervous about how the world will respond to that even though they don't know the half of our circumstance. I'm very nervous, and feeling anything but brave.
I'm also exhausted. It's tiring to keep the brave face firmly in place. I want so desperately to set it aside and feel even the most painful of blows. But that takes bravery, and bravery is something I have yet to master.
I'm working on it. I'm working on discarding my brave face for good and really being brave. To put my trust in the Lord and confine my fears to those who I know love me. To not hide behind this mask anymore because, at it's core, it is dishonest. I don't have it all together despite what I convey here on this blog and in my other day to day interactions. I really don't. Most days I am more terrified about my impending role as a mother than excited. And oftentimes, I am ashamed of that and feel broken.
But I think I've realized that it's okay to not always have it all together, it's okay to let down your mask and allow others to see your struggles, and it's even okay to ask for a helping hand, a note of encouragement, or a heartfelt prayer. It's okay. What's not okay is allowing the brave face to be your everyday wear. It will eventually begin to crack like all shields eventually do.
So today, instead of wearing the brave face I've cultivated and mastered these last 25 years, I'm going to lay it down and practice really being brave. And I think that begins with admitting to you that I'm nervous.