Maybe it’s because as I looked around Maria’s Schoolhouse Gallery all my friends from the Hubbard Hall Writers’ Group were there with their supportive husbands or maybe it’s because I had really been hoping some of my family could make it to the Open House to see my work and hear me read. Or maybe it’s because I had been to see the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Two by Two at Adamant the night before and everyone seemed to be paired up accordingly, but in spite of my smiles and the good time I was having, part of me felt single and alone. Part of me always feels that way. I’m not talking about having a mate, not exactly. I’m talking about the fact that when you don’t, what others view as independence can often feel just lonely. Don’t get me wrong. I love so much about my life. I love setting off on new adventures, meeting people, sharing my work, but as outgoing as I can seem on the outside, there’s a part of me on the inside that remains nervous, that can sometimes feels frightened and small. She doesn’t like setting out in the world alone – all the pressure falls squarely on her shoulders. There are no sheltering arms to retreat to, no one to offer a polite excuse if you need to get out of an unpleasant situation, no one to compare notes with on the way home.
Yet, I set out on my adventures and wear a happy face, because over all I am happy, but sometimes it also feels like I am being brave. It is brave to challenge yourself, to test your limits, stretch your comfort zone. It’s how you grow, but it doesn’t always feel comfortable. At first it feels scary, but to be honest, it gets easier and on some days, you realize your life really is an adventure. Because sometimes even though I feel small and frightened, I also have begin to feel strong and independent and I realize I am evolving.
Some of these thoughts were passing through my head yesterday as I walked around Maria’s studio-turned-gallery and surveyed her potholders. Colorful and bright each told a story and there on the wall was one that told mine: “Unafraid Yellow Hen Ventured Out on Her Own.” That’s me, I thought, snatching it off the wall and telling Maria I had to have it. I loved it. It is exactly how I felt as I loaded my artwork in the car and drove off to the Open House that morning. Yes, my family wasn’t with me, I didn’t have a partner, but I had my collages to show and my essay to read, things I had created and I was venturing out on my own, stretching my muscles, learning what I could do.
I loved how Maria’s potholder read “Unafraid Yellow Hen” because a Yellow Hen is Happy, she stands out against the gray cloth about her. She blazes her path. And, this hen was not Brave, she was unafraid. Brave to me still implies fear, an emotion one dons like an armor to do battle with the scary undercurrent. But Unafraid? That’s the opposite of fear. It leaves no room for doubt. I haven’t achieved that yet, but I have my moments and that’s the feeling I want to have, that’s the me I want to be. Sure, I still want to find a partner, two by two sounds good, but I am learning to love venturing out on my own, it’s how I’m learning every day to be Unafraid.