Keep Your Heart Open Even When It's Hard

There are some things we'd never do if we didn't have to. Or if we didn't have someone to do it with. It's our natural tendency to want to stay inside of a safe, comfortable bubble. Our first instinct when we do something we're afraid of is to protect ourselves in the process. When we start reaching the limits of what we feel capable of handling, we start to shut down. We start to paint the things that scare us to be a big scary picture. If it feels scary, it must be wrong, right?

I don't think I would have ever gone skydiving by myself, but three months ago my sister surprised me with skydiving tickets so I jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet above sea level.

Right after I jumped out of the plane, I had a 60-second freefall through the air before my instructor pulled the parachute. Initially, I thought this freefall was going to be absolutely terrifying.

You can imagine my pleasant surprise when the most unfathomable peace enveloped me within seconds of leaving the plane. You could describe the feeling as simply floating above the horizon. It was absolutely surreal. I felt like a bird as I spread my arms out. It was insane to be able to see so far in every direction and not even feel like I was falling.

I’d have missed out on a life-changing experience if I had stayed in the safety of that airplane. I’d have missed the best win if my eyes had been closed.

What are you waiting on? You’ve got that creative project, you’ve got that job interview for a job that you don’t think you’re qualified for, you’ve got a dream of being a public speaker, you want to write a book… what’s one thing you can do to take a step toward that thing that scares you?



Jump scared and keep your eyes open.

Last week, one of my friends posted about her recent skydiving experience. In a comment under her post, someone else commented that they've also gone skydiving, but they kept their eyes closed the whole time they were freefalling. I wanted to reach through the screen and shake them. I wanted to tell them to go again — with their eyes open. I'm positive that the experience was life-changing for this person (because jumping out of a plane can't NOT be life-changing), but all I could think about was everything that they missed out on experiencing because of a closed pair of eyes.

Then it hit me: Meg, you have your eyes closed.

This season of buying a house for the first time and adjusting to a new city is like a giant freefall for my emotions and my resources. I tried to prepare myself, but there's no way I could plan for all of the unknowns that were going to happen.

I was determined NOT to come to Nashville and only talk about how great Denver was. I know that's a natural human inclination when one moves to a new place. But I was going to do better.

At first, I stuck to my resolve to keep my heart open and take everything in. Right when I got here, I threw myself into embracing everything about Nashville. But it didn't take long for some yucky things to happen and I immediately retreated into a corner instead of taking a deep breath and keeping my heart open.

I started doubting whether I made a good decision to move here. I looked back longingly at the life I left in Denver and wished I could reverse everything and go back. I closed my eyes to the beauty that is around me here. I felt like I couldn't handle the changes and the challenges. The fear of what's going to happen next started keeping me awake at night. It felt easier to start closing off my heart than to look for the beauty here.

After you jump, it's impossible to go back. It's done. You're out of there. Even if you could go back, it's not the same. You might think you want to go back, but that's just your brain freaking out. There's a whole new world of beauty in front of you, but you're going to have to open your heart to be able to see it.

When we shut down in the face of fear, instead of leaning forward and embracing what's next, a funny thing happens: Our fears get worse.

Shutting down can actually create more fear inside your brain than even the unusual aspects of the reality of the situation you're in. This happens because your brain is in a stage of trying to protect you from perceived harm. We don't allow ourselves to be open to an alternative of the negative things that we're perceiving, so we shut down.

Fear is telling you that everything is so much worse than it actually is and you're totally believing it. This happens in all kinds of situations. This makes you doubt your own capability. This makes you afraid that other people will take over. This makes you afraid that you'll get left behind. This makes you afraid that you're going to lose everything you've worked so hard for. This makes you believe you're not enough, as you are.

Regardless of whether you jump out of a plane, move across the country, sign up for a marathon, or start a new job, there are uncomfortable moments in life when you’ll be tempted to start to close your heart. You might not even realize that it's happening. You might even completely justify it.

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Keep your heart open.

If you dare to open your heart when you're the most uncomfortable, there's a whole world of new perspectives waiting to open you up for new opportunities and experiences.



PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

On Sunday I drove out to the Knoxville area to see some friends. I spent six hours in the car driving out there and then coming back. As I drove, I was enchanted by the natural beauty around me. It was raining most of the day which filled the hills with a low hanging fog. I felt like I was driving through a classic movie scene when I took local highways to reach my final destination. It was the perfect opportunity to do a lot of reflecting and letting go of what I wish for, so I can celebrate the wins of where I am.

I realized that there's not just a beautiful new win on the other side of the hard things that we face — there's also beauty right in the middle of it.

Dare to keep your heart open. Dare to keep your eyes open. You don't want to miss a thing.

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Photography by The Hanna Kate