5 ways to keep your heart in the good fight

I drove to the beach alone for the first time last week. The practice of solitude is at best, an uncomfortable yoga pose. I know it's helping my vitality in the long run, but its impossible to get my mind to settle down.

A million thoughts flowed like water down the back of mind— the unfinished chores at home, the paper stack I left on my desk at work, the text I forgot to send, the annoying pop song stuck in my head. 

Everything but quiet, I found in solitude.

Isn't it ironic?

The first thing I reach for is always my phone, to fulfill an urgent need to feel connected with others. It's not surprising that most of us pitch our self-confidence upon the grounds of what other people think. We are born connectors. I do this immediately, unthinkingly. I can't help it.

But fighting the good fight for your heart is less about getting things perfect, and more about trying.

Allow me to explain. 

Engaging in solitude taught me the first lesson of the brave practices that bend my heart toward hope. 

#1 Notice something brave about yourself

It can be small and insignificant to someone else. The only prerequisite is that it's important to you.

Maybe you took your three year old to the Saturday market by yourself.

Brave.

Maybe you moved to a new city.

Brave.

Maybe you told your boss how you actually feel.

Brave.

You don't have to strap yourself to a rocket to practice courage.

Life is far less about outcomes realized than it is about risks taken. We need hardiness to become fighters, and thick skin is formed when we survive the cheap shots without backing down.

This excerpt from Brene Brown's "Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted" says it all:

We craft love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment, courage from failure. Showing up is our power. Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted.

Doing the work of transformation in your heart is like going to the beach. The only requirement is that you show up and try to stay present. And in the school of sand and waves, you'll start to notice something different about yourself. You're an inch less afraid and a mile closer to feeling real acceptance in your heart—for your gifts, your struggles, the parents you were born to, your spouse, your janky car, your untamable hair. 

Show up and notice your bravery. That's the only way real progress is made. 

#2 Know what's [not] your fight 

 If I could only count the causes I'd love to champion, they would never end. I think for most of us this is true, but when we get down to the nitty gritty of a 40 hour work week, we just can't do it all. 

Here's the bite-sized version: Everyone's baby is not your baby.

Know what I mean? You can support, love, cherish and encourage many pursuits, for world peace, urban gardening, bike commuting, minimalism, grammar snobs, girl power, and on and on. But realistically, you can only pick about one. Maybe one and half if you're superwoman. 

The thing that's most sacred about our lives is our time. What we devote our time to says a lot about who we are. This means you should set your sights on the thing that is most central and life-giving to the person God made you to be. Only wear the role that fits you like a glove.

When you do this, people will start making unprovoked comments like "Wow, this new stage of life really suits you" or "I see a lot of strength in this skill you have " or "You're doing an amazing job with those kids". Those are all indications that you need keep fighting that fight. 

Don't get into someone else's ring and be surprised when the punches start flying in your direction. Stay in your own lane and don't allow yourself to be distracted by where else you might be needed. Be satisfied with the now. You're here—stay in it!

#3 Stay endlessly curious

There's a little playground at the edge of our everyday lives that's inviting us to do something different. It's so key to stay creative if we want to keep our hearts in the fight.

A fighter is never looking at her feet. She's always anticipating the next move, and finding innovative ways to outwit her opponent. The opposition attacks when it can find a pattern and trace our weak points. Throw it off its game by taking joy in a new thing.

Keep your chin up and your heart burning with the real and practical hope that things can be better than they were yesterday. You know this because you've already practiced #1 and tried something brave. 

Curious people ask questions. Curious people kick the ball around until it lands somewhere worth exploring. They aren't control freaks, and they don't expect to have the map beforehand. This is the reward of not sidelining yourself to fear. Get in the game and loosen your expectations. You'll be satisfied by what you find.

#4 Send little love notes out to the world

I love love songs. I know, who doesn't? But when there's no one to sing them to, love songs can feel a little #awkward and so can love notes. 

I sent a love note in the mail once to a boy I had a crush on in high school. Some little mischievous part of my heart just couldn't help myself. I can't imagine what he thought when he opened it up! I sent it to affirm my heart, and let curiosity take the lead.

Maybe you've done something similar.

We send little love notes out to the world like messages in a bottle. Some make it to total strangers, some miss their destination, or achieve a much greater purpose than we'll ever know when we sealed the enveloped and dropped it in the outgoing mail slot. 

Love notes are to be hidden, found, read out loud, and laughed over. 

Sending love notes out to the world might sound like a silly call to action for keeping your heart in the good fight, but it's funny just how this works. When you act in love, you start to feel in love. This means lingering over your favorite romantic movies, writing out the lyrics to the songs you love or leaving an encouragement card for someone to find.

Sending your love notes out to the world will undoubtedly stir up opposition, and that's exactly what we want. People will laugh, belittle, call you a "dreamer" in the negative connotation, and not understand. Keep going, because this means you're making a dent! 

#5 Reclaim the spaces where you've written off hope

I noticed something recently. After coming off a tumultuous and sudden breakup, I found myself revisiting all of the places I used to go with this person. It was less an act of conscious planning, and more like a movement of my will. I'll clarify what that means. 

I realized that my heart was wanting to lead my feet back in time, not to linger in the past, but as if to say "Hey, don't be afraid! It's ok to come back here and make this place new to your heart again." 

Favorite restaurants, beach spots, vacation respites, and boardwalks were all included in this list. With each revisiting, I let the memories stir, like sediment in a river and settle again. I learned that the only way to lay some things to rest is to go to the gravesite. Running away only amplifies the loss.

Take your heart back to the very spot where it was broken, not to mourn, but to bury the grief. Make peace with these physical places in your life that trigger sadness. Take time to pray there or just reflect, and watch them change before your very eyes.  You will be astonished at what begins to happen as your heart opens up to new possibilities. Stay in the good fight. You're looking strong from my corner.