Corralling Your Bravery
When I was eight years old, going into the 4th Grade, my family moved into my parents’ dream home. Perched on the top of a large hill, overlooking the valley, with Montana’s Mission Mountains as the backdrop, you would think we had purchased a piece of paradise. My Dad, having grown up in Texas, had always dreamed of having his own ranch. So grazing in the field in front of our newly erected home, was a herd of French Limousine cattle (that I had the opportunity to feed every night after school, but that’s another story for another day). My parents had purchased the land. My mother, the artist, had a hand in the home’s design. Every day for a year we would trek out to the site to see the progress. When we moved in, you would think that most of the work would have been done, but to this eight year old, it was just beginning…
We had to put in the yard.
I was convinced it was going to be the biggest yard on the face of the planet. Why my mother felt we needed so much yard is something I’ll never understand. But before there was yard, there was just dirt. And rocks. Lots and lots and lots of rocks. Rocks that needed to go before grass could be seeded. And for what seemed like a lifetime to a kid, my brother and I were put on “rock removal duty”. Weeks went by as we two indentured-children spent our summer culling every rock from the premises.
Finally, with all the rocks removed, the top soil was put in and the grass seed was sown. And on that long, warm summer evening, my mother, father, brother and I, our muscles sore but spirits high, proudly watched the sprinkler rotating back and forth while the sun was setting, infusing life into the baby grass seeds waiting to grow.
We went to bed happy. No more rocks!
It was about 2:00am when I awoke with a start… At first I thought it was a dream. “Mooooooooo! Mooooooo!”
I sat up in bed. “Mooooooo!”
And then I saw them. From my daylight basement bedroom, I saw hundreds of Limousine legs walking past my window.
The cows had gotten out. And they were in…
“Noooooooooo!” I screamed, waking my brother down the hall and running upstairs to my parents’ bedroom.
And for the next two hours, my two weary parents, my younger brother and I tromped through the muddy remains of our yard in our jammies trying to get the cows back into the field. And they all went in. Except one.
Now if you’ve never seen a full grown bull in real life, you may not fully appreciate the enormity of our challenge. The average Limousine bull will weigh 2600 lbs. (scroll up for a visual). They’re big boys.
But you see, I was mad. They woke me up. They destroyed our yard. I didn’t care how big he was, he was going in that pasture if it was the last thing I did.
Of course that’s exactly what my mother was worried about.
With my mother screaming, “Kimberly! You get over here this instant!” in the background, my father swearing through his gritted teeth, and my younger brother, looking like a street urchin, covered with mud from head-to-toe, whimpering at my probable demise, I stood two yards from that bull and gave him a piece of my mind.
Now you’ve got to picture it. I was eight, but I was small for my age (the mean boys at school called me “shrimp”). And there I was in my white nightgown and muddy boots, with my Dorothy Hamill haircut, holding a rusty metal bucket of pellets in my hand, staring down this bull with such ferocity. That bull, if he knew what was good for him was quaking in his hooves.
Well maybe not so much.
But I was fearless. I shouldn’t have been. I should have been petrified.
I exchanged “words” with the bull (something that probably sounded like, “You stupid bull! What do you think you’re doing?!”). Shook the bucket of pellets. Sashayed past him with a don’t-mess-with-me-look-in-my-eyes through the gate to the pasture, and like a little puppy he followed behind me, without so much as a snort.
I think about that eight-year-old-girl I was. About her pluck. About her ability to just jump in and do what needed to be done – even in the dark and the mud and the mess. About her fierce bravery.
There are so many times my grown-up-self doesn’t feel feel so brave. When I resist doing what needs to be done, if the outcome is in the dark and looks like it’s going to be messy. When I feel like I’ve lost my pluck. And those are the days when I look deep inside and remember her. I remember that those qualities are part of me. Even if I’ve forgotten and I’m feeling uncertain, inside I’m still that fierce little girl.
That girl who showed that bull what’s what!
And that’s true for all of us. I don’t care what your title is, or how successful you are, we all have times when we we don’t feel so brave. And it’s during those times – when all seems lost, or hard, or just plain messy – that we can look deep inside and find that strength when we need it most. It’s there. Our bravery.
Sometimes it just needs to be corralled.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (revised from blog originally posted October, 2013)
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!
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