This is the way to be brave again

Illustrations by John P. Weiss.

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Several years ago, during the holidays, I encountered a street poet. He was plinking away on a very old typewriter, selling short poems for whatever patrons felt appropriate.

He typed his poetry on thin, onion skin paper. I remember the distinctive clickety-clack sound of the keys striking the paper. An utterly foreign sound in today’s world of laptops and touch screens.

He was staged just outside a popular downtown bookstore. Location, after all, is everything. Busy, frazzled shoppers couldn’t help but stop and take in this intriguing spectacle.

Poet Kevin Devaney

I inquired about his services. He told me there were several clients ahead of me, but if I’d like a personal poem, to leave my name. He suggested I include whatever I was passionate about. So, I wrote down my name and the word “art.”

Close up of Kevin Devaney typing

I left to explore the bookstore and shop. An hour later I returned and the poet told me my poem was done. Here’s a photo of the poem he typed for me:

Poem by Kevin Devaney.

This is my favorite line in his poem:

“Stretch the paint, until you have built a stair on which man may climb out of his lack of kindness.”

The poet’s name is Kevin Devaney. His website states that he is “a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program (2011) and a spoken word advocate.”

He is the founder of the Santa Cruz, California weekly poetry open mic, the Sarah Lawrence College Spoken Word Collective, the Northampton Poetry Brothel, Northampton Poetry, and the former Art Bar & Cafe Philanthropub. He is passionate about devising new ways for art to intersect with daily life. You can find more of his work on his Instagram page.

What I admire about Kevin Devaney are his passion and fearlessness. Not a lot of people are willing to open up shop on a busy city street, during the holidays, and perform.

Push just a tiny bit longer

How many of us are held back by fear? By that nagging voice in our head, telling us we’re not good enough?

Perhaps the answer to our fears, then, is to “stretch the paint.” Take out our creative brushes (or whatever tools you use), and dive in.

And what about fear, you ask? How do we be brave and recover the essence of who we are? Or who we want to become?

Fortunately, there is a way to be brave again. All it requires is one thing:

Let go of the past. Ignore the voices of those who discourage you. They are mired in their own fear and threatened by the ones who set sail.

Illustrations by John P. Weiss.

Let go of your self-doubt and fear of failure. Risk a little to let your true self emerge. Others will appreciate your authenticity and uniqueness.

And should you get knocked down, dust yourself off and learn from the experience. Figure out what went wrong. Don’t waste time blaming others, even if it was their fault. Find a better path forward. Regroup, and when you’re ready, try again.

“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer.” — Seth Godin

Clinging and grasping

Writer Melissa Kirk, in an article for Psychology Today, had this to say about the power of letting go:

“In my life, the most amazing things that have happened to me have been direct results of me facing the crippling terror of letting go of something. Whether a relationship, a job, or a story about myself and what I am and am not good at, the best things in my life have come when I’ve chosen to hold my breath and dive under the terror, even if I’ve tried hundreds or times before and failed.”

Author and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, in the following YouTube video narration, encourages us to stop “clinging and grasping” at things, especially when we cannot have them or they’re not good for us.

Kabat-Zinn talks about how they trap monkeys in India. They cut a hole in a coconut, and tie the coconut to the base of a tree.

Then they place a banana inside the coconut. The hole is crafted so that when the monkey grasps the banana, the size of his fist prevents the monkey from removing his hand.

The monkeys refuse to let go of the banana. They are caught by their own desire.

Sound a bit familiar?

How many of us cling to a desire? How often do we grasp and hold on to unhealthy habits, relationships or behaviors?

As Kabat-Zinn points out, letting go really means “letting be.” Allowing yourself not to get caught up in something. When we stop grasping and clinging, we let go of the psychological banana. We open the doorway to freedom. Freedom to be who we want to be.

A more peaceful state

The street poet Kevin Devaney inspired me. He reminded me that creative passion is such a gift, if we are willing to be brave, let go of our fear and share our art with the world.

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.” — Melody Beattie

I hope you let go of whatever is holding you back, and learn to be brave again. Doing so will enrich your life and the lives of many others.

Before you go

I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint landscapes and write about life. Thanks for reading.

This article first appeared on Medium

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