Home > advice -- not that you asked > My Graceless Heart: Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

My Graceless Heart: Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage


“And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t So here’s to drinks in the dark, at the end of my rope And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat ‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me Looking for heaven, found the devil in me But what the hell, I’m gonna let it happen to me, yeah.” ~Florence + the Machine, Shake It Out

To me, everything in life boils down to exactly this: being ready to throw yourself into the fire, putting everything out there, hoping while holding onto the idea that it might hurt. We are, at our core, every single thing that we’ve ever dared to believe. Every chance we’ve ever taken. Every moment we’ve ever seized. We aren’t tethered to anything but our ability to try, to dare, to stave off the fear long enough to leap.

The other week, I watched We Bought a Zoo. It was really good movie, with a surprising amount of depth. Plus, if you hand me a movie that features animals (Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken! Mr. Popper’s Penguins! Pippy Longstocking!), I’m SO in. But the Zoo movie had one really amazing line: all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.

Twenty seconds to close your eyes and leap. To press send, to make a phone call, to put your hand out, to kiss – twenty seconds. If you think about it, it’s such a grand, small thing. And it’s so true. It’s all you need to change your life. To put something out into the universe.

It can be a fight. It can be the beginning of a battle. But some things, some dreams or people, are worth fighting for. They’re worth doing the impossible for. I was thinking about that, this morning, as I was drinking my coffee. Most people, as they grow up, lose their ability to hope recklessly and completely. They lose their belief in the things labeled impossible. I am not one of those people. I believe in moving mountains. I don’t think anything is impossible. If you want something, you go after it. You fight for it. You risk everything, because anything else is a disservice to yourself and whatever it is you’re chasing.

And all it requires is a beginning. Twenty seconds of insane courage. I’ve got that in spades, darlings. How about you?

  1. anvilsandedelweiss
    May 20, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I love this. And so needed to read that second paragraph today. you’re awesome, Ali : )

    • May 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

      I’m so glad to hear that this helped you, Leah!!! And thank you for the compliments. xoxo

  2. May 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Great post, as always. I never see myself as fearless. I spent my youth doing X because I was afraid Y was too risky. I still have Primal Bag Lady Fear – the fear I will suddenly lose everything and be out on the street with a shopping cart and a crazed look in my eye. Yet, people look at me – moving to California in my 20’s, marrying outside my race, leaving a lucrative engineering career to write – and tell me how brave I am. I never felt brave about any of it. If I had 20 seconds of insane courage, I was too insane to recognize it.

    • May 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Gayle, courage isn’t the absence of fear — but the mastery of it. I forget who said it, but it’s true. And look at what you’ve done. Look at what you dared. That’s bravery. And it’s awesome. ❤

  3. May 20, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I think I’m on the other side of this in some ways, having gambled everything only to lose almost all of it. The upside is that you gain a better understanding of yourself and you learn to identify the things that are truly important. You also learn that happiness doesn’t always come from achievements and positive outcomes.

    And, Gayle, I can so relate to your comments!

    • May 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Jim, I think I’ve learned more from my mistakes than my successes. In a lot of ways, it’s how we gain perspective, which is something that you touched on. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. May 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Exactly! So many people sit there doing nothing to change their situation when they desperately need to because they think the chances are one in a million so why try? But I think, that may be so, yet if you don’t try, how are you even going to get the chance to find out for sure you are rejected? The worst thing a person can do is not even fail. It’s not even giving themselves the chance to fail.

    • May 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Exactly that, my dear. Try and fail, but at least TRY. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels in wet concrete.

  5. May 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    You make a really good point here, Ali. It’s often only an extremely short period of time between knowing you did all you could and regretting that you didn’t. Also, I feel like I should take the time to point out that I am OBSESSED with the Glee version of “Shake It out” right now. *Love*

    • May 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

      I am SO obsessed with that version, toooooo. It’s gorgeous. The show, this season, though…ehhh. I don’t even like it much, anymore. *sad face*

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