Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
In episode 2, I have two stories to share about how I've befriended my fear and learned to discern real vs perceived threats. In either circumstance, courage is what's needed to make a decision that will expand your life rather than restrict it.
If you would like to have a conversation about the content of today's cast, I invite you to join me over in my private Facebook group: The Resilient Soul Sanctuary. It's a safe space, where you can share your own reflections and start a conversation about how courage shows up in your own life.
Before I leave you to it, I wanted to let you know that CourageCast is now available on iTunes and will soon be on Stitcher too! If you like what you hear, I'd appreciate a review!
I get that being a police officer is hard work - I'm pretty sure we can all agree on that. I also believe that most officers do the best they can with what they have. I think that is true for all of us.
Here's the thing:
You make mistakes, just like the rest of us.
You have implicit bias, just like the rest of us.
You are trying to survive, just like the rest of us.
Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to attend a 4-day training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Since then, I've challenged myself to use the skills offered by Dr. Marsha Linehan in both my work and my life.
This past weekend, while attending the Center for Courage and Renewal's Academy for Leaders, I had the opportunity to integrate my understanding of her work with the work of Parker Palmer.
Dialectical thinking creates space for opposites to be true. It's shifting our minds from either/or to both/and. Parker Palmer uses the language of paradox to describe this same phenomenon as a "tragic gap" between what is and what could be.
Here's the simple word that can make all the difference in how we create space for paradox in our lives:
For the past month, I have been training teenagers from throughout Minneapolis in work readiness skills to prepare them for a summer internship with the STEP-UP program. Each Saturday in March, I spent 7 hours with a new group of 16-21 year olds, talking resumes, interviews and the importance of communication.
One of the things discussed each week is the role that character and attitude play in our success. Part of that discussion includes an exercise about famous failures - Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Seuss - all folks who experienced failure. All folks whose lives and work have made such an indelible imprint on our culture, our country, our everyday lives, that there's no mistaking their name or how the world is different because of them.
I'm always amazed by the discussion this exercise evokes. Some are quick to point out that it wasn't Elvis Presley who failed when he was told he wasn't good enough for the Grand Ole Opry, it was actually the guy who didn't see his talent in the first place. That all 23 publishers who first rejected Dr. Seuss probably went to the grave kicking themselves for not signing a deal with him. The lesson from this exercise is keep going, keep persisting, keep practicing, keep making ends meet, because eventually the right person, the right time, the right opportunity will come along and all that rejection, all that unrealized potential will be seen and valued.
The art of failing is to hold on to the belief that each failure will lead to success. Actually, that each failure is a success.
If Abraham Lincoln had won one of the first eight elected offices he ran for, he probably wouldn't have been the 16th President of the Unites States. He wouldn't have been the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing African Americans from slavery. At the end of the day if he hadn't succeeded at losing those earlier elections, there may not have even been a Civil War, let alone an Emancipation Proclamation.
We are all meant for greatness. We are all meant to contribute our gifts in our own unique ways, at our own pace and timing. The art of failing is to know that your gifts are your source of greatness, to trust that your greatness will come, and to persist until you find it or it finds you.
I've often wondered what I would say if I were asked to tell someone about a time when I failed. In the midst of all the talk about failing, I couldn't really think of a time that I've failed. I've been disappointed many times, I've had countless proposals rejected, lost out on promotions, made other people mad or upset, but honestly none of those things felt like failure. They were all learning experiences. They all taught me invaluable lessons about myself, about the world, about life. Without those moments, I'd be a different person, a lesser person. And at the end of the day, they were just moments, just drops in the bucket of a lifetime.
Yesterday marked the third birthday of The heART Center. April 1, 2013 was the day I signed the lease and took possession of the keys to courageous heARTS' first space. By most accounts, the past two years have been highly successful. As a brand new nonprofit with no donor base or community awareness we've managed to keep the bills paid and offer year-round programming with a steady base of volunteers and supply donations. Success! By their accounts, we've already made an impact in the lives of many youth too. Success!
There is so much greatness, so much opportunity and potential just waiting to unfold, but some days I struggle with lack. I wonder about the seeds that I've planted over the last two years and whether they will flourish. I've spent most of my waking hours tending those seeds. So much time in fact that I forgot to nourish myself - forgot to care for my own needs.
I've been making changes, because at the end of the day the only failure I could ever actually experience is the failure to love myself. And loving myself is risky.
Loving myself forces me to create boundaries- to say no while knowing that other people might be disappointed or upset. It requires me to give more thought to how my decisions will effect me rather than my autopilot mode of caring for the needs of others, protecting and nurturing their hearts at the expense of my own. Loving myself challenges me to know my own value, and stand up for my own self-worth.
The art of failing, is the art of flying. It's just a matter of perspective.
I've been wincing a lot lately. Sometimes when I'm laying down, and sometimes while standing up. Other times, the sharp pain that shoots through my back is tied to completely random movements.
Finally, after much procrastination, I went to the chiropractor for the first time in way too long. I told her my "spot" was acting up. This spot in my lower back, just to the right of my spine, that feels like a ball full of sorrow.
Since my back brace came off seven years ago, I've done my best to ignore that spot. It's been this elusive pain that seems inescapable. During this first visit in way too long, the pain was as tricky as ever-- the questions of, does it hurt now? as my body is shifted and contorted, so often answered with no.
How is it that this pain can cause fleeting moments of crippling discomfort and then disappear in the presence of a doctor? They always say they believe me, but sometimes I feel like the girl who cried wolf. So I've spent the last seven years chalking it up to life. Accepting that a certain level of pain is just what life is like now. Penance, perhaps.
This time, when I went to the doctor, they had a new scan machine that showed how my vertebrae were zigzagging down my back. 150% one way, 200% the other--like a pin ball pinging off the sides of the machine. Official diagnosis? Your back is jacked up! (I love my chiropractor for her formal style and unwavering professionalism, it really makes for a much more pleasant experience!)
It's nice to have some validation that the pain is clearly real. I've got this image on my fridge as a reminder that I need to care for my back as much as I care for my heart.
This time my pain feels different. It's alive again, in an excruciating way. There are memories attached with this pain. The physical sensations and the limitations.
I'm pulling out the adaptive moves I learned so long ago. The log roll has been helping me out of bed, and there are some really smooth moves to help with getting dressed in the morning. I'm trying to keep from sitting too much-- which means make shift standing desks and evenings laying on the couch.
I'm trying really hard to care for my spot-- which amounts to some ill placed bones and a sprained muscle (or two).
Since my brace came off, I've spent so much time trying to heal my heart so I could seize the day, that I've neglected a critical element of life--a body that feels good. It's actually a really amazing thing to feel present enough to want a body that can help me live this extraordinary life!
So I'm seizing the pain right now, in order to truly live life to the fullest. Enough with feeling like I'm ninety, at least until I am ninety. (Later than that will do too!)
I'm going to leave you with a post from my old blog. I wrote it as I was transforming my brace into something worth keeping, titled Healing Embrace. Healing is truly a state of embrace--pulling the tough stuff close and giving it all the love you can.
My mom said “get rid of it”. How could I do that? This object represents so much.
Pain. Anger. Tears. Restriction. A bulls eye—a target. Baby steps. "You’re still wearing that?" Security—I am safe in this shell. Healing.
Instead of creating a burden for the earth, with something that will never decompose, I transformed it. It’s still a work in progress—just like I am—but it will tell my story, in ways my words may not.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I started swimming lessons. In order to pass the first level, I needed to jump into the deep end of the pool and use the skills I had learned to stay afloat. I was so scared that I wouldn't remember how to swim that I refused to jump. It didn't matter that I had been doggie paddling in the shallow end for most of the summer, that there were instructors there to keep me safe, or that I would fail the class and have to start over. The fear of not being able to touch the ground held me back.
It still holds me back.
It's no longer the lack of confidence about my skills that keeps me grounded. I know that I have the skills to fly. I've studied, practiced, and paid attention. Still do.
These days, I find myself struggling to fly because of the little voice in my head that says:
"Don't be too confident."
"Don't be selfish."
"Don't shine too bright."
We all have that little voice and it can do a number on our sense of self-worth and add weight to our flight.
But guess what?
There's a BIG voice in my heart (in all our hearts), that lightens the load. I know that when I listen to that voice good things happen-- no, no-- great things happen!
In the lead up to the launch of heARTS, I was filled with guidance from that BIG voice. I was following my heart and it felt so right. With each new step in the process, new opportunities arose that felt like Divine encouragement to keep me going.
As my dream became a reality, I had a harder time hearing my BIG voice. The day to day realities of running an organization pulled my head from the clouds and the little voice started to get louder again. As the volume of that little voice increased, my satisfaction with my DREAM JOB decreased.
Exhaustion, confusion about my personal/professional identities, fear about money, and grief over the loss of time for friends, family and even the dishes, caused me to question my heart. Suddenly, thoughts of getting a "real job" ( WHAT?! ) crossed my mind and I had to start doing some serious soul searching and self caring.
Aug. 1 has become a kind of re-birth day for me-- my life day. Last week, I took a reflective journey to the memorial and the river. Throughout the day, the Universe gifted me with reminders that even birds have to learn how to fly. Baby feathers floated into my path throughout the day and when I returned home in the afternoon I received the biggest gift of all-- flying lessons!
A family of hawks, who have been nesting in our neighbor's tree, used our backyard for flying lessons. Three hawks lined our 4' chain link fence and another was on the ground, all appeared to be fully grown. At first we thought the one on the ground was injured, it was flailing about and struggling to fly. We wondered if the other three were watching over it- protecting it. Then we noticed that the hawk on the ground was trying to grasp chunks of woods-- remnants of a tree trunk. Turned out he was learning how to fly with the additional weight of the wood-- mock prey I suppose. Eventually another hawk took to the task and the first flew up to the fence-- assuring us that what we were witnessing was indeed flying lessons. (You can watch the action yourself in the video below.)
The Universe's message to me that day was loud and clear-- permission to fly.
Just like the hawks, I'm still learning how to fly. They helped me understand that I don't have to rid myself of the weight (the grief, the self-doubt, the guilt) in order to fly. I need to learn how to fly with those feelings-- despite those feelings. I am learning to turn the volume back up on my BIG voice and trust my wings.
About the blog:
This space holds thoughts and ideas generated from my personal journey of healing and recovery from trauma, co-dependency, and white supremacy culture. Opinions are entirely my own.