Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
Happy New Year!
I hope the first hours of 2016 have been all you hoped for. In the event that they haven't, I want you to remember that today is as special as any other day.
The collective intention to create goals and stick with them can be helpful and I'm a huge fan of taking stock of your life, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to change all of our bad habits the minute the clock strikes midnight.
I use to make long lists of resolutions:
- move more
- eat less
- clean more
- watch TV less
- focus more
- and on and on
Frankly, I'm still working on all of those - though TV should be joined by Facebook. (ugh.)
One of the things I've learned over the years is that there are certain things I do want to improve about myself, but rarely do those things show up on a checklist. Usually there's a lot of digging and poking around on the inside before I know what steps to take on the outside.
Instead of creating lists of resolutions I'll almost certainly neglect and usually stress me out, I've adopted two practices to help me envision the year ahead and the way I want to feel.
My first vlog (what a horrible word), is a story from my Soul Camp experience a couple weeks ago! Since I loved the experience SO MUCH, I also wanted to do a quick plug for Soul Camp West, which is happening at the end of October in California. Tickets are still available and if you use the code LINDSAYSOUL you'll get a 20% discount!
This past week, I returned from a 3-day silent retreat at a local hermitage run by the Franciscan order of the Catholic church. After over two years of non-stop going, I knew it was time for me to disconnect so that I could reconnect. Before I was left with myself in the hermitage, I was asked if I had any specific prayer requests (they pray for all hermits during their stay) and simply asked to get what I needed.
A lot of what I needed was space to re-center. I got that. I was also looking forward to diving deep into the writing of my book. I got that too. I painted, I walked, I sat, I slept. It was glorious. During my stay, I had multiple encounters with deer. At one point, I was standing in front of what the Franciscans refer to as the "window to God's creation" and off in the distance saw a patch of brown that didn't look like tree bark. Wondering if it was a deer, I sat and watched patiently trying to attune to what I was seeing. I saw a movement that confirmed it was alive and made a request that it come closer. Within a minute of the ask, the creature moved closer into sight and I noticed a rustle of leaves behind it- a baby! I'm not sure how long I sat with them, the momma keeping fierce watch and the baby playfully scampering away and back again each time bringing them a little closer to my dwelling. No words can describe the absolute awe and delight I felt to witness a few moments of their life.
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.
My husband and I replayed the first interview I did following the collapse last night. It was an interview I did with Dave's best friend, who reported for the local CBS affiliate in Mankato at the time. Because of our existing relationship, this story is the most raw and intimate of any that I've ever done.
The interview was done about 4 weeks after the collapse-- the pain of it all sat just beneath the surface, but Dave could see it in my eyes. The pain struck him, but the audio of the message I left him that day triggered him.
I was just in a major accident on 35W- the bridge collapsed... turn on the TV... the entire bridge just collapsed and my car is in the water. Somehow I got out... My back hurts really bad... probably going to go to a hospital somewhere... I just wanted you to know that I'm alive... I love you.
Last night, it was Dave's turn to get triggered. No sooner had the recording started, than he was flooded with the emotions of that day. BAM! Just like that-- no warning-- no way to stop it. Suddenly we were re-experiencing that day-- but this time, we focused on his experience.
I've always felt like the bridge was a shared trauma, not only between myself and other survivors/family members. It's a trauma that has had rippling effects in my own life and the community at-large. Everyone has a story from that day-- whether it was the near miss (I was delayed at work.... We stopped to use the bathroom... I watched it go down in my rear view mirror...) or the secondary trauma of having your world turned upside down because of the direct impact on someone close.
Dave's story-- his secondary trauma-- always mattered to me. Throughout my recovery, there were many times that I confronted him with it-- craving the connection of feeling the weight together.
It happened to you, too!
Last night, seven years and fifteen days later, he finally admitted that it happened to him too. He confided that the few times he allowed himself to consider his own feelings, they were quickly batted away by shouldn'ts-- by the little voice that told him how selfish it would be to feel his own feelings given what I was going through.
How many other relationships suffer because of the little voice telling us not to care for ourselves in the midst of hurt and sadness? Because it's selfish, or not important, or not "bad" enough.
One of the most startling phenomenons I experienced in the wake of all of this is the complete disregard people have for their own hurts and traumas in the face of a perceived "worse."
Dave isn't the only one who neglected his own feelings or downplayed a challenging experience around me. I know that when someone says, "oh, it's nothing compared to what you've been through..." it's intended to honor my experience, but instead it feels like a giant chasm has been created between us. I feel othered and cut out from the opportunity for connection.
Last night, Dave and I talked about his experience seven years ago. How he felt hearing my message... turning on the TV... driving aimlessly, hoping not to crash... wondering how his life-- our lives would change. His wound broke open last night, and with it comes new awareness of his own trauma story-- and with that story comes connection.
To those who have experienced trauma-- in any shape or form:
It's important to look inward, to be "selfish" and care for your wounds. Don't neglect your own hurts because someone else has it "worse." Your story-- all of it-- matters. Listen to it. Learn from it. Share it.
Even as you look in, don't forget to look up sometimes, and see what stories are staring back at you-- waiting to be heard. By listening to each other's stories and honoring our own we find connection.
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.