Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
What do you do with the whoosh? Do you move on it, sit with it, stuff it or throw it?
Long before the bridge fell down I sensed a big life ahead of me. I've always been filled with big ideas, and when those big ideas strike it's been important for me to be discerning in my action. Here are some examples of how that discernment has shown up in my life:
Move On It:
Over the past few years, I've been invited to share my story of trauma with a class at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN. During one of those talks I became fully aware for the first time, the impact my story could have in someone else's life.
A young veteran sat in the back of the classroom and as I talked he leaned forward. Eventually he rose his hand and began to ask questions about his own experience of trauma. "Have you experienced this? How has it impacted your relationship? What did you do about...?"
He and I carried on a conversation about our wounds. It could have just been the two of us and it would have been powerful, but fortunately there was a classroom of witnesses to the unfolding of our stories - the ways they intertwined despite the differences of our experiences. It was a powerful learning experience. He and I grew stronger in our faith that we weren't alone - who knows, maybe others did too. Through our shared experience we found connection - and hope. And who knows, maybe others did too.
The whoosh of that awakening, to the power of my story, made the 3 hour drive home fly by. I called my husband on the way, still buzzing from the cellular level sparks that were expanding my sense of self. I told him how awesome the experience was and that I needed to start putting myself out there so I could make the speaking thing a real gig- not just the random request handed out by the Universe to get me moving. By the end of the night, I had launched my first website complete with presentation topics and a contact form.
[As an aside, I love the way this story illustrates moving on it, but must also add that that move coincided quite closely with the rise up of another whoosh - to start courageous heARTS. My energy shifted focus and the website turned into a sit with it, for awhile. It's now shifting back into the move category as I begin to launch my coaching services and presentations. If you are ready to move with me, check out what I have to offer!]
Sit With It:
courageous heARTS is a great example of sitting with the whoosh. My first whoosh to start a youth center came when I was sixteen and, although there are many 16-year-olds who have moved on their whooshes, I knew I needed to sit with it before it could be realized. (A key distinction between a sit and a stuff is the knowing or belief that the whoosh will be realized.) I actively sat with that whoosh for 14 years - seeking knowledge, through formal learning opportunities like college degrees, on the job training, and professional development, and also finding it through the life lessons provided by my journey, of hurt and healing, connection and expression, solitude and togetherness. Without those 14 years of active sit time, heARTS wouldn't exist- at least not as it is. Because of my sit time, when I got the whoosh of bigness again in 2012, I was ready to move on it. I had gathered the tools I'd need and was ready to make real the vision that had guided me for all of those years.
One time in college, in the midst of writing a reflection on the way school can be harmful to students who can't fit into or figure out the boxes "they" say we should exist in, I was struck by the fact that my anger and frustration was something I could act on. I could do something to help solve the problem. I could start a school that heals rather than harms, that lifts up and illuminates people's strengths. My mind was filled with possibilities about what would be different- how it would look and feel. I was so inspired that I rushed into a friend's room and proclaimed, "I'm going to start a school!"
The response? "Okay... (weirdo)"
Weirdo was implied by the tone of voice and my inner critic took that tiny little response and used it to stuff my whoosh with messages like:
"Who do you think you are to want to start a school, you haven't even finished college yet? Start a school, really, what makes you so special? Stop living in the clouds, isn't it enough that you want start a youth center? etc. etc. etc."
Here's the thing about stuffing the whoosh. The whoosh doesn't go away, because there's truth in it- your truth. Stuffing it comes from a place of fear- about the risks, what others will think, about your own value. Unless you busy yourself to keep from feeling the whoosh- it will rise up anyway.
In my case, my whoosh of energy to fix the school system has never gone away. It hasn't emerged as a school (yet!), but it has emerged through much of my work over the past decade including the development of Project RestART (a program of courageous heARTS) and before that Empowering Students to Achieve (a program of another nonprofit that I helped grow out of a single position) and presently, through my Ripples of Resilience workshop for educators and other youth-serving professionals. (Registration for an upcoming workshop at the U of M will open later this week so watch my Facebook page for details!)
The lesson: Stuffing it doesn't mean it's gone and if you can get your inner critic out of the way, you'll probably find yourself sitting with it. :-)
Throw It Out:
Just to be clear, I am not and never will be an advocate of throwing out the ideas that whoosh through and light you up. If it's a timing issue, sit with it and learn for it. If it's a capacity issue, sit with it and create space for it. If it's a worth issue, sit with it and combat your inner critic for it. If it is a fear issue, sit with it and strengthen your courage for it. Because at the end of the day the it, is you. That whoosh is an electrification of your truest self, your soul, your being. To throw it out, is to throw out yourself, and that simply is not an option.
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.