What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk?
Courage is defined by dictionary.com as “–noun 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. 2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion. 3. have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.” When I looked up courage in the dictionary I was expecting to see a picture of John Wayne, Barack Obama, or Rosa Parks. A photo encapsulating all that is courage. Maybe when you think of courage you picture a mountain climber cresting the peak, a firefighter with soot all over her face and a clean outline of where her re-breather would have been, or maybe you see the silhouette of a solider walking a dusty desert road at sunset? There are many different examples or images we typically associate with courage. Whatever picture comes to your mind when you think of courage, I’ve had two opportunities this week to see courage in my friends in distinct and inspiring ways. These are two examples I would have never put on my example of courage radar. They have moved me, encouraged me, and inspired me. Considering the name of this blog is ‘Living Your Dreams – a journey in courage and triumph’ I thought it only apropos to include these two different stories of courage in dramatically different ways.
Imagine living your whole life afraid. Afraid of what ifs, maybes, or could happens. Growing up being told where to go, what to do, and even at times what to think. Imagine this environment, and assume it has been created with the most redeemed intentions, being one where self discovery may have been low on the totem pole of behaviours. Growing up in an environment where experiential learning may not have been promoted it’s easy to understand the lack of experience in living courageously. With this as the backdrop you can see why I was so moved by my friend this week. She had never known what she wanted to do in life. Didn’t know what she was passionate about. In fact, if you would have asked her she may have replied shopping, her kids, or ‘I don’t know’. My friend got a job this week. A job she has wanted to do for as long as I’ve known her. It’s not a glamorous job but that doesn’t matter. This isn’t a story about glamorous jobs but one of triumph and living fearlessly. My friend had never even applied for a job before. Her family was well connected growing up so she would get a job at the business her father ran or one of her father’s friends businesses. She never really had to find out what it was that made her tick and never had to have the courage to step outside the family compound to find experiences. She went from her family home to her marital home. From the job she had as a teen to full time motherhood. She was able to stay safe, comfortable, and frankly – somewhat afraid without any trouble at all. It was funny receiving the email from her asking me for help with her resume and cover letter because, as she insisted, she couldn’t do it as she had never even written a resume and didn’t know what to put in a cover letter. When I asked her what she wanted to do with this resume she told me she was finally going to go after the job she had wanted for 8 years. She didn’t know if she could do it, get it, or even if she was qualified but she assured me she was going to put her mind to it and overcome the fear of stepping out of her comfort zone. My friend is the kind of person who is so afraid of everything she has been paralyzed to do most things she desired to do. She’s been quite content to simply be a passenger on the train of life. This is why I found such joy in celebrating with her when she told me she had in fact landed that job. She shared with me that she had initially been sluffed off but that she persevered and went back a second and then third time. She found the courage to not take no for an answer. She found a way to triumph over her fear, grow experientially, and she has found something she LOVES. Awesome! Sometimes the biggest victories are found in the smallest places. FDR said it best, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Now that my friend has triumphed over her fear of her fear the sky is the limit. Her story allows me the perspective to know it’s not the big glossy dreams that speak to legacy rather the smaller personal victories that come when I have the courage to do what I know needs to be done despite my reservations. Thank you for your wonderful example.
An e-mail arrived yesterday which stopped me dead in my tracks. Through the day I, like many of you, receive a lot of e-mails and the majority tend not to stop me, lean me back in my chair, and cause me to reflect this way. I’ve been accused many times of living in my head or being too cerebral. For me, reflection on our shared experiences allows for the experience of wonder. It creates space to find the jewels of wisdom in one another’s lives. Reflection allows me to extract the marrow of life. This particular e-mail did that. A friend of mine is looking forward to getting married for the first time in the fall. I know – many of you are thinking that IS the courageous part. Others may be thinking ‘what’s the big deal.’ You see my friend was asking me for advice on what to expect in her first year of marriage. What to do, think, say, expect? What she needs to prepare for having been single all of her life? She was looking for the kernels of wisdom her married friend may be able to provide. What was astonishing to me was not the question or perspective she was looking for as this is a natural and regular occurrence in our friendship. What was astonishing to me was the courage it had taken her to get to this point. You see my friend has lived her life having never experienced a serious romantic relationship. In fact, she had never even experienced a kiss. Ever. She decided in her youth she would dedicate herself to her dream of saving herself for her husband. Upon reflecting on her decisions and beliefs I was astounded by her courage. This is not information she readily shares and the disclosure of said details, while certainly mildly daring, was not the genesis of my inspiration. I remember back to when I first found interest in the fairer sex and the pressure to flirt, touch, kiss, fool around, have sex – whatever – was tremendous. In fact it was the way we as young people and adults for that matter related with one another. It seemed as though the single most defining factor in relational interaction was the “spark” and often that was discovered based on the kiss and/or one another’s desire to be in some form of nakedness together. Those who chose to avoid these interactions where marginalized. It is worse today with girl’s social acceptance being based on their level of promiscuity. Imagine the courage it took for my friend to not only stick to her guns in what she knew to be right for her but to do all of that in light of her own longing for relationship, love, care, interaction, and physical connection with a man. She had the fortitude to follow her dreams regardless of cost and desire to the contrary. My friend is amazing. She gives me the inspiration to know if my dreams are important enough to me, no amount of immediate gratification can substitute the sheer joy experienced in a dream realized without the mortgaging of my beliefs. And look at the payoff. She is about to marry the man of her dreams and she can say with pride that she saved everything for him. She said once that she wanted her husband to be the only man she had ever kissed. Well, my friend, your dream has come true and I couldn’t be prouder for you. Your courage is inspiration to me and I am so proud to call you my friend.
What decisions have you made recently that speak to courage? What defines you? What one small decision you have made has been the catalyst for what you are doing now? Take a moment to reflect on your own courage and triumph. Your story is worth celebrating.