In need of enchantment, I escaped into a fairy tale. I put an ordinary day on hold and unapologetically and without kids took myself off to see a matinee performance of Cinderella.
Spellbound like a child, I heard an important message early in the movie as Cinderella’s dying mother left her with these words, “Be courageous, be kind.”
Throughout the film, the theme of courage presented itself over and over ( Cinderella would need lots of courage in the ensuing years to survive her wicked stepmother and stepsisters) and it got me to thinking. What is courage?
It’s been my experience that people have a somewhat narrow definition of courage.
I think many view courage through the lens of bravery, meeting tough circumstances with little complaint or expression of fear. Others see courage as risk taking, stepping out into the unknown, making a move when common sense dictates that you stay in your job, relationship, city or house because it is safer.
Courage might be seen as the willingness to risk all, life and limb, for principles greater than oneself. Or courage might be this: living authentically, true to one’s nature, true to Tao, in a world that likes to herd our thinking.
Courage, as I see it, is all of this and more.
Courage is courage when we are willing to admit to our fears, no matter how scary, inconvenient, irrational or annoying the fear might be.
Feel the fear, but do it anyway. Fine, great. But can we express the fear we’re feeling, too?
I’m not advocating that we whine and bitch our way into grace, being pulled by our shirt tails like a dirty child into a soapy bath. I’m asking for permission to express fear instead of swallowing it so that we can move through it, onward, upward, into a field of grace.
Speaking for myself, sometimes I need a few minutes to express my fear, to dance with it, to roll around in the mud and get dirty with it before I can be my bravest self.
I think courage is a beautiful thing. But I also think it is a process for some, especially those of the more introverted sort. So maybe the way we get to courage is by detour, a winding road where we examine our fears, talk through them, dare I say dance with worse case scenarios, so that we can cope with our anxieties.
Just five minutes of getting it out can be a catalyst for courage for some, for me, anyway. So I’m no courageous Cinderella. But I promise you this: I’ll find my way to courage. I’m as resilient as a bamboo weed, life has shown me that, and I in turn have shown myself to life: showing up optimistic and courageous, sometimes even living on the border of magical thinking when a more sober approach to circumstances might have been appropriate.
I’m made in the Deep South and I’m chicken and strong, and I know what it is like to eat crow, how it feels to have my house rattled by hurricanes of all sorts, and still be standing the day after.
I will find the brave way, but I will do it my own way.
So, let me urge you to do the same. The next time you’re afraid of something: scary test results, a personal health crisis, a job change, a status update, be courageous and talk about it. For a little bit. Five minutes or so, not five days, weeks or months, less you land in martyrdom or in a place where fear dominates your full time thinking and you radiate it like poison to those around you. That’s not healthy, either.
Just don’t bury fear and let it take up residence within your body. That’s the place where fear and anxiety live when unexpressed or not witnessed.
Be courageous and talk through it….with a friend, a partner, a co-worker, or professional. And if not, express it in your journals, in your writing.
Like I just did. Because in my book, that’s an act of healing, of courage. And that’s no fairy tale.
How do you define courage? I would love to hear.
If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.