Some days I imagine that I, as an individual, have courage. Other days, like today, I realize that I am utterly surrounded by courageous people, but what I myself have isn’t courage. What I have is a deep sense of wonder and an unshakable gratitude for the courageous people around me.
A quick Google search reveals courage as:
- The ability to do something that frightens one.
- Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Thanks to my groups, I get to do Part 1 of courage every single day now. I:
- Work for myself (scary to intentionally move from a 6-figure salary to a zero figure salary)
- Blog my experiences each week (scary to share personal experiences of myself and others and scary to try to put words to experiences that transcend language)
- Study community and self-organizing groups to a depth that only a handful of others may ever care about or value (scary to follow my own experience and intuition)
- Prioritize work that I deeply love and believe in over work that will make my family a lot of money (scary that it’s our future I’m gambling, not just my own)
- No longer plan what I will write next (for a planner like me, this may well be the most scary! At some point I apparently “decided” to trust that my community and self-organizing groups are amazing enough that planning isn’t necessary. I now write about what is happening right now. I assume that “right now” will always be enough. Am I 100% certain it will be? Um, yeah, ah, almost there…)
What frightens one as an individual, I’ve found, is not so frightening as small groups.
But when we hit Part 2 of courage—strength in the face of pain or grief—my community is teaching me that my own individual claim to courage isn’t real. Tough to describe this, so I’m going to use one of my favorite quotes:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding… And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy. – Khalil Gibran
This is my experience now. I spend so much time in community as self-organizing groups—my deepest joy—that my heart remains in wonder most of the time at the daily miracles of life. Pain is often (not always) a flicker of its former self, usually moved through together, and often appreciated for the opening of hearts and minds that comes with it. Most days, now, my pain is not less wondrous than my joy. It’s not easy to explain with words, and it seems weird to the logical, linear part of me, but there it is. So, nope, I don’t have courage most days. I have wonder, gratitude, and joy most days, and they are enough.
This came to me yesterday, when I was standing in Doug’s kitchen, suddenly aware that I was in the presence of true courage, and the power of the experience nearly knocked me off my feet. Fortunately, as it happened I wasn’t actually standing, I was sitting on a tall stool. 😉 Anyway, during our meeting Cathy demonstrated tremendous courage—sharing the pain of following her desire to do deep, meaningful work. Showing all of us what true courage is. Cathy, your courage took my breath away and left me speechless in the moment. Here’s what I now know. True courage is:
- Working for yourself, and trusting yourself, when you don’t have others helping share the load and pay the bills
- Sharing your worst, not just your best, experiences with others
- Learning about and sharing what you deeply love with the world on top of periodically taking on work you’re not thrilled about so that you can eat, pay the mortgage, and go to the doctor when needed
- Some days, prioritizing work that you deeply love and believe in over work that means a secure future for your physical body (with a roof over your head, food in your mouth, and professional health care an actual possibility)
- Trusting your world and self enough to throw out your “plans” and your “organization” and following your intuition, even when you’re being pulled down a path you yourself are unfamiliar with, when there appears to be little evidence that our world is a trustworthy place, and ample evidence that our world is one of scarcity
In the Lori Kane dictionary, Cathy, your picture has just been placed along side the word courage.
My wish for you comes from my favorite poet Lenelle Moïse. Please just replace “homeboy” with “homegirl” within it, as appropriate. 🙂
cuz i dream
in a safe & spacious country
where your very own
Cathy, there is no experience and intuition more trustworthy than yours, my friend. Trust your crazy, winding, imperfect yet perfect-for-you path. And if you ever find yourself without a roof over your head, I hope you will come stay with us under ours. Our roof would be so very grateful for your presence.