Courage is a mysterious thing. What I know to be true about courage is that it is deep within. It is always available. A pulse or an urging from my soul to make a change never happens without an unlimited reservoir of courage.
Yet, sometimes I listen to my soulful urgings. Sometimes I resist.
What courage I displayed at 17! I remember listening to my inner impulse when I was 17 years old. My gym teacher (wow, that term sounds so old) drove me 4 hours to Penn State University to meet the field hockey and lacrosse coach. They “wined and dined” me (whatever that really means for a 17-year old). We ate in a special campus dining room with white table cloths. They showed me the special athlete dorm and workout room to which I would have access. I was offered a full 4-year athletic scholarship.
Unknowingly courageous, I followed my “truth”; I knew I was going to turn it down.
I didn’t know why, but my feelings were strong. Perhaps I didn’t want to be viewed solely as a jock. Perhaps I didn’t want to be treated differently from other coeds. I still don’t know to this day.
On the ride home I told my teacher I wasn’t going.
She told me I was ridiculous and how stupid and inconsiderate of me not to seize the opportunity.
“My family had no money. My mother was single, supporting four kids on a minimum salary. I was lucky,” she said.
I had no response. She didn’t speak to me the rest of the trip.
I postponed college for a year, spending it in Sweden as an exchange student. The same gym teacher told me that I would never play field hockey or lacrosse again at the Division 1 level because my skills would wane. People would forget about me. New players would appear the next year.
In Sweden I received a letter from William and Mary with a really great offer. I played Division 1 field hockey and lacrosse for the next four years (which were, by the way, some of the best four years of my life).
The really “fun” part of this story is that we beat the number one rated Penn State and went to Nationals multiple times.
The “courageous” part of this story is that I listened and somehow followed a deep “knowing” without resistance. I was courageous without effort. Unknowingly, I had faith in “me” and my Source, even though I didn’t have a clue about how it would turn out. I couldn’t have scripted a more perfect outcome.
Fast forward 30 years. I was literally suffocating in my marriage and tolerating behavior that was against everything I stood for. Even though I felt the same deep “knowing” that I experienced at the age of 17, I didn’t listen. I was too scared. I was uncertain of the future for my kids and being alone. I convincingly and masterfully accumulated reason after reason and excuse after excuse not to leave.
Finally, after 8 years of resisting and living an inauthentic life, the largest branch of my soul went from bending to broken. I left my marriage.
My reservoir of inner courage finally won over my fears. Courage was always there for me to forgive and walk away from an unworkable relationship. Courage was fighting for me to be myself.
I didn’t consciously choose it, but courage ended up saving my soul.
I realize now that accessing this deep reservoir of courage can be a conscious choice. So now I choose to listen to soulful urgings and choose courage. It doesn’t mean that the choice is easy or made in the absence of fear. Fear is ALWAYS there. However, I choose to move forward in spite of fear; in spite of the unknown; in spite of going against conventional wisdom; and in spite of maybe walking the path alone.
When the fear comes (and it always does), I acknowledge it. I fully feel it. I experience it. I even give it a name.
And then, with enough time, I allow my deeper “knowing” to help me pull up my “faith and heart” bootstraps and move ahead in spite of the fear.
I watch my stage fright fade away as I actively play in my next role, embracing the next step of my unique destiny, albeit unknown, with a lighter step.
“Come to the edge,“ he said.
“We can't. We're afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can't. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-1918, French Poet, Philosopher