When we picture the word courage, we see people jumping out of a plane, or marching into battle, swimming with sharks, or fighting cancer. Courage is movement, and change, and energy. Right?
Half right (and half wrong).
What about the courage to stay? What about the courage it takes to sit quietly with your own thoughts? To breathe through the panic that comes when you get what you’ve always wanted? Where is the motivational poster for that kind of courage?
Cory and I are building a beautiful relationship, with communication and vulnerability. We accept each other for who we are and encourage each other to grow. That dynamic requires freedom. To learn. To change. To make new promises when the old ones don’t work anymore. And I love it. And I love him.
Last week, in Costa Rica, we were sipping coffee overlooking the ocean, enjoying the morning. We were having a conversation about the connections that can be made or missed depending on how we engage with the people who come in and out of our lives. And the fact that monogamy, by definition, causes more connections to be missed than made. It was all very casual. And then all at once, I lost it.
A wave of fear crashed over me and I started to drown.
For the first time, I really felt the darker implication of the freedom that I love. He could have regrets. He could change his course. He could grow into something beyond-magnificent, and I might not be able to keep up. I was overwhelmed by my fear of being not-enough, of being left behind. And I was drowning.
So what to do? Courage means doing something, right? Flail for help? Summon the lifeguard? Set up my beach chair far from the water’s edge and vow never to swim that deep again? Is that courage? Are those courageous things to do?
Get out. Wall up. Harden my heart. With courage?
That would be ridiculous. We all know that. Every romantic comedy ever has taught us that! If I had taken some action in that moment, I would only be running from fear. My courageous task was simply to be with my fear. To feel it. To name it. To get curious about it. To look within myself instead of looking for an exit.
And it wasn't easy. And I cried. And he was confused. And he helped me breath through it and listened while I tried to explain it. And then just as quickly as the wave crashed in, it rolled back out to sea and was gone.
If I had bought-in to the half-wrong notion that Courage = Movement. If I had tried to do something in that moment, I might have really messed things up. I could have tricked myself into believing I was doing the courageous thing and burned my whole beautiful world to the ground. By fighting. Or fleeing. Or subtly sabotaging.
And I still could, the next time, if I let myself forget that Courage is Facing Fear. Only half of courage is taking action in spite of fear. The harder half is simply sitting with that fear until it rolls itself away.
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