Courage wasn’t always my friend. I spent the first half of my life running from courage.
Choosing comfort, conformity, and everything else I thought I should do, believe, think, love, communicate…the list goes on.
I played small. I chose to hide.
I hid in my relationships, health, spirituality, and career, you name it.
But mostly, I hid from myself.
Then a death, a game-changing health challenge, financial ruin, homelessness, and stepping out of a few closets changed everything.
In my twenties, as I sat vigil with my dying mother, I knew it was time to lean toward courage. We cannot die with integrity if we don’t first live with integrity — practicing our values instead of just professing them. It was time to begin doing the things I had always wanted to do instead of dreaming about them. It was time to look my fears directly in the eye instead of evading both their gaze and power over me. It was time to stretch in the direction of freedom rather than living in the quiet bondage of self-judgment, hesitation, and fear.
FOR THE PHOENIX TO RISE, SHE MUST FIRST ALLOW THE FALL
I was looking these realities in the eye one random April day when I fell and forever changed the structure and agility of my lower spine. When I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, my relationship to the practice of courage changed that day too. Many medical chapters and short-term paralysis later, I began learning how to walk again. I could no longer run from courage — I couldn’t run at all, literally or figuratively. It was time to put one courageous step in front of another — in health, life, career, and love.
Fast-forward a few more years and I came out of the closet—sexually and spiritually—and forever changed my relationship to my family, my community, faith tradition, and all the rest. No piece of this story has been easy—quite the opposite—yet in every fall, we are challenged to rise up from our pain and move forward with greater confidence and conviction. My mother’s dying words to me of what I must hold most important in this life still thunder in my mind:
FAITH. KINDNESS. COURAGE. LOVE.
Here’s the truth, though. Making friends with my courage wasn’t an instant love-at-first-sight experience. I resisted the discomfort immensely. I knew I wanted to live in integrity and also knew this meant navigating immense change and transition—in my career, relationships, spirituality, and community. I wanted to practice my courage but without leaving my comfort zone.
It’s so human, isn’t it? We hold such a desire to try new things but with a safety net attached to each adventure. The stable job, the insurance policy, the financial cushion, the “get-an-extra-just-in-case-one-breaks” mentality. We love believing in a false sense of security that only really exists in our mind. All we have is now—this moment and how we embrace it—but we love to spend our days living in the past or trying to prepare for or forecast a future that may never come. Does this mean ditch planning? Not at all; just a reminder to keep it in perspective by allowing presence to sit at the head of the table in our lives.
It’s rather ironic, don’t you think, that my mother was one of many people that intensely planned for Y2K. Extra water, supplies, you name it. When we arrived at Y2K itself, she chuckled at how much energy and time she placed on something that never came to be the way it was predicted. Did our family use all those supplies? Yes, absolutely. And we were grateful for them but most importantly, we learned that no Y2K planning would ever take the place of being present to each other in each moment we are gifted.
Presence is the ultimate practice of courage and love. The kind of presence where we don’t rush each other to get to a solution, to feel better, or to fix something. The kind of presence where we simply hold space and see each other for where we are. It took my mother’s death to learn this but since then, being present to others and to myself has really mattered to me. It doesn’t always come easily and I mess up regularly but it is so worth returning to this practice everyday.
CALLED TO COURAGE
Sometimes we willingly choose the practice of courage. And sometimes we are called to a life of courage before we are ready. Either way doesn’t matter — what matters is discovered in the practice itself. Underneath all the rubble of these life circumstances, I found myself once more in the practice of learning how to walk again. It was literally like starting over — one baby step at a time.
I began to shed the ‘shoulds’ and outdated narratives in favor of my integral truth. Benchmarks for success, beauty, and strength began to shift. I began to make friends with my own intuition more deeply rather than second-guessing myself or seeking a thousand perspectives to somehow reconnect with my own. I doubled-down on my efforts to build strength and resiliency from the inside out. Courage became the practice that didn’t just help me walk again—it awakened my authenticity, deepened my abundance, and continues to transform my life every single day I show up to practice.
What about you, friend? Where are you being called to practice your courage? Where is it whispering to you? Where might you be running from it too? What do you know you want more or less of in life but it will require courage in practice to get there?
Name it aloud for yourself in this moment. Notice what happens when you begin to name it aloud over and over again. There is more to the practice than naming but this is a great start.
AN INVITATION TO PRACTICE IN THE OPEN
Courage isn’t a sexy thing to talk about, is it? In today’s culture we love to keep our courage a secret until we have a beautiful result to share. We don’t want to show the messy parts and we try to keep the trips and falls on the down-low. However, in doing so, we perpetuate the false idea that the brave result is where the celebration lies. The hero’s journey is popular for a reason—what we most long to bear witness to and champion is the deep, consistent practice of courage; the practice we see in others that reminds us of our own.
Join me, friend, in practicing your courage in the open.
- Show up even when it’s hard.
- Be present even when you have a million things to do and two million other things on your mind.
- Say the courageous thing.
- Start doing the things you say you really want to do.
- Take the leap, deep diving into the unknown.
- Invest in what and who matters.
- Be willing to leave your comfort zone for what you desire.
Choose to practice your courage not just for what you will receive from it but for the transformation that will take place within you as a result of your practice. All those little moments in the quiet before we see the brave result is what really transforms us anyway.
Forever with you in this practice,