I am going to need some grace on this. There is a concept known by many, and it has a few names. Probably the less abrasive one is Brene Brown’s idea of foreboding joy. Everything is going really well, and fear strikes because you just know that something bad is going to follow; probably soon. The much more offensive term is “the fuckening,” It has the same basic definition: “When everything is going too well and you don’t trust it and some shit finally goes down…Ah, there it is, the fuckening.”
Or you get rid of the couch on the wrap-around porch and clean it up to make a nice place to sit on cooler mornings or evenings, and then you fall through the ancient tongue and groove wooden boards.
Welcome to 2020 and my intention to choose courage. UGH.
This year has reminded me of a concept that Christians both joke about and take seriously: Never ask for patience. God does not just throw patience at you like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell threw fairy dust on Wendy, Michael, and John so they could fly to Neverland. God provides “wonderful” opportunities to utilize and grow patience. He gives you plenty of opportunity to practice.
Ah, 2020. Maybe I should have stuck with working on learning Kung Fu and Kegel exercises as my brother suggested. Nope. I chose to cultivate and utilize courage this year. I have had “wonderful” opportunities to face fear with courage.
Courage has had many faces the past six months (probably for many, given the circumstances).
I drove myself to the gym 4 to 5 days a week when my workouts sucked (for months), everyone was beating my times, and my speed and strength were decreasing. This was not a plateau, this was all out rolling down the back side of the hill. I was discouraged, embarrassed, frustrated, sometimes angry, and fearful. I faced it head on. I turned inward. I focused on what my best was in that moment and fought.
Each Friday evening I would attend a group called Celebrate Recovery. I was honest. I shared fears with people. I shared joys with people. I shared frustrations, mistakes, and my need for help out of self-destructive choices with them even when they pretended that their lives were full of sunshine and rainbows. I shared my life with people, and I may have called one of them a friend.
Courage has been showing up to therapy when I was feeling beaten down emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially. It was about showing up when I felt defeated, unsure, and insecure. No one wants to be judged negatively, and in many ways, I believe that my individual life story is something to be ashamed and embarrassed by. I believe I deserve judgment, so sharing with another person creates fear, no, terror.
I have used my voice (on occasion). “No, I don’t want to come over.” “No, I don’t want to go for a walk.” “I want to sit here and drink my coffee where I feel comfortable and safe.” I said what I wanted. I said what I needed. I did not waiver from those statements.
Courage was contradictory sometimes. It was staying in my house, in the noise in my own head, because COVID-19 changed life. It was trying so hard not to believe the lies and terrible things my brain was telling me. It was sitting with the uncertainty and lack of understanding about what was going on outside of my house. It was also leaving my house with a compromised immune system to get groceries and medicine. It was facing people who were wearing masks and gloves, refusing to make eye contact, talk or smile. It was trying to understand that people were living in fear rather than hate.
When stuck almost completely at home, I chose courage by maintaining a routine when I would have preferred to stay in bed all day to ignore my thoughts and feelings. I woke up, struggled my way out of bed, ate three meals, and worked out when normal was no longer normal.
Courage was staying as open and honest as I could with my treatment team to keep myself safe. It was acknowledging that I was in pain, needed extra support and felt depressed. It was struggling with motivation. It was discussing the self-destructive thoughts and actions I was using rather than the utilizing the skills I had so diligently worked on. It was having a conversation about hospitalization knowing that hospitals make me feel completely out of control and afraid. It was the eventual agreement with my therapist that I needed a place to go while I was fighting the thoughts and agreed to sign myself into the place I feel the least safe.
Difficult conversations. A lot of them. Silence is easy. Speaking up takes courage. Over the past several months, I have confronted fears of being open. I can have a conversation with my husband about things we do not agree on (we have been married for 12 years). I started a book club with my brother and sister that has led to the discomfort of sharing my past, thoughts, fears, regrets, and shame. After many months of knowing my therapist really did not understand where my pain was coming from, I told her I needed her to listen to me. Really listen. Again. That conversation is not over, but it was started. I have been angry, REALLY FREAKIN’ ANGRY, with my therapist. I’ve told her. I’ve told her why. I’ve acknowledged that I need to process through that. The conversation probably isn’t over, but it was started.
Most importantly, I have trusted. I have trusted the process. I have trusted people. I have trusted myself. I used to think I was the only person on my side. As I have looked around this year, I have seen the people standing with me. Actually, realizing people are standing there to fight with me rather than to punch me in the eye and laugh has been an act of courage. Brene Brown was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
She refers to his quote when she says, “If you are not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” As I have looked around me, I have seen some people getting their asses kicked with me. Their feedback has not been easy to hear, but not everything comes in a pretty package with a giant bow.
I have spent the past six months building, repairing, and improving myself and my courage as someone who builds a house: one cinder block at a time, one board at a time, one shingle at a time, one can of paint at a time. None of that looks like perfection though. Sometimes you end up with a dirty stucco house with the beautiful, big windows removed. But, you have a house. I am becoming a house with more windows. I am courageous.