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Courage, again

This past two weeks has been a weird time of death and rebirth for me, a period of my heart aching and heavy with weight of known and unknown origin. Heartbreak and renewal is an inevitable cycle that we are all going to continue to experience throughout our lives, but while it feels quite natural in the abstract, there's no hiding that it has been challenging, emotional and tiring.

Last night, the mind finally surrendered to the pain, the physical ache and burning of the chest, the tightness of the throat, the narratives of shame and blame seeming to touch many parts of life finally subsiding, like a copy of a copy of a copy of a story. The feeling was like a rose withering and losing its petals. So simple. So natural. When I awoke this morning the heaviness was gone, and I could see with a clearer perspective. Appreciation, gratitude, and courage were there in the absence, coalescing around the heart with the loose airiness of a breath.

In its wake, I revisited one of my favorite pieces from one of my favorite authors, David Whyte. Funnily, I know I've referenced his words previously when offering reflections on this topic. Worth revisiting. I've posted it below - it is an excerpt from his brilliant book, Consolation: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, published by Many Rivers Press; First Edition edition (January 1, 2015).

I hope you enjoy and find inspiration in his words -


is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but a look at its linguistic origins is to look in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French. Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

The French philosopher Camus used to tell himself quietly to live to the point of tears, not as a call for maudlin sentimentality, but as an invitation to the deep privilege of belonging and the way belonging affects us, shapes us and breaks our heart at a fundamental level. It is a fundamental dynamic of human incarnation to be moved by what we feel, as if surprised by the actuality and privilege of love and affection and its possible loss. Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.

We become courageous whenever we live closely to the point of tears with any new possibility made known inside us, whenever we demonstrate a faith in the interior annunciations and align ourselves with the new and surprising and heartfelt necessities of even the average existence. To allow ourselves to feel deeply and thoroughly what has already come into being is to change our future, simply by living up to the consequence of  knowing what we hold in our affections.

From the inside, it can feel like confusion, only slowly do we learn what we really care about, and allow our outer life to be realigned in that gravitational pull; with maturity that robust vulnerability comes to feel like the only necessary way forward, the only real invitation and the surest, safest ground from which to step. On the inside we come to know who and what and how we love and what we can do to deepen that love; only from the outside and only by looking back, does it look like courage.

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