Monday, April 29, 2013



I've misunderstood courage my whole life until now. I thought courage meant lack of fear. Or at least less fear. I thought that my fears made me weak and that I'd be courageous the day I conquered fear.

I had an image in my mind of an incredibly confident superhero when I thought of courage. Something like Super Woman and Oprah all mixed up into one badass poster woman for "BRAVE" - hands on hips and clear eyes full of confidence and determination. I didn't realize that courage is being terrified and acting anyway.

In fact, courage looks like someone who's sweating, shaking, and gasping through the hardest things life throws her way.
It looks like someone who gets up every morning and makes breakfast for his kid even though he's now alone in raising her and even though he's exhausted.
It looks like someone who's heart has been shattered but opens once again anyway to let someone new inside even though it feels like leaping into the unpredictable currents of the air, hoping to be carried and not dropped.
It's staring someone in the eyes and saying "I love you" even though you might not hear it back and feeling your heart stutter in anticipated terror.

It doesn't feel brave. It feels exhausting, reckless, terrifying and unpredictable. And it's undeniably courage. There's so much everyday courage happening all around us. So many people surviving the death of their spouse, their child, their future. Rebuilding, picking up the pieces, on their knees begging for the next right step. Begging for their pain to ease, to see their loved one in their dreams.

That's courage. 
And if that's courage, then I'm courageous, even though I never feel brave at all. What's also missing from the equation is what I thought went along with courage - exhilaration. I don't feel exhilarated, I feel scared and exhausted. I want to feel the exhilaration of knowing that I've been brave enough to let someone new into my heart. I want to feel the thrill of surviving and finding happiness on the other side of the deep dark valley I was in.
But I'm not quite there yet. I'm still so scared all the time. Guarded and vigilant for more heartbreak coming my way.

I know that that mindset can kill my chances of happiness now and that future tripping* does me no good, but this is what my brain does. I can fight it and I do. But sometimes I just wish I didn't have to fight it so much. I wish I could relax into faith and imagine only great things happening. Or at the very least just stop projecting into the future at all. I wish I could stop scanning for signs that heartbreak is coming my way again.

I wish I could fully believe, as my therapist does, that more good stuff is headed my way because I've suffered enough already.

And then I realize that this is me. This is how my brain works, and rightly so. I have suffered greatly. But, I'm doing my best to not let it guide me. I can have these thoughts but not act on them. I can do what scares me. I can love again. I can have compassion for myself even though I struggle with this fear and this mind-habit of preparing for disaster. I can allow for the idea that I'm worthy and loveable even though this is how my brain works. I can entertain the idea that it's not that I'm inherently leave-able, it's just that the life I've been given has included lots of abandonment by death and that doesn't mean that everyone else I love will leave me.

I can admit that I am courageous, resilient, and worthy.
I can admit that I do deserve good stuff.
I can understand that while the universe takes away, it gives too. It can be incredibly generous.

Maybe it's my turn for some of that generosity.

*What my old therapist used to call worrying about the bad things that might happen.


  1. Great post as always Cassie. I am so happy that you have found a new family to love and to love you. Your words reminded me of a quote (actually this is paraphrased, I don't recall the exact quote), "Do not question times of sorrow, unless you question times of happiness as well." When I first heard it, I told myself how much happiness I had with Tim and I had 31 years of it so that is pretty amazing! Now that I have such sorrow, I try to count the times of happiness and know not everyone gets that in life. And from the sorrow comes the resilience, courage and worthiness that you so eloquently describe. As awful as the sorrow is to bear, the universe has given you and others who walk our path and learn from it, some pretty awesome gifts. Thank you for sharing your gifts and helping so many through your words and willingness to be open, honest and oh so brave.

  2. I love the quote and I admire your courage - including in sharing your fears here.

    Fear has been my close companion for the first 40+ years of my life. Learning to not only cope with it but also embrace it and get to know what it really is has been one of the most powerful and surprising transformations in my life. Most of what I teach today is somehow based on that.

    So yes, the universe is very generous - even if some of its gifts are wrapped in sandpaper as one blogger wrote the other day. :-)

    Anyhow, I do believe that it is possible to experience meaning and happiness, even after losing your loved one. It is a great challenge, and it does require courage and perseverance among other things. But it is possible!

    Many warm greetings -


  3. Great article on courage. Here are a couple of quotes along the same theme.

    "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of faith." ~Deuteronomy 31:6

    Courage is not the absence of fear, but choosing to act in spite of it.

  4. "I can understand that while the universe takes away, it gives too. It can be incredibly generous."

    So good to focus on this positive aspect. We tend to forget how blessed we were to be in loving relationships. Doesn't make where we are now easier, but reminds one that if love was possible once in your life, it can be possible again, if we only sit back and let life flow. Be courageous.

  5. Thank you Cassie for another heartfelt post I can connect with.

    Letting go of the life we had isn’t easy.
    But I think we have to let go to see our way forward.

    I can’t continue to live back there. Back in my old life.
    I know how it ends.

    And I know there are no guarantees that the future will be better, or easier, or that loved ones won’t die, or that it will make up for an unfair past.
    But I know I have to look forward, not back, to have any kind of a future at all.

    May we all have the courage it takes.