I want to start today by saying that I am completely overwhelmed and humbled by the support you have shown me over the past 24 hours. I have received lots of encouraging comments and texts and thumbs up and heat emojis and exactly zero negative or hurtful comments. It has made me feel like I am wrapped in love and comfort and encouragement. Thank you.
It takes courage to trust. I am awake early again this morning, and I am watching CNN. There are so many reasons not to trust. Between politicians who lack integrity, natural disasters which destroy lives and homes and people hating and killing one another for their race or gender or religion…it is hard to trust.
But, as much as it may seem like there is much and many to fear, if we take a moment to step back, we will see there are many people doing good in the world, many people who live with courage and integrity and we can choose to trust.
That is what I am going to do.
Today I choose to trust that people are basically good, even when they make mistakes. This week I chose to trust my son’s safety to the doctor who performed his eye surgery, and soon will truth the surgeon who will take out my tumour. I trust that good people are working to improve the lives of those who find themselves homeless and in crisis. I choose to trust the ones I love who want me well. I choose to trust my wife as we continue to strengthen our marriage.
It isn’t always easy for me. I have always struggled to trust. But I am surrounded with people worthy of trust and people who put their trust in me every single day.
So I will find the courage to trust them, and to trust that when the scary and sad news hits the screen of my TV, there are good people who will continue to work to make the world safe, that will step up to lead with courage and care and will rally the resources and people to rebuild the lives of those who face tragedy.
I love a quote by Ernest Hemingway. “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” I think this is better than how I often have lived – to not trust unless they prove themselves.
Can you find the courage to join me? To trust first and assume good intentions first?
I have a truth to tell. It isn’t that I have lied to you or that I have hidden something from you. It isn’t that I have completely misrepresented myself to you. But as I look back, I see I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have a story to share. My truth.
I debated sharing this with you. I grew up believing that you don’t share your personal business with others. But after talking with my mom, and hearing her encourage me to share this, to break silence, to begin to shatter stigma, I decided I want you to know this important part of who I am.
I recently learned that I have bipolar disorder.
I have been struggling for the past couple of years. Truthfully, I have probably been struggling my whole life but At a very early age I learned how to push through, get things done, appear to have it all together, be successful. But my struggle forced me to break down some of those walls when my wife got sick a couple years ago. She nearly died and I nearly fell apart. At a time when I just wanted to be strong for her and for our kids, I just couldn’t shoulder it.
My doctor at the time had diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder and prescribed me Zoloft. It never really worked but she continued to increase the dose. I never questioned it because I trusted her.
Unfortunately my anxiety (or what I thought was anxiety) got worse. It got so bad that at one point I considered death to be preferable to living like that. I looked for help and was not taken seriously.
My current doctor and I, and my therapist have been working with a psychiatrist to figure out what has actually been going on. Since I have been off the Zoloft for a few weeks it is a lot easier to assess. I came off it because it interferes with pain medication and my tumour, Tina, was causing me tremendous pain.
The doctor explained to me that what I thought was weird displays of anxiety was actually manic episodes, possibly triggered by the Zoloft but definitely made worse by it. In fact, Zoloft is one drug specifically stated NOT to use for people who have bipolar disorder because it triggers manic episodes.
So, to get to the point…
I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The doctor believes that there may be a genetic link, based on some things I shared, and there is a genetic component. But, I am getting treatment and it can be managed. Now that I am on a more appropriate medication, I am much more stable and feel way more in control.
One thing I can do to empower myself is to share my diagnosis. To tell the truth. Bipolar is a scary word. But it is just an obstacle. I am a successful professional who has overcome two years of the wrong treatment (one that could have killed me) but who is still a successful professional with bipolar.
I am a loving parent, a devoted partner, a dedicated friend, a caring daughter. I am the kind of Principal who seeks first to understand, to help when I can, and to discipline when needed. I was all these things before my diagnosis. I am all these things still.
I feared telling the truth because of stigma. I feared telling the truth because I had been taught to keep our problems to ourselves. I feared telling the truth because I don’t ever want anyone to believe I can’t lovingly parent my children or competently do my job.
But the truth is, the only way stigma is erased, and the only way to help others understand is to tell the truth. The only way to shine a light on the fear people feel about getting help is to shine a light on what getting help looks like.
There are many out there who live with bipolar, who are enduring the agony of mania and the devastating drain of depression who never seek help because of stigma and shame. I am not ashamed. I am strong. I am brave. I am Christine and I am going to overcome this challenge.
To my amazing family and friends and caring colleagues, thank you. Thank you for patiently walking with me through this long and often dark journey. Your love and support mean all the world to me. Because of you, I am here and I will use my truth to help others who are afraid to tell theirs.
Are you living your life as a participant or a bystander? Many of us are standing back and watching our lives go by. Any of us who live on autopilot are doing just that. For much of my life, I lived without giving much thought to what I did. I just wanted to get things done, be successful, appear to be in control, but because I was just letting it happen, I was actually out of control.
And then I decided I needed and wanted to be a participant in my life. I am learning how to show up for myself and for others.
Having the courage to show up, for me, has meant lots of changes. But in particular, it looks like three things:
1. Being attentive
2. Being present
3. Being brave.
When I lived on autopilot, I was able to tune out all sorts of voices and actions. I just went through the motions of living the life of a wife, a mom, a friend, daughter and successful professional.
Unfortunately, I also missed out on really connecting with people. The word “attentive” comes from the root “attend”. In my life, to attend my life means I have been learning to be available- to myself, to my kids, to my wife, to my colleagues, to my friends – as a listener, a non-judgemental support. It has meant learning to hold space for others to attend to their lives and to stop trying to fix everything. I have learned that people are very capable of taking care of their own lives and I am a much better friend, able to be a witness without stepping in.
While it has been very important to learn to be a witness to others’ pain, being present has been a lesson in being more than just an observer in my own life and the lives of those I love. Being present means being an active participant in my life, accepting that life is not simply happening to me, but welcoming the invitation life gives me to actively shape the course of my life. Being present allows me to savour the beauty of this life, both the parts that feel good and the parts that are painful.
The last part of showing up, for me, is being brave. Truly, being brave is the most important part of showing up for my life. It is the reason for this 45 day journey we have been on together. But what does it look like?
Being brave has looked like fighting for my marriage instead of walking away from it. It means having those conversations that feel really uncomfortable. Being brave means taking control of my health, both my physical health and my mental health, rather than ignoring it.
Being brave means telling the truth about who I am, what matters to me, how I feel and what I believe. It also means knowing that I am doing the best I can do right now, while committing to my own growth and learning. It means putting myself out there and being willing to accept both praise and criticism.
I hope this journey of 45 Days of Courage has helped you find the courage to show up for your life. I don’t know what that looks like for you but I thank each of you for your support as I have sought the courage to show up for my life.
We all wear masks. Sometimes our masks change depending on the circumstances. We may wear one mask at work and another when we are shopping at the mall in December. But we all need to take that mask off sometimes. Do you have a safe space where you can find the courage to remove the mask?
The reasons for wearing a mask vary. Often we do it to protect ourselves or to follow what we believe is an expectation about how we present ourselves in the world. At times throughout my career, I have struggled with balancing who I am at my core with the person I must present myself as in my workplace. I no longer believe that and now I know that being exactly who I am, someone who cares for others, someone who can sit with someone while they struggle, someone who encourages others to be fully who they are, makes me a better leader, not a weaker one.
Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that, a story. It takes courage to remove the mask, to share the face, to share the story. I am living my story right now. I have found a place where I can fully remove the mask and just be, without feeling judged or shamed or less than capable. My story has taken a recent turn. One I need to share with a few close people before I can make it public. But know this: my story is one of resilience. It is one of a woman who overcomes obstacles, turns them into stepping stones and thrives. My story is one of struggle and one of never giving up. When I share with you, please allow me to remove the mask and to show you my face. See me for who I am, not what you assume based on negative stereotypes.
My hope for you today is that you find the courage to remove your mask. Maybe not with the world, but within the safety of supportive and loving people.
Sometimes the bravest face you can wear is your own.
Being alive means experiencing all sorts of things. We experience great joys – the start of a new relationship, the birth or adoption of a child, the anticipation of a new career or beginning a new adventure. And we also experience massive pain – a diagnosis we weren’t expecting, the loss of a young person, the ending of a relationship, a career that ends.
I think that when we experience tremendous pain, we allow ourselves to feel terrible for a day or two. And then we pull ourselves up and get on with it. And in a way, that is good. Returning to regular routine is an important part of healing from a traumatic event. But while we are returning to our routine, are we continuing our healing? Or are we just slapping on a happy face and pushing through?
It takes courage to heal. It takes courage to give ourselves the time we need to care for ourselves, to recognize and accept that each of us takes a different path to healing. It takes courage to take a day off for self care when you feel like you need to be at work (I hope you have supportive leadership that would encourage self care). It takes courage to pick up the phone and call a therapist or your doctor. It takes courage to take the first step in your healing journey.
Please take a moment to stop…and take a breath…ready?
You matter. Your healing matters. You are capable and strong and brave. Ask your body what she needs? Sleep? Healthy food?Movement? A glass of water? Your meds?Ask your soul what she needs to find peace today. A good cry? A conversation with a good friend? Time to play with your child? A walk in the woods? Then tell your mind to stop interfering and remind her that she matters too and you want her to get on board. Now, find your courage and take the first step toward healing your body, soul and mind.
It feels weird to be putting this post out so late today. However, I was at work early today to set up our support team, and then had to make sure I got my son ready for the hospital for surgery later in the morning.
For some, it is easy to celebrate success. They throw parties to recognize their raises or promotions, and to reinforce their wins.
I am not like this, though. But I wish I were. I am not sure why I find it difficult to celebrate a success. Is it because I fear I will look arrogant? Is it because I don’t want to “jinx it”?
Whatever our reason, we need to share when we succeed. It is important that others know that hard work pays off, that the hours of practice and failure and restructuring and trying again have led you to success.
Today, I was late getting this post out. I was at work early to support my kids and staff, and I am now waiting for my son to come out of surgery (we just heard from the surgeon that all went well). My intention was to share some of my recent successes because it has been a week (month?) of real challenge and I wanted to change my mindset a little bit. But, perhaps I can ask something of you instead.
Would you be courageous enough to share some of your recent successes with me? And I will add to the conversation after I get my young man home.
I love these words from Nelson Mandela. Let’s celebrate our milestones together.
At different times in our lives, we look back on something we did, something we said, something we missed that we believe could have been different. What do we do when we recognize these moments?
I think it is a very human reaction to wonder how a doing something differently could have changed a situation. But the truth is, we can’t really know. We can’t change the past. We can’t go back. But we spend so much time beating ourselves up.
I spent the day yesterday with my school community, helping the people I work with and serve to begin to heal after a tragic loss. There were lots of tears and also some laughter. There were also lots of “what if”, “could I have” and “I should have” questions and wonderings. “What if I had said something different during that last conversation?” “Could I have missed something?” “I should have seen that something was wrong.”
But the truth is, we couldn’t. We have hundreds of interactions with people every day. And it will take courage for all of us asking those questions to forgive ourselves. Part of forgiving ourselves is accepting that we did not know what we did not know until we lived through it. And now that we know, we can learn and grow and do something else moving forward. However, healing and moving forward can only happen once we are able to forgive ourselves.
I recently recognized that I was behaving very badly toward someone I perceived was harming me. I asked for forgiveness and while she has not accepted my apology, I also hadn’t forgiven myself. I am now ready to forgive myself. And I will find the courage to do so.
What do you need to forgive yourself for? Can you find the courage to forgive? Will you try, with me, today to offer yourself some grace and begin to grow and learn and become more of who you are meant to be?
It may take time. My grieving friends may need time to process what happened before we get to a place where we can offer ourselves forgiveness.
I don’t know where this is going today. This is not the post I planned. But it’s the one I need right now.
I am sad. The week has brought very sad news to my school community. First was the terrible loss of a young person I admired so much. His strength and courage to overcome challenges was inspiring. And losing him is a tragic loss for the world.
And then, yesterday, we received the horrific news that another young man, a student I just spoke with the day before, had died. For our city, this is news heard far too often. For our students, it will mean yet another friend and classmate they will grieve. For all of us who knew his story, his strength and courage were inspiring in a different way. Losing him is a tragic loss loss for the world.
Today we will open up the school and let students and staff come together for support, to lean on one another, to cry and begin to heal. And I will allow my heart to feel as broken as it does. Because it feels so bad…because the lives we have lost mattered. And because part of my job is to open my heart to these young people. I can’t help it.
So today, I will put into practice all the things I have talked about over the past 30 days. And if I see you, I really need a hug.
It takes courage to allow yourself a moment of weakness.
For most of my life, I would do anything I had to do to avoid having a “moment of weakness.” I would not, as much as I could, lose any control over my emotions and thoughts. I did not want to be perceived as weak.
What I learned a few years ago was that those moments, those “moments of weakness” are not indicators of weakness. In fact, quite the opposite. The moments where I can show I am vulnerable are the moments I show my humanity.
So I am learning. In a world where there is so much pain and injustice, where children are coming to school hungry and families are struggling to make ends meet, I often am called upon to listen and help where I can. When I sit with colleagues and friends and hear the struggles they are facing, I carry their pain.
I have found the courage to allow myself a “moment of weakness” which is not weak at all. I allow myself to feel the pain of others’ suffering, and to release the pain of my own. I sometimes close my office door when everyone has left, or I sit in my car on my long drive home, and I cry. Not because I am weak. But because I need a moment to exhale.
I don’t know what a moment of weakness looks like for you. But know that it does take courage to give yourself permission to have one.
And when we allow ourselves that moment, we will emerge stronger.
Have you ever made decision about something? Have you ever made a judgement about someone? Have you ever done anything? If so, you may also have changed your mind.
Often we make decisions which later we decide were not the best decisions.
Sometimes we judge a person based on limited information or limited interactions with them, and once we learn the whole story, we realize they are not who we thought they were.
Sometimes we do something, and when it doesn’t turn out as we hoped, we adjust our thinking and try something else.
All of these are acts of courage.
When we have courage, we are able to see that a different choice or path or understanding is possible. Too often, however, we dig in our heels and worry that hanging our minds is a sign of weakness. It is not. It is a sign that we are brave enough to learn and to change.
My wife has a tattoo that translates to “Life is Change” and I believe that. We can learn, change our minds and do better. And even more courageous? We can share with others how we have changed our minds about a decision, and action, a choice or our understanding about a person. When we know better, we can do better.
So today, let’s have the courage to be willing to change our minds. Let’s stop sticking to our old ideas that aren’t working. Let’s be willing to change our minds about people when we learn more or have a better understanding of their experience.
When we do, we not only show courage, we move our lives and the world forward.
A few days ago I wrote about the courage it takes to listen without judgement. Today I want to shout out to those courageous women and men who hold space for others every day.
What does it mean to hold space? How does it differ from listening without judgement?
Holding space is consciously being present with another. It is creating a safe space and walking with someone through whatever they are feeling. Holding space means showing up without expectation for where a person should be or where they should go, and being a witness to their pain. It means surrounding them with security and protection so they are free to be vulnerable and to express whatever they need to in order to move through their suffering. It’s providing comfort and compassion no matter what they are going through.
Holding space requires courage because it requires us to check our ego at the door but we do not leave our own pain at the door. To hold space requires us to sit with our own experiences while we witness another’s.
Holding space also requires courage because we set aside any need to control the situation, the conversation or the other person. It requires acceptance of the person we hold space for just as they are in that moment, without desire to change them.
Simply being a loving presence and showing compassion, a genuine openness to the pain of another and a desire for their suffering to be relieved, can be the most healing and soothing thing we can do for someone who is suffering.
When you hold space for someone you don’t try to fix what can’t be fixed. You don’t try to explain the unexplainable. You don’t try to control the uncontrollable.
The problem with holding space, however, is that it can feel a lot like doing nothing. And for those, like me, who feel they need to do something to help, holding space can feel like an impossible task.
So for this reason, I simply want to acknowledge and show respect for those who do this vital work every single day. To those who hold space for me and for kids and for others who suffer. You are heroes to me, though I suspect many of you do not consider yourselves to be heroes.
I read a beautiful quote by Tanya Markul, from her book The She Book. In it she talks about what holding space really looks like.
I can’t imagine anything more courageous than this.
So to those who hold space, thank you. And may I have the courage to be a little bit more like you.
I have a confession to make. I do not love my body. I don’t hate it, but when people talk about loving their bodies, I don’t necessarily feel like that is something I connect with.
But I am learning.
When I began having knee pain, I immediately thought, “well, that’s just one more thing breaking down.” How many of us do something like that? We speak unkindly to ourselves, about ourselves. Or when I look in the mirror, am I in awe of what I see there, or do I point out the soft middle and secretly say, “if you lose 20 pounds, I will be able to love you more.”
To those of you who never speak in that kind of hurtful or unloving way toward yourself, you are the role model today. I would love to learn how you learned to be kind to your body.
For me, I am going to take a slightly different approach.
When I was diagnosed with my tumour, and then named her Tina, an interesting thing happened. it’s the same thing that happens when my kids get hurt or when my wife got sick. I felt so much compassion for Tina. And slowly, I was able to change that to feeling compassion for me.
My therapist and I talked about treating Tina with kindness, and how I need to treat myself like I would anyone else who is suffering. And I did. And I am beginning to love this body of mine.
Let’s be clear. I do not enjoy everything about my body. But when I take the time to show compassion toward the parts that suffer, and can show awe when I realize all the things my body allows me to do…including writing this blog, then I can begin to treat my body with love.
It takes courage. It takes courage to acknowledge the pain. It takes courage to show kindness to the thing that is hurting you. And today, I am learning how to love my body, not in spite of its flaws, but because those flaws make me human.
What can you do to show your body you love it? Will it be in how you speak about her? What you choose to feed her? How you help her deal with stress? Will you move her or rest her?
I only get one body. I no longer want to focus on changing the imperfections. I want to love those imperfections. I am going to brave enough to learn how to love my body. Will you join me?
It takes courage to be kind when others are cruel.
Yesterday I went with my family and some friends to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, starting Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers.
You should see it. It’s a beautiful film about the relationship between Fred Rogers and a writer named Lloyd Vogel. There are so many great messages in the movie but one that truly struck me is the power of kindness. Even in the face of meanness and harsh words, Fred Rogers seemed to always respond with kindness.
For me, responding with kindness isn’t always easy. When harsh or thoughtless words are spoken to me, I tend to respond first by shutting down, then by getting angry (which is usually just covering the hurt) and then with sadness. When I have worked through those feelings, I want to mend the relationship.
But what happens when the cruelty escalates or the harsh words continue? What if attempts to mend the relationship are met with the silent treatment?
This is my dilemma today. One option would be to return meanness with more meanness. But that doesn’t make me feel very good about myself.
So instead, I am going to take a moment to think about Mr. Rogers, and respond with kindness. That doesn’t mean I am going to just forget about the unkind words. It doesn’t mean I am going to cut off the person who spoke them. But I can no longer allow my precious time and energy and potential for making my world a little better if my mind and heart continue to be filled with questions about whether those words are a reflection of who I am.
I can’t spend anymore sleepless nights. I can’t let my hurt come out in more harsh words toward the people I love most. Today I will find the courage to respond with kindness, toward the ones who love me, the ones who need my kindness and the ones who must be hurting themselves to be acting in such cruel ways.
Every single one of us wants to be heard. We want to speak our truth, to live with authenticity, and to do so without judgement.
So often, however, when we are listening to someone share their heart, we do it with judgement. Not every judgement is negative, but sometimes we spend our time not really listening, instead making silent judgements, assuming we know something about the person we are listening to that may not be accurate. We make connections and we plan our next comment. It’s totally normal. Humans have meaning-making minds.
Judgements may be direct, like asking “what did you do that for?” or less direct, but just as judgemental, like “I don’t know why you would worry about that. There are people going through way worse things.” Judgements may also be internal, where we tell ourself, “this person hurt me before and I don’t really want to believe anything they tell me” or even “this person is highly regarded. I can’t believe they are struggling.”
But imagine if we listened just to listen. Not to plan the next statement or the next follow-up question. Imagine what we could learn, really learn about another. It takes courage to be that open to another’s story.
When I listen to my wife, for example, I may be hearing what she says, but if I am assuming she is angry with me or if I tell myself that what she really means is…then I am not listening without judgement.
I can learn so much more about the person I am listening to if I have to courage to really listen, not to pretend I am listening while silently making judgements and assumptions.
So, when someone asks if they can talk to you, can you find the courage to set aside your thoughts of, “Oh no, what did I do now?” And instead tell your mind to just stop and listen? It takes more courage to not know what you will hear, but I promise you will be letting the other person know you see them, you hear them and you value them. Isn’t that what all of us want?
What steps of courage can you take today to listen without judgement? I am going to start with my family, to listen to my kids more, to listen to my wife more. I want my family, more than anyone else, to know I see them and I hear them and that I truly want to know them, without the stories of judgement I may make in my head.
I hope you have a wonderful Sunday, filled with peace. I am thankful for each of you who read this blog. It is hard to believe we are more than half-way through the 45 day journey.
This has been a tough week at work. But not in the same way it is sometime tough when you are a principal. This wasn’t a week filled with violence or really bad behaviour. It has been a tough week for our kids – regulating emotions, dealing with horrific situations, learning how to take responsibility when they react out of anger, fear or frustration. This is the hard work that happens in the office.
I have been learning something so very important from these kids. It takes courage to accept support. It takes courage to say, “I can’t handle my world right now and I really need you to support me.” I am honoured and humbled every time a young person comes into my office and asks me if they can run something by me because they need to do something really hard and are looking for support.
Carrying the weight of others’ struggles does weigh on us too. I am blessed in my work to have others who tell me when they are worried I am taking on too much. I have support offered to me all the time. I wrote about having the courage to ask for help. But the other side to that is having the courage to accept the support when it is offered.
So, my students, my children, my friends, my colleagues, thank you for teaching me how to accept support and for having the courage to take the support when it is offered. I am going to have the courage to be more like you.
Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for some time. So if you are looking for some wisdom, know that this post may not hold any, but it will definitely hold the ramblings of my early morning mind.
It is important to know that in this post I am not referring to any particular person or event. It is a general pattern I have been noticing both in my work and in my life. So many of the interactions I have in my office, for example, would be so much easier to resolve if we were real and honest. When it comes to kids, my own or my students, self protection is key, and I see the painful results when one person can’t or won’t just be real – other people get hurt. The person themself hurts because they feel less-than authentic.
I am tired of having to decipher what is real and what is an act. I am tired of having to determine whether someone is being honest with me or if they are sparing my feelings. And I am really tired of feeling like I have to prove myself when someone makes a judgement about me based almost entirely on made-up facts.
Why can’t we just be real? Be who you are. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Let your actions match your words.
Our world is already filled with plenty of opportunities to practice deciphering fact from fiction. Just turn on the news! In our personal interactions, let’s start being fiercely real.
Just a few thoughts…
1. Words do matter. Words have power. One thoughtlessly chosen word can destroy a person. Or at least ruin their day. So mean what you say and say what you mean.
2. Lies are never a good option. If you want to protect my feelings, a lie won’t help. Instead, tell me your truth in a gentle way. I would rather feel disappointed by the truth than betrayed by a lie.
3. Along the lines of truth telling… it is never okay to lie about another person just to make yourself look or feel better. Your words can, intentionally or unintentionally destroy a reputation, break a heart or shatter a soul. And they may never be able to put the pieces back together.
4. It is never too late to make things right.
It takes courage to be fiercely real. So get out there and be exactly who you are. Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t hide your amazing self behind a mask. Stop toning it down to make others comfortable. If you have an inner peacock, let him or her out.
Whatever your world looks like, know this…you are a miracle. You are the only one who can bring your special something to this world, so do it. We need you.
And if you speak or act in a way that is inconsistent with who you are or what you know to be real, have the courage to make it right. We all make mistakes. We all have pain and sometimes act in ways that we are not proud of. So have the courage to be real and make it right. You may be surprised at the power your truth can have in restoring a relationship. If you need help to make it right, that is ok. There are people – friends, parents, therapists, teachers etc., who will help you.
Please know that, while I am using the word “you” a lot, these thoughts and words are very much directed at me as well. None of us are perfect. None of us are comfortable living in our authenticity all the time.
Friends, let’s have the courage today to be fiercely real – in our words, in our actions, toward others and toward ourselves. Let’s make honesty and integrity marks of courage.
It takes courage to get up and face a difficult day.
It also takes courage to recognize when we need to take a step back and care for ourselves in the face of a difficult day.
Yesterday I spoke about laughing in the face of fear. And today I just want to remind you (and myself) that it is not a sign of weakness or failure when we can’t. When the best we can do is to get up and face the day, that is enough.
It’s funny that yesterday I wrote about laughing in the face of fear, and then had a very frightening thing happen…not something to laugh at, but something I need to just get up and face. Throughout the day yesterday, I felt my heart racing and then suddenly dropping. It repeated throughout the day and it was very frightening. As I usually do, I downplayed it and said it wasn’t a big deal. But it is definitely something I need to be aware of, and something I probably need to do something about.
So I don’t have much to write today as I am going to intentionally decide to step back today and take care of myself and my health and well-being. And instead of pressuring myself to get this post out, I will be spending some time considering how I can reduce some stress and remove the negative voices in my head that tell me I am not doing enough.
So to anyone struggling today who is facing a tough day, know this…it takes courage to get up and face a difficult day. Why is that brave? Because when we don’t know the outcome of the day, but we get up and go forward anyway, we are brave.
How do you react when you are afraid? I am not proud to say that I tend to either shut down and go inward or I ruminate and think about all the possible outcomes making me feel more anxious, ready to fight whatever is coming at me.
And all of that is okay.
But sometimes I face fearful situations with humour. Somehow, it helps me stand in the fear, and more clearly consider how to deal with whatever is happening.
Laughter reduces stress and can help us get back into the present if we have flown down the tunnel of future worries. It can make a difficult situation easier to talk about and it can disarm a person. But we should be careful about when and how we use laughter in facing our fears.
For example, I find my bone tumour (a probable chondrosarcoma) to be very frightening. I am very afraid of what could happen, even though I know that as long as it remains inside the bone, it will likely not spread. When I was first diagnosed, I was afraid to talk about it, even with my therapist. So I named my tumour. I called her Tina. Tina Tumour. It is a lot easier to discuss how Tina is doing. And it makes me laugh every time I say it. It also gives other people permission to ask about it in a way that makes them less uncomfortable.
But sometimes it’s not a good idea to laugh in frightening situations. I have heard a story over the years about my great-grandmother. A very small lady, my Gramma was walking through the park at night (maybe not a great idea but it was also a different time I guess) when a flasher jumped out (picture creepy guy in trench coat) and flashed her.
What would you do? Scream? Kick him? Run away? Freeze? I imagine I would do any of those things. But as the story was shared with me, my Gramma looked the naked offender up and down and calmly stated, “now don’t you look stupid.” The guy ran away.
I love that story and while I am unsure how much of it is fact and how much is embellished from being told so many times, the point is that she had the courage to laugh in the face of fear. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation in 2019, however, I recommend you NOT make a joke, that you call 911 and that you find safety.
It is also not a great idea to make jokes about people’s illnesses unless and until you know they are dealing with it with humour.
We all deal with fear in a million different ways. Our fight, flight or freeze response is involuntary and is designed to protect us in the moment when something very frightening is happening to us. Let me reiterate that it is involuntary. So not laughing in the face of fear in the moment does not make you less-than-courageous. It makes you a survivor.
But it also takes courage, once we are able to assess the situation, to find ways of coping with fearful situations. One way is to laugh. So if I make a joke about Tina or about my upcoming surgery or about how I imagined that when I fell that my bone had broken open and cancer cells were freely flowing through my body, please don’t get angry with me. I am finding a way to deal with something very scary. And it takes courage for me to laugh instead of shutting down, and instead of minimizing it.
What frightens you today? Is there something you can do to lighten your body’s response? Give it a try. Tell the flasher he looks stupid. Name your tumour after a singing legend. I don’t know what that will mean for you. But I do know that it is ok to laugh. It is ok to joke. If it helps you face your fear instead of hiding from it, go for it.
And if you need someone to share your fear with, who can hold some space for you to build up your courage to face the fear, or even to laugh at it, please reach out. We never have to face the scary times alone.
Literally. And also figuratively. Yesterday I went to urgent care to get some help after I had slipped on the ice. I couldn’t put weight on my left leg without having shooting pain in my knee. Thankfully there was nothing broken, and my tumour remains safely encased in the bone where it will remain until my surgery. The treatment? Rest. And movement.
This got me thinking about the many situations in which we may find ourselves when we feel like we’ve fallen. Perhaps we have failed in our job. Perhaps we have taken a fall in our relationships. Maybe we feel personally attacked and we are embarrassed or ashamed. Maybe we have done something we know is wrong, and we don’t know how we will ever make it right.
Whatever the situation, I know that every one of us has felt that feeling of falling down and wondering if we will ever get up.
You can. You will. You must.
It takes courage to get back up after a fall. But just like my doctor’s directions to deal with my knee pain, sometimes we first need to rest. We don’t have to jump up and keep going. We may need to rest, reflect, regroup, care for the injured part of our hearts and our egos.
And then we move. Slowly, incrementally, we start to move again so we don’t seize up. It takes courage. It will probably hurt. We may want to stay in a quiet heap in the floor. But we move.
If you read my blog last week, you may have seen that I felt like I was hit multiple times. I feel like I fell. And I rested. And I am moving again. I will find the courage to not stay down. And I know you can too.
So today, if you are feeling like life has knocked you down, show yourself some kindness. Tend to your broken heart. Rest. Increase the care you show yourself.
And then find the courage to move. Even just a little. Until you are able to get back up. If you need some help to get up, that’s okay. Remember yesterday I talked about the courage to ask for help. Please, whatever you do today, don’t just stay down. The world needs you to get back up.
If you know me, you know that I struggle to ask for help. I know the importance of not trying to do everything alone, but it is hard for me to put this into practice.
I remember years ago we were putting up drywall on our basement ceiling. My wife was helping me and suggested we should get someone to give us a hand. I refused. I am not really sure why. It makes sense to have a few more hands to do something like that. But at the time, I felt like asking for help would somehow be admitting I am not competent enough. Looking back, I cringe at how I reacted toward her.
It takes courage to admit we can’t do everything in our own, especially when we have always felt our value lies in our ability to help others and to be there to support those who need us. Weird, right? We are quick to help but resist asking for help. I am sure that is something I will need to unpack with my therapist at some point.
Today, my courage will take me to my doctor. I have been fighting through pain in my knee associated with a tumour in my fibula. I am also fighting pain in my shoulder. Yesterday I slipped on ice and though I didn’t fall, I did something to aggravate my knee to the point I could barely put weight on it. So today I will take the step to see my doctor for help with the pain. And this is hard to do for me, because everything within me says, “fight through it, go to work where they need you and deal with this yourself.”
It takes courage to ask for help. Whether it is asking someone to help hand drywall, asking for help from a doctor or simply asking to share the load when it gets too much to handle alone, just ask.
I work in a profession which is all about learning. At least in theory. I think much of our education has been more about grades and credits than it has been about true learning. I love learning, though, and I am currently looking for new ways to engage in learning a new thing.
Over the years, I have been able to find many formal ways of learning. After high school, which was, for me, such a positive learning experience, even if socially it was questionable, I was able to steadily learn for four years at Western University before deciding that education was important to me as a way of helping others and hopefully making social changes. So, I earned a degree in Education and began my work in Secondary schooling.
I have always tried to I still in my students a belief that the learning is more important than the grade. But who are we kidding? If there is a grade involved at all, most students are going to care about that grade. As a principal I see the obsession with grades every day – from students and parents and teachers, some of whom still want to use marks as a way of rewarding or punishing compliance, rather than as a tool for feedback about how students are learning.
For all the beliefs I have about marks as a tool for feedback, I know they matter to me too, when they are my grades. When I decided to earn my Master’s in Educational Leadership, I fought hard to earn the best marks I could, because I believed that reflected how worthy I was to be in this field.
Fast forward to today. It takes courage to learn a new thing. I am stuck. I am about to finish a professional learning program, and have only to complete the practicum portion. I am considering my learning from here, and I am very aware that, unlike when I was younger, I can not just drop all responsibilities to go earn another degree. If I could, I would run off to do a doctorate somewhere far away. But I could never afford the time or the tuition at this point.
So I am a person who needs to be learning. Here are my ideas. Let me know yours.
1. Find opportunities to learn that do not involve formal education. This is something I am privileged to do regularly as working for a learning organization affords next many learning opportunities. Perhaps there are opportunities here I haven’t considered.
2. Do a Doctor of Education program. This is on my list of things I want to do, but I am not sure if it financially feasible or if I would be able to do this with young kids and my career.
3. Turn on the laptop. did you know there are many universities and other learning organizations that are putting their courses online for anyone to access? I have been working through a course online from Yale. Did you know that at Yale University, the most popular course is The Psychology of Well-Being? So, Yale put the entire course – lectures, small group talks, readings, videos, quizzes, assignments – all of it online for anyone to take the course FOR FREE. You only pay if you wasn’t the certificate that says you took the course. So, for me, it took some courage to say, I just want to learn. I don’t need the recognition. There are hundreds of courses offered for free online. If you are interested in finding out more, check out EdX or Coursera as starting points. Or contact me and I will tell you more about it.
4. Learn a new skill completely unrelated to work. Maybe through Spectrum or through the Y? But what? I could learn to paint (and that would NOT be to satisfy those few negative people who have commented that my painted backgrounds that I post with each day’s themes are not good and I should stop putting them up. FYI, I know I am not a watercolour genius. I just enjoy it and I am going to keep putting them up as an act of courage) or learn to blow glass (something I didn’t do from my 45 Things project) or to play a new instrument or learn a new language. This might be a good idea because it will require me to step out of my comfort zone more.
Other ideas? I would love to hear from you. How have you shown the courage to learn a new thing? How can I? Tell me what you are learning and let’s celebrate that!
Ok. Now this may sound like I am just running out of things to talk about, but stick with me for a minute.
It takes courage to just be a person. To recognize that you are not the labels you give yourself…mom, teacher, friend, bus driver, banker, doctor, student. You are also not weak, powerful, brilliant, a screw-up. Those labels may describe what you do or how you interact with the world. They may describe your relationship to other people. They may describe how you respond in the face of challenge or victory. But you are just a person. You are not your accolades, your awards, your failures or your diagnosis.
You are just a person.
So where does the courage come in? It takes courage for us to step out from behind the mask of position. It takes courage for us to not “become” our labels. Being just a person is vulnerable and brave.
It also takes courage for us to see others as just people. How often do we…do I place value in someone else’s opinion or behaviour based on the label I have given them? How many times have I worn a label someone gave me because of a title they hold? How often have I written off someone else’s humanity and stuck a label on them?
It’s time to stop doing that! It’s time for us to stop hiding behind our titles or failing to see the person in front of us and not just the behaviour.
So today I will remember that before I was a teacher, a principal, a wife, a mom, and even before I was a friend, daughter, sister, woman, I was just a person. I am just a person when I have my best day. I am just a person in my worst.
Yes, I will celebrate my successes…and over the next few days I will share some of those successes I am experiencing. And I will reflect on my failures. But I will also take the steps to see the person in the mirror, in my office, on the street and on the other end of the phone.
Can you find the courage today to just be a person? To step out from behind the mask of your title or to not limit yourself by the labels others place on you? Being a person is the one thing, the ONLY thing I have been since the day I was born, and will continue to be until the day I die.
Can you find the courage to boldly state, “I am just a person?”
How is it possible that today marks the one-third mark for this series? I am so grateful to each one of you who has read, commented, shared privately with me that you are getting something from my posts. I truly appreciate the feedback. ❤️
It takes courage to release control.
Yesterday I mentioned a difficult conversation I was going to have. Well, I had it. And the result was somewhere between what I was hoping for and what I most feared. Isn’t that usually the case?
So often we have expectations about how our lives will go or how our relationships will be. And we try to manipulate the world around us so our reality is more like the expectations we have. I have learned that I do this all the time. I like to make things better. I am a “fixer”. But rarely, if ever, does trying to fix the world around me bring me peace or joy.
The much more difficult and courageous thing for me to do is to trust. To release control. It takes courage to release control…of the outcome, of the other person’s response, of my own emotions, of the laws of the universe… but I am learning that if I can release control and simply accept what is happening (without my interference) with compassion, I do find peace.
Yesterday was a day for me to process. My apology wasn’t accepted, but that is out of my control. My questions were answered in a way that left me feeling more hurt and filled with self doubt than before. But today I will find the courage to release control and simply allow what has happened to be.
Is there anything in your life that you need to release control of today? How can you begin today? Take just one small step of courage with me today.
I am not talking about the very Canadian “I’m sorry” we all know and love. You know, the one I give to someone when they accidentally step in my foot? And I am also not talking about the flippant “sorry” you make because your mom tells you to apologize to your brother and you just want to get back to whatever you were doing.
I am talking here about sincerely apologizing when we recognize we have done something wrong or something to hurt another person. The kind of apology you know you need to make but you really don’t want to because to apologize is to admit wrongdoing and to be vulnerable.
No one likes to admit they are wrong. Especially me. Sometimes it takes me some time of working through a whole web of thoughts and feelings and playing back an insides to recognize when I was in the wrong. And sometimes it can feel like too much time has passed to apologize. But I think those are the apologies that take the greatest courage.
Today I will be speaking with someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. I did apologize for some actions that were wrong, and I don’t know if this person accepts my apology or not. That isn’t up to me. What is up to me is to recognize when I am wrong, to sincerely say I am sorry and to ask how I can make it better.
For me, that takes courage. Especially when the relationship matters. To apologize is not weak. It is a statement of strength and it takes tremendous courage. Tomorrow I will be talking about having the courage to release control of the outcome.
Do you have an apology to make? Consider the courage it will take for you to make it. Courage takes practice and this practice can repair the relationships that matter to us.
This morning as I prepared to write today’s post, I realized I did not do a painted background for the theme. I do not apologize for this. I was out last night connecting with my very dear friend Stephanie. That time is sacred and went a little later than my nights (especially a school night) usually do.
Stephanie is one of those friends who I see three or four times each year but it feels like we are just picking up where we left off. Do you have friends like that? I have known her since grade 7 and she has consistently been, for me, the example of the kind of friend I want to be. She is steadfast and loving, compassionate and giving, and she is not afraid to tell me when I am doing something that isn’t good for me. She loves my kids and my wife and I love her family too.
And she is so courageous. She always has been. In grade 8 I was SO awkward. And I tried to fit in with my group of friends but I was so inauthentic in doing so (as many thirteen year olds are) that it was really off-putting to my friends. And, led by one girl who really did not like me, I was ostracized and excluded. It hurt so badly to go through that. No one wanted to talk to me or hang out with me. The ringleader would spread rumours about me, write hurtful notes and put them in my locker or tell others not to be friends with me.
And they listened to her. Most of them listened. But not Stephanie. Even in the face of the possibility of losing her friends, she would not follow along. She still talked with me and included me. She convinced me that if I was just myself, without apology, people would like me.
As an adult she willingly stepped in at the last minute to stand by my side at my wedding when my brother stepped down. I will love her forever for that.
And on the day I posted something very concerning online, she called to check on me and even went as far as driving from Waterloo to Woodstock to stay with me until I could get an appointment with my therapist.
Stay connected with your people. It takes courage. Stephanie is my example of courage today. Thank you, my friend, for showing up, for telling me to rest when I need to, for helping me through my childhood, for forgiving me when I was a jerk. Thank you for sharing your family with me and for being brave enough to call me when you need to talk. I want you to know that I will always be here for you.
So today, I encourage you all to be courageous, make that call. Connect with someone who you haven’t seen in a while, with someone who, when you are around them, encourages you to be better.
But I wasn’t always. And I know there are days to come when I won’t be. And that is okay.
A year ago today, I was really not okay. I was overwhelmed with things happening in my life. I was struggling to carry the trauma I was working through while also holding space to hold the pain of others who shared so bravely with me. I wanted to believe I could do all of it. But I couldn’t. And I was too afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid I would look incompetent to lead and do the work I love. I was afraid that admitting I was not okay would be a burden to those I love and would hurt my wife and kids. I was afraid that admitting I was not okay would be seen as weakness. So I kept all of the pain and the fear and the anxiety that was lying to me about who I am, and it built and grew until it all came to a head a year ago. And it literally nearly killed me.
Thankfully, something pulled me out of that tunnel and not only did I find the courage to walk away from the path I was on, but I found the courage to admit I was not okay and I needed help.
Asking for help is not easy for me. It never has been. I have always felt ashamed to ask for help because I believed it meant I was not capable or enough. That is wrong. I am capable. I am enough. I just needed help. And even though my first attempt at asking for help that day left me feeling more ashamed and dismissed and judged, something I am still trying to work through today, I kept asking. And it got easier to admit I was not okay. And eventually I found the help I so desperately needed.
In my work I see so many young people who are on that same path. They are desperate to find connection, for someone to see them and tell them we see them and that it is okay to not be okay. It is brave to admit you need help. Sadly, some don’t ever find that courage to admit they aren’t okay.
When I talk to my children I hear the same resistance to admit they aren’t okay and I realize I have modelled for them that saying “I’m fine” in the face of overwhelming pain is not only acceptable but expected. And I need to change that.
To you who saw beyond my “I’m fine”, thank you. I am learning to admit when I am not okay.
To you, who may be reading today, feeling overwhelmed and desperate, be brave today. Tell someone. Tell anyone who will listen. If you don’t know where to turn, ask someone. Ask me. I will help. I will never dismiss you or not believe you when you say you need help.
You are brave. Lets take a step of courage together today.
Today in Canada and in many places around the world, we will stop to remember the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have taken up the call to battle for freedom. Some of us will attend school gatherings. Some will attend ceremonies at a local cenotaph. Many will go about their daily business but will stop for a minute at 11:00 to silently consider the price of freedom.
There is no way for me to make a comparison between the courage it must have taken for these young people to walk away from everything they knew to fight in a war on the other side of the world and our own call to courage. To do so would be both insensitive and disrespectful.
But what I will say is this… we live in a world where injustice and cruelty are often dismissed as just part of our society. But it doesn’t have to be. That is not the vision of Canada our young men and women fought and died for.
When I stop a young person from making a racist or sexist or homophobic comment, I am honouring their sacrifice. When we write to our politicians to insist on better funding for the services we deserve and which benefit our society, such as health care and education, we are honouring their sacrifice. When we have the courage to ask the person near us in the grocery store to honour the minute of silence at 11:00, we honour their sacrifice.
Any time we step into the arena, that place where we are vulnerable and visible to all the spectators, where others may shame us for our faults, or laugh at us for our errors, we honour their sacrifice.
For them, stepping into the arena meant literally putting their lives on the line. For us, stepping into the arena will likely not mean life or death. For us, having the courage to step into the arena is a choice to get messy, to possibly stand alone, to speak up for what we believe to be true and good and right. For us, stepping into the arena will probably not be met with an enemy holding a gun. But we may be met with an enemy who uses our words against us, who reminds us of our past and asks, “who do you think you are?” There will be critics. That I can guarantee.
Step into the arena with me. Today, find the courage to speak up for what you believe in. Stand up for what you know to be good and true and right. Today, let’s remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy. And let’s continue to honour their sacrifice with our words and actions.
And PLEASE take a moment to stop and silently remember today.
In our society which rewards doing more, which applauds busyness and which encourages us to “find something to do,” we have forgotten how to rest.
So today’s post will be short. Because I need to rest. And so do you. Because it is brave.
It takes courage to stop all the doing, the side hustle, the email replies, the planning for next week, the lunch making, the form signing, and the homework helping to just rest and replenish. Many of us don’t like to rest. The thought of not actively working toward something makes us feel anxious.
And yet, science has proven that we are more productive, more in tune, more able to make good decisions and make better connections with others when we take the time to rest.
I just finished reading the book Brave, not Perfect by Reshma Saujani. In it, Reshma offers up an entire chapter about the importance of rest. I heard her speak on a podcast just before I read the book and she made a statement that has stuck with me.
“You can’t be brave if you are tired.”
So, my readers, today is a day to rest. Dinner is already made. Lunch will be up to the kids. I will attend church this morning and then give myself permission to rest this afternoon. The only question today is, will it be a beer and football or a tea and a good book with a favourite blanket kind of afternoon? Will you join me in finding the courage to rest today?
If you are alive, you have a story. If you are an adult, you have survived childhood…so you definitely have a story. If you have ever loved another, you have a story.
We all have a story but many of us are afraid to tell ours. We worry that others might judge us or that if we share our story, we might break down. But what if we don’t? What if people don’t judge us but instead they feel a connection to us?
Not all stories should be shared with everyone. I started this blog as a way to share my authentic self with other people. It has been a healing journey and while I most certainly hope my story has helped some people to find some courage and some peace in their lives, it has been a healing and powerful journey for me.
There are, however, parts of my story I have not shared publicly, and likely won’t, at least not in the near future. Parts of my story deserve to be heard only by those who have earned that privilege. The same is true for your story. There is nothing more healing and transforming than sharing your story with someone who can listen, without any judgement, and who can then share your pain or your joy or your fear or your excitement and honestly tell you they see you.
What keeps us from being brave enough to share our story? For me it is the fear of judgement. I have had the experience of sharing the darkest parts of my story, to be met with judgement, to be dismissed, to be called “attention seeking” when I was asking for help through my story.
I hesitate to share the awesome things happening in my life, especially when those awesome things are happening because I have worked hard and achieved good things because I worry that others will think I am bragging or that I am showing that I have an inflated sense of self importance.
But, our story is our story. And we need to tell our story because it matters to us. Maybe our story will give someone else the courage to face their own challenges. For me, I will continue to share who I am through this blog. Some people will read it. Some will not. And that is ok. It is part of my bravery journey to share my story. It is not part of my journey to worry about how others will accept it.
So take a step of courage today. Tell someone you trust an little piece of your story. And if someone has the courage to share theirs with you, hold that story with love and care. Thank you, my readers, for gently holding mine.
I don’t particularly like change. I prefer comfort and predictability. But I also know that change is one thing that is constant in life. When we were in Taiwan, we learned from the amazing Buddhist monks with whom we stayed, that Life is Change. There is not one minute of any day that looks exactly like any one before it.
One meaningful act of courage comes when we accept change. When we want our lives to stay the same, but we accept it will change, that is courage. My son is preparing for high school in September. While part of me wants to keep him in elementary school, a bigger part is excited for this change in his life and ours.
In many industries, change is an annoying reality. For me, as a high school principal, change is the norm. Students come, and grow, and leave. Teachers change. Other personnel change. Curriculum changes. A new challenge presents itself.
As a parent lots of changes are coming. My kids are growing up. And while I am looking forward to watching them grow and become the adults they will be, it’s a change. Am I happy for them? Absolutely! And I worried for them? You bet! Do I know this change is good and necessary? Heck ya! Am I looking forward to the changes that will come? Not at all. But I will find the courage to accept the change and I know things will turn out exactly how they are supposed to.
Life changes constantly. One moment to the next we are living in change. Relationships change. Jobs change. We start new businesses or take on new roles. Friends go on new adventures and the dynamics of those friendships inevitably change. What we believed would always be, will not always be, at least not in the same form.
Without change there is no life. We are entering a new season. Winter brings changes to routines and activities. It requires changes in what we wear, how we travel and even how we eat and spend our leisure time. And without winter, we can not experience the joy of life that comes in spring.
Our health changes and we must adjust. Our priorities change as we age and our families grow.
I am convinced that every sad song ever written is actually about change. Loss and grief and disappointment are the result of change. We need to have the courage to not avoid change, but to walk boldly through it, knowing that on the other side, when we accept change, we will be right where we need to be.
What changes are you experiencing or preparing for? Can you accept the change? How can you dig into your courage to know everything will turn out exactly as it should?
It takes courage to believe you are worthy of love and belonging.
My son has been experiencing what many teenagers experience…exclusion. He is 13, preparing to go to high school next year and he inspires me every day with his strength and resilience.
So today I want to do something a little bit different and share with you the story of a young man who has overcome greater obstacles than most his age, who struggles daily, and who is so resilient it makes me cry.
When E was born, he was destined for struggle. He came into the world having been exposed to alcohol and spent the first months of his life neglected, under nourished and under stimulated. He was fortunate to have a wonderful and loving aunt and uncle, who remain positive and loving family members and friends to our entire family, who tried to help and support E. But the challenge was far greater than anyone could imagine and before E was two, he was moved out of his birth mother’s care.
E then lived with other family members who were also not equipped to care for him, and later, for his sister. He tells me stories of food insecurities, of not going to school, of being hungry and having a constant sore mouth because there was no toothbrush for him. He spent his first years living in constant stress, feelings responsible for the safety of his little sister, never sure who was coming into the house, whether there would be violence or drugs, and not having a place to go that wasn’t so cluttered or filled with ashtrays and garbage so he could just relax.
A kind social worker tried to help. And eventually, the kids went to live in a foster home.
And while the couple who took E and his sister in gave them all the love and care they needed, that placement fell through because E, at six, was just too old. We were their next (and final) home.
When E and T came to live with us, at 6 and 3, they had never had their own room, had never had consistent meals or access to snacks. He had to learn how to brush his teeth and navigate clean clothes and went to school for the first time. It was a struggle for him.
And he learned. He learned to count, to read, to share, to feel secure. He learned about love and belonging. Our greatest day as a family was April 10, 2015, when a judge announced that we were officially and forever a family.
And now, at 13, E excels in math. He loves to read. He loves sports. He is an Air Cadet and has aspirations to be a pilot. He is protective of his sister. He brags about his mom’s baking and is helpful and kind.
That all sounds good, right?
E is also very small for his age. His early start to life left him underweight, shorter than all of his peers and he struggles with learning, a combination of the effects of FASD and a learning disability. Yet E doesn’t let any of his challenges stop him.
He plays on his school’s basketball team, and is really talented on the court. He runs cross country and track, plays hockey and volleyball. He reads everything he can get his hands on. He flies gliders, attends survival camps and impresses the officers in his Cadet squadron with his dedication and passion. He is getting ready for high school and has a deep desire to be a part of our board’s Aviation program.
But even with all these accomplishments, E comes home many nights and cries. Why? Because at school he is excluded by his peers for…get this…being short. At lunch he is told he is too small to play soccer or basketball. He has been told by kids on the volleyball team that he should just quit because he is too short to play. He has been told by his peers that they don’t want him to hang out with them because he looks like a little kid. The saddest part is that he believes he deserves to be excluded for his size. This kind, loving boy, who would never exclude another for any reason and who truly fights for fairness, believes he deserves to be excluded because he is small. I would like to take a moment to clarify that this exclusion comes from a group at school, but that the cadets he spends time with are welcoming, encouraging and they include him. If you want a positive group of young people for your kids to spend time with, consider the cadet program.
I desperately wish the kids at school could see the strength and the courage this boy has. I wish they knew that he has never let anything, including his size, stop him from going for it and excelling at the things he loves. And I wish E was able to truly see that he inspires others with all he has overcome, with the positivity he shows in the face of challenge.
So, my readers, I share my son’s story for two reasons. First, please remind your young people that everyone is going through things they will never know. Teach them to see the strength to overcome and the resilience it takes to persevere and to not let the challenges stop someone from trying. Please, please, please teach them not to tear down a person for the thing they can’t control.
And the second reason is to tell my son how proud I am to be his mom. You, my brave and sensitive son, inspire me. You are teaching me to be brave. You are teaching me to persevere in the face of struggle. You are teaching me to never let another person’s unkindness keep me from being kind. You are teaching me what courage looks like.
In the words of one of my favourite writers and researchers, Brené Brown, “You are imperfect. You are wired for struggle. But you are worthy of love and belonging.” May all of us, whether 13 or 46 or 70, remember that. And may we all have the courage to believe it.
Yes it does. How often do we neglect our needs so we can care for those we love, those we serve and those we want to help. But at what cost? We are told that we can’t pour from an empty cup and yet, we seem to be able to take a single drop and use it to quench the thirst of so many around us. The cost, though, is that we are so depleted that we crash, both mentally and physically.
So what do I mean by taking care of ourselves? I am actually not talking about bubble baths and chocolate cake (but let’s not kid ourselves…both of those would be lovely right now). Rather I am talking about actually caring for ourselves. That takes courage – the courage to choose to care for your needs and risk someone else having to wait for you to take care of their needs…or even to risk them having to find a way to care for their own needs too.
It takes courage to go to bed at a decent time, to get all the sleep you need. It takes courage to drink the water, maybe even saying no to the wine. It takes courage to take the time to shop and cook healthy meals instead of whipping through the drive thru. It takes courage to move your body every day. It takes courage to slow down and be mindful, to savour a moment of beauty, to show gratitude.
It also takes courage to show yourself grace and kindness when you have that extra glass of wine, get take-out for the third time in a week and binge-watch Netflix because THAT is what you need at that time.
And having the courage to take care of yourself also means not saying yes when your heart says no. It means asking for help when you need it and accepting the help when it is offered. Whoa! That one is tough for me. It’s the one I really need to work on. Please call me out when I try to do everything on my own. We all need help sometimes. If you are like me, accepting that help may be a huge act of bravery.
Be kind to you. Take care of you. Because you deserve it. And because it is your responsibility. We don’t have to get it perfect. So let’s step out in courage and commit to doing one thing today and each day to take better care of ourselves. What will you do today?
That’s right. Just as you are, right now. Without changing anything.
You are enough. Without being thinner or richer or more successful. You are enough when you get frustrated with your kids or when you feed them pizza for the second time in a week. You are enough when you can’t quit the bad habit you have been trying to overcome or when you can’t stop playing the hurtful words someone said to you over and over in your head.
You are enough when you know you are enough. You are enough when you can not possibly believe you are enough. You are enough on the easy days and on the days of struggle too. When you jump out of bed ready to face the day, and when you cry all the way to work, wishing you could just go home again because you are sure you are making the lives of those you serve much much worse.
Today you are enough. Yesterday, you were enough. Tomorrow you will be enough. There is nothing more you need to do or be to be enough.
Read all those words again. I know I will. I need to read them all, and find the courage to believe them. Can you find the courage to believe that right now, just as you are, without any doubt, you are enough? Let’s take that step of courage together today.
Yesterday I reflected on the courage it takes to regroup and start over. Today I am considering how it takes courage to let go.
I like to feel a sense of control. All the time. This has served me well in many situations throughout my life. Holding tightly and being responsible gave me the endurance to do well in school, to push for a career I love. I need to have a certain amount of control in order to be effective in my job and in parenting my children.
But the need for control has also made my life difficult. I find it hard to trust others. I hold on to the harsh words people say, and I take it personally. I find it difficult to let go of control and just know that people can handle their own lives. I live with anxiety and often feel overwhelmed with worry. It can be crippling.
And when I am in a situation over which I have no control whatsoever, I struggle to know what to do. Right now, for example, I am waiting to learn when I will have surgery to remove a tumour from inside a bone in my leg. It is painful and scary and I have no control over it.
So I have no great example today to demonstrate how I have shown courage and just let go. I only know that it does take courage to let go, to trust that the things I worry about will turn out fine. The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t trust. I am afraid. I am afraid of what is happening in my body. I don’t know how to let go of the hurtful words someone said to me last year. I don’t know how to release control and just let people take responsibility for the things they need to if it might affect my life or the lives of my loved ones.
But I need to. So today I will dig deep and find the courage to let go. Of one thing. And I will show myself some compassion if I can’t let everything go. One thing, one step at a time.
As I look outside, it is impossible not to see that nature gets it. The trees hold their leaves while it serves them. And when the fall comes, and those leaves are no longer helpful, they let them go. They need to let go to embrace the next season of their lives. Maybe that’s what I need to do too. How about you?
What are you holding on to? What is no longer serving you but you just haven’t been able to release it? Maybe it it control, or expectations, or an idea how how things should be. It takes a lot of courage to let go. We don’t know the outcome. It may not turn out the way we planned. It might turn out better. Will you try this with me?
But doesn’t that sound a lot like giving up? It can feel that way. When I am invested in something, whether it is at work or in my relationship, and things are not going the way I planned, I want to fix it, to push, to fight to make things better.
But sometimes, the most courageous thing to do is to start over.
I don’t believe that starting over is giving up. Starting over is regrouping, giving some space, hitting the reset button and trying again. Sometimes with another. Sometimes on your own. And all of that takes courage.
This past summer, it took courage for my wife and I to agree that things weren’t working in our home and our marriage. It took great courage to stop trying to fix all the individual issues and to make the decision for me to move away for a while. It took courage to remain hopeful and optimistic and to hit the reset button on our marriage. And it took great courage to take the leap and choose to start over, together. We are stronger now than ever. And we no longer take each other for granted. It’s not perfect, but I don’t want perfect. I want to be brave and joyful and imperfect and messy.
In my job there are many days where I leave at the end of the day feeling like I have made a difference, where I know I am helping people and doing good work.
And there are just as many days when the students have left, I have completed my paperwork and rather than feeling like I have made a meaningful contribution, I feel absolutely defeated. Young people are going through heart wrenching challenges and despite our best efforts, we just can’t help. Parents, in their frustration, call and personally attack. Sometimes, we just can’t seem to get the work done that we need to get done and I wonder if I am competent to do what I have been entrusted to do.
And in that moment, I have to make a choice. I can give up. I can desperately try to fix what can’t be fixed. Or I can show myself some grace, know I did the best I could do that day, and have the courage to try again tomorrow.
Is there something in your life you are trying desperately to fix because you are afraid to start over? What small steps could you take today to courageously explore starting over?
It takes courage to wish the best for someone who hurt you.
Having been on both sides – hurting another and feeling the sting of being hurt by another – I have learned that some of the greatest acts of courage are seen in the choices and actions of the one who has been hurt.
Many years ago I did something that shattered the trust my now wife had in me. It took a long time to rebuild that trust, but even in the pain I had caused, I saw courage as she wished only the best for me.
Over this past year, I have experienced betrayal and have been on the receiving end of some biting words and judgments, which I am trying to resolve, but the person who has hurt me is also refusing to talk to me. And I am finding it very difficult to wish only the best for them. What I want is for them to feel exactly how hurt I feel. What I want is for them to understand the depth of the pain they are causing me. Yet, this is not courage.
Courage is being able to see that someone who causes pain must be in pain. Courage is recognizing their humanity. It is being able to see beyond what may be directly in front of us, and into the soul of another. Courage is wishing only good, only light, only joy and only peace for the person, regardless of whether they ever “get it” or whether they ever make an attempt to repair the relationship.
Is there a relationship in your life that needs a little courage? When have you seen the kind of courage that wishes the best for someone who has hurt you? What could you do today to wish someone the best, even if you don’t fully feel it right now?
It takes courage to follow a dream. Especially if that dream may seem impractical or impossible. But dreams are the soul’s way of showing us something new, something that is possible and something our world needs. It is you. Taking up all the space you need in this great big world. To do or be whatever is in your heart.
There will be stumbling blocks. There will be paths that are easy and others that feel like a sign to stop. And always, there will be people who support you, and those who ridicule you. Follow your dream anyway.
I have dreams and passions that I have followed, put in hold, given up on, picked up again. I have often been concerned about whether I am good enough. This blog is a small way of following a dream I have always had to be a writer. It is my step of courage.
Consider your dreams, especially the ones you are unsure of or afraid to follow. How would it feel to take one small step toward following your dream? Is there something you can do today to begin building the courage to take that step?