Day 30 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to let your heart get broken.

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.

Day 29 of 45 Days of Courage

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.

Day 28 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to change your mind.

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.

Day 27 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to hold space for another.

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.

Day 26 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to learn to love your body.

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?

Day 25 of 45 Days of Courage

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.

Day 24 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to listen without judgement.

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.