Courageous Year Interview: Darlene Kreutzer

(The Courageous Year was an e-course that I ran during the entire year of 2010. Later, I would parlay the content of that course into The Courageous Living Guide, which you can check out here!).

1.) Details : Name: Darlene J Kreutzer

Location (City/State): Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Occupation: policy advisor / photographer / writer

2.) When you started the Courageous Year, what did you decide would be the focus of that year? Has it shifted or changed?

When I started the Courageous Year, I didn’t really have a clear focus. I wanted to finally lose the weight I had gained when I was pregnant with my twins and the weight I had gained when they died and I was grieving. I wanted to move forward with my life but I wasn’t really sure what that looked like. It would be easy for me to say that because I didn’t have a clear focus, there was nothing to shift. However, that wouldn’t exactly be true. My focus for the year really shifted into being present in the moment and living in the breath of myself, trusting that I held the answers. My focus for the year became learning to trust myself. I should add that to date I have lost 40 pounds so even though my focus shifted, I still saw the results. Funny what being present in the moment will do to all aspects of one’s life.

3.) I believe that each of us has our own idea of what “courageous living” is about. When you hear the term “courageous living,” what do you think of? And how does that term apply to your own life?

When I hear the term “courageous living”, it makes think of the way I used to be and thought I wanted to be again. I thought to live courageous meant to do the things you wanted even though it was scary and in the past I used fear as a guidepost and when I was fearful to do something (obviously not something like heading off alone down a dark alley in a scary part of town) then I knew I had to jump full force into it. At some point during the Courageous Year I came to a realization. I realized that I used to be scared of everything and that jumping into that which scared me was the only way I could move forward otherwise my anxiety paralyzed me. However, I was holding this story as truth when the reality is that over time I lost my fear of doing new things, only I was still living within the same story and it was no longer serving me.

I have shifted the meaning of how courageous living applies to my own life and now I see it as the recognition of our own personal power and truths and the understanding that this may shift continually over time as our experiences change and as we rewrite our personal stories. For me, courageous living is not the big dramatic leap (I am good at that already) but rather the quiet strength of walking my path and living fully in my life. “Courageous living” is making choices that serve me by honouring who I am in this moment. “Courageous living” is trusting my own unique voice.

4.) One of the first things that the Courageous Year taps into is the concept of BEing your journey, allowing all parts of your journey to exist rather than trying to push away the things that we’re less comfortable with. What’s an example of some way in which you’ve seen yourself work with a situation that was frustrating, uncomfortable, scary, or otherwise “not your favorite,” and then work through it while BEing your journey?

My grief. In April 2002, my sister died after months of intensive care. It was a long painful journey that I never fully came to terms with. In April 2006, I gave birth to twin boys and later held them in my arms, against my skin as they died. Every April since, I have participated in poetry month and have distracted myself with the writing of poetry everyday and posting it on my blog. This year I didn’t. This year I allowed myself to be present, to be my journey and I allowed myself the pain and the moments of weakness. I allowed myself joy and laughter and the comfort of friends and life. I welcomed it all and have emerged changed in ways I am only just now starting to understand. I feel braver and more courageous, quieter and more deeply involved in living my life. I feel a contentedness and inner peace that I never believed I could experience.

5.) You’ve told us a bit about who you BE, now tell us a bit about what you do! Feel free to share not just about a profession that “pays the bills,” but also about a chosen profession—the work that you’re most excited about.

I am a teacher by trade but 10 years ago, I took a job working in government because I was going through a divorce and I had a 5 year old son that needed my attention and I needed the security and flexibility that this job afforded me. I am choosing to continue to work at my job because it is important to me to be able to provide my son with a university education and a sense of security as he grows. I work in a challenging environment where I am always learning and growing and I am learning that while it may not be my passion, I can bring my passion and creativity to the job and everyone benefits.

I started a photography business a few years ago and have been shooting bands, artists, weddings and families. I am taking a hiatus this year because I found that it was too demanding on my time to be working all day and then working most nights and weekends. I would rather spend that time with my family and working on art for me. This was a huge shift. I am very excited about photography and I love shooting people but for me, making it a profession turned it into something else and I found that after a good 7 years of packing at least 1 and often 3 or 4 cameras with me 24/7, I was happy to not pick up my camera when I wasn’t working. My passion started waning and my heart felt lost and so I am on hiatus for the moment. I would like to come back to it at some point but on my terms and with a much lighter schedule.

I also do some freelance writing and have had poems and non-fiction published in print and online. I not so secretly want to devote some time to writing fiction because fiction is my first love and why my first degree is in English focusing on literature.

6.) What are you most passionate about, what excites you, lately?
Polaroid Photography. My husband bought me a Polaroid SX-70 6 or so years ago and I have been addicted ever since. It’s embarrassing at this point to reveal how many Polaroid cameras I own and how full and bulging my fridge is with packs of film not to mention the pretty boxes filled with photos but I glow as I think about that next shot.
Film of any sort excites me and I own a slew of medium format, 35 mm, toy cameras and even a few homemade pinhole cameras. My husband is also a bit of a photo junkie so we literally have cameras strewn around the house. It is wonderful!!

Darlene shooting a wedding

Art. My son recently moved into the basement and I acquired my very own room and it is wonderful to go in there and make a big ol’ beautiful mess. These days I am obsessed with Polaroid print transfers, mixed media and encaustic wax. I am working on an exhibit which I have not shared publicly as I suspect it will be a good year in the making.

Writing. After a long hiatus, I have started filling journals again, madly scrawling poetry and stories. It is my meditation and I am starting to find my way back to the dream of writing my book. It makes me dance around the floorboard happy.

Music. I am married to a musician and our house is always filled with the music of the bands he plays with. They rehearse in our basement studio and as the music comes up through the floorboards, I write or paint or make Polaroid vignettes. My son plays the saxophone and my husband plays the drums. A secret, I am taking drum lessons from my husband as well as voice lessons from an amazing vocal teacher. I love that I am finding my voice, the voice that speaks of joy.

7.) What’s next on your horizon?

I am plunging into another of my passions and returning to my love of teaching. I will be teaching an e-course on the beautiful basics of photography, the nuts and bolts of ‘how do I take that photo!!’ I have a lot of beautiful artistic friends who take the most beautiful compositions but don’t really know how to shoot in certain lights or how to get that beautiful bokeh (background blur) the first time around. Like me, their eyes glaze over when someone starts talking all the technical f-stop and aperture and blah blah blah. So, I will be teaching the basics from an intuitive perspective, demystifying the science if you will though I will, of course, also include the technical terminology as an aside. I am also including fun things like how you can get a studio looking shot without anything but your camera and how to shoot product like jewelry and art.

I have been blessed with beautiful friends who have watered this seed as they have watched me with my cameras and taken my little tips and use them to create their own magic. They have encouraged me to move forward with confidence and I have to admit that though I am a bit fearful, I am mostly just really excited to empower other women to shoot with confidence and learn how to create the photos that they see in their hearts.

More beautiful examples of Darlene’s work:

photo by Darlene Kreutzer

Photo by Darlene Kreutzer

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Darlene, thank you so much for taking the time to share about your life and experience…I personally can’t wait to sign up for your course! For more information about Darlene, visit her website at .

~ with big love ~


with gentleness along the way

I encourage gentleness.

Gentleness is your birthright.

When you are watering your plant, nourishing your vision, gentleness needs to come along for the ride.

Sometimes when I encourage gentleness, I suspect that the person I’m speaking with thinks that I’m just “trying to be nice.” Like maybe the gentleness isn’t really what they need, but I don’t want them to be hard on themselves because it’s painful to watch.

But that’s not why.

I encourage gentleness because I believe that there’s such freedom in adding that to whatever I do. There are so very many things that I’m not perfect at, and when I’m beating myself up over that it’s a kind of hell, and when I’m gentle with myself, I can sink more deeply into what is.Whenever I can sink into what is, I’ve unlocked myself from the cage with the key that I was holding in my hand the entire time.

There’s a kind of honesty that goes along with gentleness, if you think about it. I say “honesty” because gentleness acknowledges all of the parts that are imperfect and creates a space for them to exist. There’s something dishonest about pushing away the parts we don’t want to see with harshness, trying desperately to hide them.

Gentleness allows time for transforming something while acknowledging the truth of the present moment.

Gentleness frees us up to BE who we already are.

Gentleness allows us to sink into that tender spot, and forgive ourselves and others.

Perhaps we never really transform anything until we’re able to look at ourselves with kind eyes–and that means gentleness.

Where in your life would you like to see more gentleness along the way?

this is courageous living

I’ve been wanting for some time now to pull together a blog entry in which I was concrete and specific about all the different principles that I believe to go into what I term “courageous living.”

But first, I’ll just briefly state what I don’t think “courageous living” is. I don’t believe that courageous living is doing all kinds of spontaneous or wild things, like you have to quit your job and move to Bali, or start parachuting out of planes, so that you can call yourself “courageous”. I don’t believe that it’s what I think so many of us beat ourselves up in the pursuit of: some version of waking in the morning, having a yoga and meditation practice and gliding seamlessly through your day, sporting the latest gear from Anthropologie, eating some really hip diet, never breaking a sweat while working at your dream job, laughing with friends, falling into the arms of a loving family at the end of the day, everyone getting along, planning a dashing getaway to some exotic locale. Let me be clear that that vision for one’s life is not something I’m knocking–it sounds great–but it’s certainly not what my life looks like and I think I’m not alone in saying that I’ve wasted a lot of energy striving to attain something that looks like that, and so have most of the women I’ve known. I don’t think that courageous living is a 1-2-3 plan, nor is it a finished product.

I believe all of us contain the capacity to act with courage. I believe that courage is feeling afraid, diving in anyway, and transforming. Whenever we lean into that edge, there’s juicy stuff there. What’s the juicy stuff? What’s the leaning to the edge look like? What’s courageous living based on? Here’s a start:

Courageous living is about:

  • BEing your journey/being in process
  • A commitment to your vision for yourself, with gentleness along the way.
  • Slowing down
  • Prioritizing self-care
  • Making room for passion and play–even if it’s only 5 minutes a day
  • Feeling your feelings (no more reciting affirmations or pushing oneself to “think positive” until the very real feelings have been acknowledged and worked through)
  • Risking being seen by others
  • Unconditional love and acceptance (and that means no more hating your inner critic, calling it a Gremlin or a monster or all sorts of other names that that sad, scared, triggered little piece of the heart is so often called)
  • A commitment to your life vision, with gentleness along the way (and that means that on the days where you don’t risk being seen, or you don’t have unconditional love and acceptance, or you don’t…whatever…you step into some gentleness that you are a tender and lovely human being. It’s okay.)
  • Returning to the present moment and using it as a source of power. Coming to just breathing and getting present is the most powerful tool I know.
  • Releasing the Stories. (“Capital-S” Stories are those habituated beliefs/ways of thinking/assumptions that are so conditioned that they seem real, even if they might not be).
  • Honoring your integrity. Matching your words and actions. Aligning them with your vision.
  • This is a big one: claiming your choices, and claiming your life. Accept responsibility for all of it.
  • Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Living 100% fully alive cannot co-exist with resentment.
  • Respectfully speaking your truth.
  • Noticing your resistance and then working with it from a place of curiosity: what do you have to teach me?
  • Creating intimacy and connection in your relationships
  • Being a stand for connection between human beings–which means, that chick that you “hate” at your office? Try out some compassion. That guy who just acted all road-ragey? Send him some love. Clearly, he needs it.
  • Dreaming big.
  • Being open to magical possibility, and, if it resonates for you, spirit/the Universe/ some kind of unseen force for good

And how does having a life vision help with any of that? My life vision is to completely and totally love and accept all parts of myself, so that I can completely and totally love and accept others, and thus facilitate healing in the world.

It’s a big life vision. It’s not something that one can check off of a to-do list.

But having it really grounds me. I can ask–in my relationships, in my job, in my financial decisions, with my body, and in the moments when I really want to snap someone’s head off–is this my vision for myself? How will I step into my vision for myself, right now?

I mentioned “feeling the feelings” up there. Right here’s where I’ll tell you that I believe that 90% of my work is actually stopping, slowing down, and getting conscious enough to ask myself, “Is this my vision for myself?” If I can do that much, chances are good that I’ll go the extra 10% and act with absolute clarity that I don’t want to act on the urge to snap at someone. (I’ll probably still want to snap at them. But even that urge loses steam when seen through the lens of my vision, and then to stay in integrity with me there are a whole range of tools that I can use to discharge the emotions–I get to have my anger, if I want to…I can just work with it differently).

The slowing down? That’s the link between self-care and all of the other stuff. It all pieces itself together, knits itself you might say. When I’m not prioritizing self-care, I don’t slow down enough. I go, go, go and that’s where my life can get sloppy.

But this is a vision I’m stepping into–and with gentleness. Lots and lots of gentleness for the tenderness of us human beings.

Another thing–my vision? Feel free to share it. I almost typed “steal” it, but of course, a vision is hardly something that can be stolen. It’s definitely something that can be shared! Or take a stab at clarifying your own vision. A life vision is a statement of what your life is about. A good hint that you’ve come across it is that it works across multiple categories–when it comes to any area of my life, from my health to my relationships to the way that I decorate my home, that desire to create a space of love and acceptance for myself that then radiates out to the world, is the foundation.

Alright, I showed you mine. You show me yours!