This is about the courage to…be happy
Even when others are triggered by your happiness; even when they’re jealous; even when your success puts a mirror up in front of them that has them ask hard questions (“Can I be that successful?”).
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Rae Roberts for the Courageous Living Program this spring–it’s a new, additional interview that I’m providing as an update to the program (and, of course, anyone who purchased the program gets the update, automatically).
Listen in for more on how Kelly Rae:
- Works with courage
- Grounds herself in her integrity
- Questions the internal narratives or “stories” that come up
Ready to get started?
When you’re ready to make prioritize what matters most; when you’re ready to stop “dreaming big” and it’s time to start truly “living big,” this is the program for creating a daily practice of courage that becomes…a lifestyle. A way of being. A way of walking in the world. Head here to learn more: http://www.yourcourageouslife.com/courageous-living-program.
In early 2013, shortly after I’d been diagnosed with infertility*, I would go to my weekly yoga class. It was a refuge of sorts; a place where, even when the world around me felt so grief-filled and sad and hard to understand, there would be this thing–yoga–that was stable from one week to the next.
By the end of class, I would be wrung out from the twisting and stretching and vinyasa sequence, and laying on my back in savasana, I would pray and cry little rivers of tears that ran from the corners of my eyes to tickle behind my ears.
I say that as if it was a choice, but instead, the prayers and tears just seemed to arise on their own. The prayers in yoga were different than the desperate, sad prayers that seemed to come up so often at other times. Something about having exhausted myself, and then lying in utter stillness, made those prayers…simple. Unfettered.
Week after week, my prayer would be the same, a prayer to the soul of a little being that I was convinced truly had to be out there: I don’t know where you are, but please come to us.
As one month progressed into the next, and as my FSH–the test that measures ovarian reserve and that is considered a predictor of whether or not you can conceive–rose ever-higher, my prayers shifted slightly: I don’t know where you are, and I don’t care how you come to us, but please come to us.
In the late spring, I pulled a pectoral muscle when I got a little over-zealous with my chaturangas, and I injured my shoulder. I had to take a hiatus from yoga. I was doing a lot of summer travel, anyway, so I decided not to renew my membership for a few months.
When I finally returned to yoga in the fall, I had arrived at a place with the infertility where I still felt some sense of sadness arise, but acceptance was moving in. I honestly just couldn’t see, given what the numbers were showing after the extensive and thorough tests that my fertility doctor had run, tests even more involved than the FSH test, tests that all brought the same shitty news, how pregnancy was going to happen. Adoption was certainly an option, but mostly I was exhausted from trying to figure fertility out, and just trying to get back to some kind of new normal, whatever that would be.
Two weeks after I renewed my yoga membership, I found out that I was pregnant. I was too bowled over by the news to go to yoga class (and didn’t feel like getting into downward facing dog in the midst of wanting to toss my cookies via morning sickness) in those initial weeks. But then, finally, about seven weeks in and after reading extensively on what poses to avoid during pregnancy, I went back to class.
It wasn’t until I was laying in savasana at the end of that class that I remembered how often I’d ended class with those prayers.
–only this time, I realized with a start, it was different! Despite everything, despite the failed fertility treatments earlier in the year, and all of those needles and testing and all of the hopefulness and disappointment…despite all of it, I was laying in this class and I was pregnant, and even more amazing was that somehow, I’d gotten pregnant without any medical intervention.
Tears seeped from the corners of my eyes, again. I lay my hands on my belly. A new prayer came up. This time, it was to Universe/Spirit.
Please, please, please. I already love this being. Please let it come through and be healthy.
I cried because I already knew I loved this tiny little being that was showing up; that I’d love this being for as long as it was around and that I’d love it even if…the unthinkable happened.
I cried because I felt so vulnerable every time I thought of that love, because the more I opened my heart to love, the more it absolutely fucking terrified me to think of the hurt I’d experience if I had a miscarriage.
I cried because I was so grateful, anyway, because the love was greater than the risk of loss.
Then savasana was over, and as per usual, I got up, rolled up my mat, and headed out. That was me, living life, crying and praying at the end of yoga, and so utterly thankful for the miracle of an answered prayer, and then walking back out the door, mat under one arm, back out to my ordinary car, back out to my ordinary house, back out to my lovely, ordinary life.
* While I appreciate the intentions of love and support, given the highly personal nature of this post, I kindly request not to receive emails or contact regarding any of this post’s content. If you feel it might be helpful to someone who might currently be struggling with the same issues, please do feel free to share it. You’re more than welcome to check out a few baby bump pictures–I post them over on Instagram.com/katecourageous
We all want to “know.” To know the answer. To know what’s happening, next. To know who we are. To know our purpose. To know how to…XYZ.
Confession: I, too, have invested much of my life into “knowing.” As part of the quest to know, I was one of those people: Degrees, awards, certificates and certifications. Internships. Volunteer positions. Committees. Workshops. Books.
The quest to know, when it turns into a quest to nail down life into a series of guarantees and absolutes, is one that is exhausting. At the same time, everyone I’ve met who undergoes that quest, pretty much has to travel the same road: the road of trying to nail it down, arrive at solutions, create a world rigidly fixed with safety…before figuring out that that just isn’t possible.
I don’t remember what prompted it, but I still remember how dizzy with terror I was in the moment when I clearly understood that there was no workshop, book, teacher, leader, or path that would save me. Prior to this, I’d finally understood that the degrees and certifications, much as they can grease the wheels and open a few doors superficially, did absolutely nothing for me in terms of my inner landscape or my personal happiness–but the realization that even the self-help work was part of my quest to have some kind of certainty and that on a fundamental level it didn’t exist, stunned me.
But here’s what happened, next, the gradual unfolding of the next several years:
I have become a better listener, because I’m less likely to think I “know” what someone is going to say, next. Especially when I’m trying to work out a conflict, there’s a gentle voice that sites beside me that says, “Breathe. Just listen. You’re okay.”
I’m less defended, especially in those moments. Practicing being less defended, I see more clearly that there’s nothing I’ve really needed to defend. No one is ever trying to tear me down; they are trying to express themselves in whatever way they know how.
My coaching practice took off sometime after this. I stopped seeing client work as “The client and I are trying to arrive at answers” and instead started to see the work as “The client is undergoing an exploration, and it’s the privilege of a lifetime to be beside her as she does that.” I came to see that my basic skill-set as a coach was not to help someone find the answers they were seeking, but to be a vehicle for asking deeper questions, challenging assumptions, and facing fear/practicing courage.
(P.S. I also found that, paradoxically, the clients who were rigidly attached to answers typically didn’t find them; the clients who were interested in curiosity and exploration without attachment tended to arrive at landing spaces in their lives that, for all intents and purposes, we might describe as “answers” of sorts).
When people do unkind things that make absolutely no fucking sense to me (not to put too fine a point on it), my default reaction is still usually judgment and a sense of taking things personally, but that response dissipates more quickly than it used to. It has become easier to understand that I just cannot know what’s up for someone, not really-really-really. My favorite quote, which is appended to all of my emails: “Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears as bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” –Miller Williams
Finally, I’ve started to see needing to know or “needing to figure it out” is a huge sign that fear is at work. When fear is at work, that’s my sign that courage is called for. When courage is called for, that’s my sign that love is called for.
And love? I used to think I “knew” what love always looked like–that it was endless loyalty to a relationship, dropping everything when someone needed something, or swallowing my feelings or needs so that a connection could be preserved. Love meant contact.
Now I understand that sometimes, love looks like releasing a relationship, honoring boundaries, or speaking into a truth that all past experience indicates the other person might have a hard time hearing, and letting them choose their response to whatever it is that I say.
The form love takes shape shifts, but at its core there’s always a fundamental energy of dancing with some kind of mystery, something that says, “You know, you don’t actually know how this will turn out, but let’s choose whatever is peace in this moment.”
“Knowing” can have its good points–it can feel comfortable, and comfort is not an inherently bad thing. But as Pema Chodron says, “Comfort orientation murders the spirit.” When it’s the fundamental place we operate from, or what we’re always striving to maintain, something vital and alive in us dies.
At the core of it all, there’s pure pleasure in not knowing, not needing to know, not needing to figure it all out. If you go deeply within and ask yourself what it might feel like to not need to know or find an answer, chances are very good that the word “relief” will rise to the surface.
When you don’t need to know, you release the tension and what’s left is the relief: the relief that you are good and whole, and that whatever suffering arises in your life, you haven’t brought it on yourself because you’re a wretched human being who needs to lash the whip harder to “know” how to “fix” it.
You are good. You are wanted. You are needed. You matter. None of these basic truths about your existence require knowing. What a relief. What pure pleasure.