living with courage

1. I want to live in my Wild Woman, more than anything. If you know what I mean, you are nodding your head. If you don’t know what I mean, you need Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. 2018 is the year that I became obsessed. The chapter with The Red Shoes was the one that really did it for me in an oh-my-god-this-is-it-I-finally-understand-my-entire-life kind of way.

2. Writing and publishing a book, seeing it go out into the world, is as great as people say it is. I am still stunned when I think about the fact that in a human being’s lifetime, only a very-very-very small percentage of people ever get a book contract with a publisher and the chance to see their words bound and printed on bookstore shelves. I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

3. Writing and publishing a book, seeing it go out into the world, is more difficult than I ever thought it would be. It feels vulnerable on a level that is difficult to describe, which is saying something since I’m a writer. The closest I can come is saying that it feels like needing lots and lots of help and not being able to offer any comparable reciprocation of the help you are receiving, and feeling a bit guilty about that, and incredibly grateful, and also inadequacy about any of it ever being enough but at the same time feeling like every dream you’ve ever had has just come true. Sorry if that was confusing.

4. Boundaries are difficult. Basically, I get to learn and re-learn that every year. This year, the added nuance is stepping out of the somewhat childish, under-developed mentality around boundaries that they are to be enforced against some kind of encroaching army of people who are doing their best to swamp you. The more I look at them, the more I realize that most of the time when people cross my boundaries, they are not looking at me and thinking of how much they can extract from me. They are just being who they are, and what they are asking of me happens to be more than what I want to give. This does not mean they are the villain.

5. I am tired of and disinterested in anyone working for justice who is unconsciously playing themselves right back into perpetuating the patriarchy by using worn out binaries of right/wrong. So really, I have become tired of and disinterested in my own impulses to seize upon and pummel the places where someone else is not woke enough in my estimation.

6. I can say what I said in #5, without discounting accountability. Accountability does matter and I feel strongly that we all need to be accountable not just to ourselves, but to the people in the societies we live in who are being harmed. There is a way in which we are all innocent AND we are all responsible, at the same time, and we cannot hide out in one but not the other. We are “innocent” in the sense that we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got and no one is perfect, and at the exact same time we are all responsible–responsible for looking at who we are, what we do, the systems we operate in, and the opportunities for change. They go hand-in-hand.

7. Listening to The TED Radio Hour while painting reproductions of Matisse’s Femme Au Chapeau in my garage is highly therapeutic. As is walking around my neighborhood with headphones on as I listen to Sarah Blondin’s “Make Your Life Sacred.” As is slamming a medicine ball with all my might onto the floor, at CrossFit. As is texting my best friend while in the middle of an ugly cry: “I’m in an emotional hole.” As is meditating. As is deciding to give something to someone else without expecting anything else back. As is rolling up my sleeves and taking action even when it’s intimidating to do so.

8. Ohhh! This was a big thing I learned this year: when a choice is truly aligned, it actually makes you feeeeel more aligned. Note that I didn’t say that when a choice is truly aligned, it’s easy. Difficult choices can be aligned choices, but the big thing I came to understand this year was that when a choice is truly aligned, you feel that alignment.

9. This was a funny one to learn: I don’t want to do triathlon, anymore. I finished my second half-Ironman in 2018, and I’m proud of myself for the work I put into it and I am grateful for the health that all that training created in my body—and—there is no part of me that ever again wants to pay $150+ to wake up at 5am and drive somewhere so that I can get into a freezing cold river or bay and swim followed by biking followed by running. Speaking of choices feeling aligned? I felt totally aligned on giving up triathlon.

10. I learned that it was time to invest in my business in a real way, because DIY can only grow you for so long. I still get stomach flips when I see how much I’m spending on operations, each month. I’m running an actual company with contractors coming from all corners of the continent, not just a little life coach operation out of my home office. It still boggles my mind a bit that we have pre-defined roles and job descriptions, an operations manual, expected standards of conduct from the people I work with. I actually hit inbox zero earlier this year, and it took weeks to get there (I had to sort through something like 20,000 emails, and was greatly aided by setting up auto-filtering conventions). Nearly every operation in my company has been overhauled and changed. It has been the biggest change to how I’ve done things since…I started doing things. And, it’s all worth it.

11. The “silent treatment” or stonewalling simply does not work. Ever. It only ever complicates things. If you don’t want to be in the relationship or ever talk to the person again, just say that. If you are undecided about being in the relationship or ever talking to the person again and want to take some space, just say that and say when you’ll follow up. A coach I worked with once told me that feeling so hurt when I got the silent treatment was my “Achilles heel” and that people could sense it about me, and so when there is disconnection they use that—the silent treatment—as a way for themselves to feel in control, to have some kind of upper hand. It’s likely not a conscious thing, the coach told me, but I feel this need on behalf of myself and others of my ilk to say: the silent treatment as punishment is an immature move. And hey, we’ve all struggled with conflict avoidance so we’ve all been there. But the silent treatment as punishment when someone is reaching out to you with kindness and trying to bridge a gap between the two of you? That’s a profoundly unkind way to treat another human.

12. My daughter starting Kindergarten feels harder than I thought I would be. I normally pride myself on having a minimum of parenting “what if I make the wrong choice” freak-out-age, but when I learned that my local public school district only gives kindergarteners twenty minutes of recess a day, I was like…what? This felt deeply wrong in my soul. Word is still out on what happens, from here, but in the meantime? My tender mama heart is all goobery and vulnerable about my baby growing up.

13. I love CrossFit. I love CrossFit. I like, LOVE CROSSFIT. I love it so much that I really, really, really hope to continue to love it forever. I feel like I have found the fitness soulmate that I was searching for all these years. I feel lucky every single time I pull in to the gym (or, more appropriately, “the box”). WHO IS THIS PERSON?

14. I love my husband. More than a decade together, and this past year I saw him really stretching into some of his bigger, bolder dreams, and I found that just watching him claim that for himself, I loved him even more. I didn’t know that that was possible, loving him more. Now I think I’m really getting it when people say that love is infinite.

15. I want to write, more. Writing is my everything. The past few years, admin-ey sorts of work have intruded more and more into my waking hours, and because I had a deadline and needed to be super conscious of structure, writing The Courage Habit was a joy but also not very spontaneous and unstructured. This year—2019—I look forward to returning to the spontaneous, unstructured writing. Especially, it’s time for me to return to my roots, with writing fiction. The other day, a poem poured out of me. It’s time.

16. Meditation. MEDITATION, y’all. Many moons ago, I regularly went to a Zen Buddhist meditation center where I learned to meditate. I practiced semi-regularly. Then I practiced less regularly. Since that time, I would meditate consistently for a month, then drop off, a week, then not. Then the phrase, “On fire and on purpose” came to me in August and I realized that every single time I did not meditate consistently, I was selling out on myself. There is no sugar-coating that. Meditation is essential, as essential as getting some vegetables and exercise into your life. It’s not optional. It’s not extra. It’s not a “nice to have, if I have the time.” It is the foundation of happiness. I have meditated every single day since August 5, 2018 and god willing, I’ll never stop.

Want to join in?

1. Write your own “What I learned this year” letter on your blog.
2. Take a photo of it, and post the photo in Instagram with a link to your piece (you can link directly in your bio, or you can use a service such as “linkinbio”).
3. Add the hashtag, #whatIlearnedthisyear2018 to your post.
4. Find me on Instagram (@katecourageous) and tag me. I’d love to read what you learned this year.