Ever have one of those days when you look around you and say, “where am I?” I don’t even recognize this place. I don’t recognize MYSELF in this place. HOW did I get here?
2010 was filled with lots of those days for me.
For the last couple of years, I’ve chosen a “theme word” for myself in January rather than laboring over the typical new year’s resolutions. The goal was to adopt a single word (a concept) I wanted to explore and magnify in my life for the coming year. The word represented something I needed or wanted to develop, a new area of growth for myself sought out in words and action.
The theme word for 2010 was Courage. As soon as I began the process of choosing a word–as soon as I even had the thought, really–I knew that Courage was the one for 2010. I had reached a point of intersection in several areas of my life. An intersection where the day-to-day realities of living didn’t match the hopes and dreams I was banking on. An intersection where I saw a Haley I never wanted to be, a Haley I felt sold myself short, a Haley uncomfortable in her own skin and yet oddly complacent in that covering. An intersection of which I had become undeniably aware. And, no matter the level of distraction I infused in my life, that awareness couldn’t be denied. And, it seemed that every action and every thought begged the question, “where am I?”
So, Courage jumped to the forefront of my mind. If those life realities weren’t the authentic life of meaning I needed–demanded–for myself, then something had to change. I had to learn confidence and courage. I had to develop the courage to make changes, to take actions, to form new habits, to move. Away from this intersection in a new direction.
Easier said than done sometimes. For we are indelibly mired in our own skin and the trappings of our own making and choosing.
I thought 2010 would be about action. About brave acts of throwing off the bindings. About rejecting foolishness. About having the courage to stand up for myself and my gifts, the courage to create that life of meaning in concrete ways. About the courage to act. And it was to a degree. Still, I reached December with a decidedly uninspired mindset. For all the blessings and accomplishments of 2010, I saw the year as one of failure in many ways. I surveyed the landscape of my life and found the same intersection. The same frustration with the self I saw in the mirror. The same discrepancies between all that looming potential and the nut and bolts realities. What had happened to my courage?
I couldn’t even begin to think about a theme word for 2011. But then, as the evaluations of last year began to sink in, I started to realize something. 2010 WAS a year of courage for me. Perhaps not the “charging the hill” type of bravery the term immediately calls to mind, but courage none-the-less. Last year’s courage involved counting costs. It involved the sometimes painful commitment to look at myself squarely in the face and recognize that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. It involved an undaunted gaze at my own life situations, recognizing the areas where I had willingly given over control and wisdom and compliance where it shouldn’t be. It was a courage of realization. The courage to recognize and accept. And it isn’t always fun.
Counting the cost takes courage. Taking stock of what your choices are costing you, what they are costing what is most precious to you, is not for the faint of heart. And admitting I’ve been more than willing to pay for everything that cost me dearly has been downright debilitating at times. Taking a close look at my own part in the hard situations I see around me–in that intersection–isn’t easy. But, it’s a necessary first step to having the courage to act.
Having the courage to step forward or step back often begins with accepting that you brought your own self to this unknown place. That courage to look at our own flaws and diminishing tendencies without blinking is a prerequisite to the courage required for change, for action. It’s the kind of courage that throws off distorted views and watered down visions. It’s a clarifying courage, one that puts questions more easily into perspective. It’s a courage that imbues each small step with more as we see that person begin to become more in line with who we know we need to be.
I’m realizing my work in courage isn’t done. It may never be done, but at this intersection, a new measure of courage is certainly required. And I’m ready to see where this new courage can take me. So, I’m continuing my theme of courage for 2011. I imagine some of the essays on the subject will be a little more personal in nature, perhaps a little more raw. Following through with courage tends to do that. I hope you’ll hang in here with me as you seek out areas of courage in your own life this year.