Courage: strength in the face of pain or grief

11406339_399982503521840_2250703638293056501_oI have sought to practice courage for months. I joined a community social group who plan hiking, movie watching, happy hour, camping, potluck dinners, coast trips, ski trips, game nights, biking, and whatever else the members can think up. I asked a friend to help me come up with a list of mini adventures, and then posted a blank list at my work, which was filled out by several coworkers.

I haven’t done much with either the group or the lists. Most of my energy is still spent on guilt and fear. It is spent on remorse. I’m often angry and discouraged, and although these adventures would help, they take a certain amount of self-esteem – courage – that I’m reserving for recovering from bouts of depression.

Just a few days ago, I was on Facebook. I follow a page called “Things Overhead at…” that is associated with the college I work for, and saw a post inviting people to join in on a happy birthday video for HH the Dalai Lama. The people creating the video are members of Students for Free Tibet who are helping the International Tibet Network compile videos from all over the world of members wishing the Dalai Lama happy birthday. Since the Dalai Lama is a personal hero of mine, I closed my laptop and rushed to campus. It felt right and easy, like I’d been forcing myself to go on excursions and, obviously, was met with resistance – until I just let it happen. Until it was right.

We met, I joined the Students for Free Tibet club, shot the video, and was invited to celebrate further. I joined six old and close friends (all strangers to me) for beers and conversation, who welcomed me as if I were one of their own. I befriended a gay couple studying Natural Resource Conservation and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, a graduate dedicated to film and photography, a naval sailor, his girlfriend, and their very energetic and charismatic friend. They are incredibly giving and kind, who happen to love being outdoors climbing mountains and bicycling and rafting. And drinking delicious beer.

They asked about my work as a tutor and we compared creative expression and writing to exploring our environment. It wasn’t a contest at all – the sciences and the arts – but a discussion spent voicing our appreciation for each area and how they complement and enhance one another.

Our adventure continued across the city into a park and to another bar, where I met a man who creates soft-soled leather footwear mostly in ancient and medieval styles. He is also a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. This man, who spent two years homeless in Hawaii, didn’t laugh at my admittance that I’m afraid to branch out. He said, “Look at you right now. You’re succeeding. You’re brave.”

And now I’m going canoeing on the river this coming Saturday morning.

I don’t believe there was anything especially unique about this situation; I think meeting new people and expanding your world is something we can all do. For some, it’s almost as easy as breathing. For me, it takes something extra. What it takes is courage, and although it’s not humbling or selfless to say so: I’m proud of my step forward.

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