I just finished a short relationship with someone. It was never meant to be serious but it was more substantial than anything I’ve had since I separated from my someday-ex 20 months ago. This micro relationship was like an accelerated course. Each week, I felt I was uncovering some truth about myself, not because this person was uniquely positioned to expose those things, but because I, maybe for the first time in my life, decided to eliminate fear as a motivator as much as possible.
Notice—I did not eliminate fear. I’m a thinking, feeling, breathing human being. I have fear. I simply did not allow it to motivate my choices. Which means that I needed courage—lots of courage. Courage is being willing to act in the presence of fear and I’ve realized that the feeling that comes after courage is the ultimate high. I’ll try to explain.
Courage starts out feeling very uncomfortable. It’s kind of like being on a swift river. I’ve already decided my course is downstream and I’ve committed to not jumping overboard but there are some rapids ahead that might destroy me. It’s terrifying and thrilling at the same time. There is an acute temptation to abandon the raft or steer it to the bank. I think there are a couple of things that keep me in the boat and on the course.
The first is that I remember what it feels like after I’ve shown courage. It’s the adrenaline rush after you’ve made it through the treacherous rapids in one piece. You might be soaked and slightly beat up but you realize you are whole and in that moment—SO ALIVE. This is what I crave. I want to feel alive and I feel it most intensely after I have shown courage.
The second thing is the knowing. This is intuition or God or whatever you call it! It’s the piece of me that knows the precise thing for me to do. It’s not about right or wrong, smart or stupid, following rules, etc. It’s about hearing from myself what I need in that moment. Whew! That’s powerful. I’m still working on it but I’m getting better at it.
And this dating experience, in particular, was a powerful workshop on the knowing. Finding the precise thing allows me to know I showed up exactly how I want to. It’s not the same thing as executing a tumbling pass with precision and excellence. It’s precise because it was precisely me. When I review what I did, I KNOW—in that moment—there is nothing I could have done that would have been more ME. Maybe better stated, I was completely true to myself.
So just like the adrenaline rush that comes from running rapids, the thrill of courage fades. After a while, the thought/fear demons creep back in and start suggesting things that usually start with, “I should have…” or “I shouldn’t have…” or “I probably looked stupid when…” or “I wish I would have said…”. Sometimes I confuse these thoughts with my higher self. They seem pretty authoritative and often make really compelling arguments. Since I have become conscious that these are just thoughts and I can choose to keep or dismiss them, I’ve become better at culling the ones that don’t serve me. But tonight as I was noticing this process and noticing my mental effort to quiet these thoughts, I realized that maybe the antidote to this relentless self-criticism was compassion. Maybe instead of focusing on stopping the judgmental thoughts, I would be better served by finding the compassionate voice.
As I usually do, I picked up my laptop to journal and explore this. And this is the truth that came out of me as I attempted to find compassion for myself in this most recent experience navigating the fraught world of love: “It was my best attempt at hope and fearlessness and love for myself.” I think this is the highest standard I can hold for any action I take in my life. Let us be brave.