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About Courage & American Ninja Warrior

I do not know how to explain why I love American Ninja Warrior.

My youngest daughter and I started watching it a few years back. We sat on the couch, side-by-side, mouths agape at what these individuals were able to do. Willing to do! She would laugh at me as my body would move in rhythm to theirs — whether they were swinging on some kind of contraption or trying to jump up to catch a ring, or trying to make it up the 14-foot warped wall — as though I could somehow will them success by fully participating in the comfort of my own home. The two of us would ooh and aah and cheer as they did amazing things, took spectacular falls, and always, always triumphed — no matter what. And we both cried through all the stories about the athletes, their families, hardships, tragedies, and miracles.

So why does this impact me so? Why do I cry? What is that about? It’s American Ninja Warrior!! I’m sure there are lots of reasons for my reactions and responses. But bottom line…It is a privilege to witness the inherent beauty of courage. I cannot help but be moved.

The beauty seen in their stories, their physical capacity, their falls, and their triumphs only comes because of the most incremental of efforts they’ve extended over a very long time. What we witness is the accumulation of small, almost imperceptible courageous acts.

We often think that courage has to be big and dramatic, bold and audacious, crowds cheering, loved ones weeping with joy, “victory,” of some sort. And though that may be true, I have a different idea.

Courage is small and incremental, slow and steady (sometimes fits and starts); the tiniest of choices made, actions taken, words spoken, behaviors altered, and/or lives changed.

This perspective matters.

As long as we see courage as big and dramatic, bold and audacious, we are often stopped before we start.

Instead, what about this:

  • Courage is extending yourself some compassion, practicing self-kindness, and allowing yourself grace.
  • Courage is only one sentence, once a day, spoken in truth. (Yes, just one!)
  • Courage is voicing your opinion just once this week at work. (Yes, just once!)
  • Courage is taking the time to list out the specific steps related to the big leap (Yes, just the list!)
  • Courage is reading a book for even 30 minutes before turning on Netflix. It’s also watching Netflix without guilt or shame because you know that rest matters.
  • Courage is letting yourself honestly name your emotions to yourself. (I am furious. I am devastated. I am afraid. I am in grief. I am lost. I am stuck. I desire. I am actually happy.)
  • Courage is taking the time to write down what you would do if you felt even more courageous.

Cleary, I can go on (and on and on). But far more important than my words and thoughts — are yours. What are the smallest and most compassionate and kindest and most grace-filled acts of courage for you? (Start a list, add to this one, give yourself permission to consider courage as small; but no less significant, powerful, or transformative.)

This quote from Mary Anne Radmacher bears repeating:

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow.”

Exactly!

Does it feel costly to be yourself?

Let’s be honest: it does feel costly to be ourselves. Maybe not all of the time, but certainly in some relationships, some conversations, some contexts?

Believe me: I completely get it! Here’s a peek inside the (sometimes) craziness of my brain:

  • I know I need to _______.
  • But if I do, then _______ is going to get mad (or hurt or offended or silent) which will then lead to an argument which will then lead to them shutting down (or blowing up or walking away or being passive aggressive) which will then lead to me having to mend fences or else deal with the fallout.
  • The fallout will be awful. _______ will happen and then _______ will happen and if that’s not enough, then _______ will most definitely happen!
  • Once those things occur, that will mean that I have to _______ which will then impact _______ and ________, and _______!
  • It’s too much. It’s too risky. I can’t handle all of this!
  • Better to NOT be fully myself.
  • Whew! ‘Glad I thought that through!

My brain aside, I’m guessing yours processes somewhat similarly, especially when you are on the verge of stepping more fully into who you are, telling your truth, choosing alignment and authenticity; defying compromise or compliance or playing small or holding back or hiding or putting others’ emotions above your own or, or, or…

Here’s what is true: 

More times than not, the choices we make to be fully ourselves come with a whole freight train of risk, cost, and consequence.

It’s no wonder we are a bit tentative!

So, what is a wise, brilliant, amazing, and strong woman (you!!!) to do?

I wish I had an easy answer. There isn’t one. (Parenthetically, let me say that you should be highly suspect of anyone who does!) But here are 4 uneasy answers that are worth considering:

  1. Don’t ignore or downplay the risks, the costs, and the consequences. And please don’t try to *just* have the “right” mindset and overcome (or repress) them.
  2. Give yourself permission to name all that you’re afraid of. Listen to the inner chatter, the imposter, Resistance itself. Unedited. Unrestrained.
  3. Listen to the wisdom within, to your wisdom. Even the fears themselves offer profound insight that is deep and true and trustworthy. You are wise.
  4. Let the wisdom that is yours — including the awareness of risks, the inner chatter, and the stunningly powerful insights — help you remember just how strong and amazing you are.

It feels costly to be fully yourself because it is!

Naming this is what reveals just how valuable and important you-being-you actually is.

(And, in case you were wondering, you’re worth any cost and every price!)

May it be so.

I write a letter every week. More in-depth. Long-form. My thoughts. Stories. Perspective. Even what I’m listening to, watching, and reading! All from me to you. I’d love for you to have it. 

Acknowledging the Choices that are Ours

I received a frantic call from one of my daughters a month or so ago. She was in a desperate state, I was scrambling to figure out what to do (while simultaneously holding fast-ish to the awareness that I need to let her figure these things out). I noticed, somewhere in the middle of that teary call, that she felt unable to make a choice – like she had none; she was almost-completely immobilized. What I also noticed, shortly after getting off of the call, is that I went to the opposite extreme — moving into hyper-drive, fix-it mode, making quick decisions, creating lists, finding more options, eliminating every aspect of  the “unknown” I possibly could.

One outworking of choice is not taking action. Another is being frenetically active (like me).

My point is NOT to determine which is better, which is more sane, which feels wiser or stronger or right. Not at all!

Having agency means admitting — sometimes under a bit of duress — that we DO have choice, that we are not hapless or helpless, that we have the right and ability to make decisions about how we will proceed, what we will do or not do, what we feel, how we will express our emotions, and so much more.

it also means admitting that our choices can (and probably will) mean risk and cost and consequence.

To only look at one side of this equation without the other isn’t helpful. We must hold the complexity of both:

  • I DO have choice. I CAN demonstrate agency.
  • I don’t want to make this choice because…

I know: far easier said than done.

For my daughter: acknowledging that she DOES have choices and can/must make them means that she also has to look at the risks, costs, and consequences of not having made them previously and how she is limited and bound by what’s available to her now, in this moment.

For me, acknowledging that I DO have the choice to step in and help her AND that perhaps the best help is NOT helping means that I have to look at my own patterns, her expectations, and the possibility of disappointment and misunderstanding.

None of this is easy. All of it matters.

Seeing, acknowledging, naming, and honoring all of this feels like growth. it also feels like grace. Tough grace. Gritty grace. But grace, nonetheless.

Worth choosing every time.

*****

[I want to acknowledge that there are definitely contexts in which agency is not available — when true victimhood exists: domestic violence, sexual violence, any number of situations. I am in no way claiming that even in such places we have the power to choose. These are FAR more complex and deserve FAR more wisdom and compassion grace and care.]

 
 

See yourself as a miracle

When I was 8 or 9, my newborn sister went into the hospital. I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember ever visiting her there. I don’t even remember what was diagnosed. What I do remember is seeing my mother cry for the first time. She and my father stood in a corner of the living room — her shoulders hunched over as she shed close-to silent tears; his arms around her — trying to console. And I vaguely remember one of them telling me that Lorri was sick.

I can imagine they would have done anything remotely possible to have her back. I can imagine that their desperation would have driven them to cling to the smallest of options. And I am certain that they prayed — asking for her healing, longing for a miracle.

There’s an ancient story told of a father and his daughter. She was only 12 years old and dying. Desperate, the father went in search of a healer he’d heard rumor of, then begged him to come back to his home and heal his girl. As they set out together, messengers arrived saying, “Don’t bother the teacher any longer; she has already died.” The healer paid no attention, saying, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

When they arrived at the man’s home, there was nothing but confusion and wailing. Again the healer spoke: “The child is not dead — she is only sleeping.” When people started making fun of him, jeering at what he’d said, he sent them all away and went into her room — along with three of his disciples and her mother and father. He took her by the hand and said, ““Little girl, get up!” She got up at once and started walking around.

I imagine her skipping out of her room and into the crowd of people, all smiles, oblivious to both their shock and overwhelming joy. She probably asked for a snack and then wanted to go play with her friends. Just like that — all was as it should be.

She was a living, breathing miracle. From the age of 12 and for the rest of her life, this would have been her identity — the way in which she was known by others, the way in which her parents would have seen her, what would have been whispered about her as she walked down the street, grew, lived her life. In some ways, we might guess this was a burden to bear: others expect too much of you; an average life will not suffice.

What if she had a different perspective? What if being a miracle was what opened her up to a life of possibility and joy and expanse? And what if that’s exactly what she offers you today?

*****

Yes, you.

Imagine it. Dream big. Dig deep. Ask yourself: If I believed I was a miracle, I would…

Every answer that shows up is your wisdom speaking; your desire, your heart, your longing, your truth. And you can trust it. Because you are a miracle. Now…to believeing it and being it!

May it be so.

How to Trust Your Inner Wisdom

I could offer you a whole bunch of reasons why you can and should trust your wisdom, why it’s reliable, why it’s “right,” why that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within never leads you astray. But I’m guessing you already know all that.

Few of us are unclear that we should trust our wisdom. It’s the doing it that is problematic!

(Or so we fear…)

And our fear is real! We have experiences, stories, memories, and built-in-lessons-learned that have taught us that when we do trust our own wisdom things get hard, misunderstanding reigns, feelings get hurt, relationships struggle if not break, expectations are disrupted, disaster befalls…The list goes on.

I know. Believe me.

Though I have a gazillion stories I could tell, the one that comes to my mind happened 15+ years ago. I was about 18 months post-divorce and decided to try dating again. I met a man. We hit it off. It was fabulous and fun and easy. We laughed all the time. And we talked about everything: our past, our family of origin, our heartbreak(s), our marriage, our divorce, our kids. We also talked about faith. And sadly, those conversations often became heated, argumentative, not fun at all.

Around the same time, I was preparing for the HUGE honor of giving a TEDx Talk. It was about Eve: the way her story has been told throughout time, how it has defined and harmed women for centuries, how it has shaped the world in which we live. And it was about how I wanted Eve’s story to be told — as expansive and rich and beautiful, as model for who women are at their best, their most brilliant, their most wise.

We talked about it once before I gave it (despite the fact that I spent hours and hours and hours preparing — which he would have known about, of course). And we talked about it once after I gave it; I told him what it had felt like for me to be speaking on a stage about my deepest passion; how it was both the most embodied I’d ever felt and, simultaneously, almost an out-of-body experience; how it felt to let Eve’s voice be heard through my own. I remember that he said, “I’m glad.” And that was the end of it.

Until the video was released and made available months later. I was so excited to show it to him, to watch him watch me — certain he would finally understand and finally celebrate; certain this would shift our shut-down conversations about faith from this point forward. He watched the first two minutes, closed his laptop, and we never spoke of it again.

OK. Back to trusting my own wisdom.

I heard my inner wisdom — no doubt about it: This is NOT OK. This is not sustainable. This is not acceptable: not even being honored enough to be curious, to listen, to try and understand. And this is the tip of the iceberg. If we cannot come to even agree-to-disagree terms on this, there’s going to be more down the road that’s going to be even harder. (There was more, but you get the idea…)

We dated for another four years.

Here’s the point (if you haven’t already landed on it): I heard my wisdom early on — and ongoing. But to trust it meant that I would have to a) have even harder conversations and b) be prepared for what that would lead to…ultimately, our end. And I didn’t want to do or experience any of that!

The issue for most of us is not hearing our wisdom, it’s trusting it! 

Because to trust it means that hard conversations may have to be had, that things might change, that everything we’re trying to sustain and juggle and keep spinning might come crashing down.

I know. Believe me.

I did eventually end the relationship. It was hard. It was painful. It was heartbreaking. And I trusted myself (and my wisdom) enough to know that there was really no other choice to make. Finally.

If I am going to bear consequences either way, I do NOT want to live with the ones that inevitably come when I compromise, comply, and not trust my wisdom or myself.

I can see, with hindsight and perspective, that my wisdom WAS worth trusting. Every. Single. Time. Not just in this story, but in SO many more.

The risks and costs have not gone away. But (most of) my fears about whether or not I can handle them have. And, in many ways, I now know that the higher the stakes, the greater the perceived consequences, the MORE trustworthy my wisdom actually is!

So, what is the takeaway in all of this for you?

Stated simply, it’s just this: you CAN trust your wisdom. It knows of what it speaks. It is reliable. It is right. It will not lead you astray. And inventorying the inherent risk is EXACTLY what makes your wisdom even more clear, more certain, and more trust-worthy.

No silver bullet. No magic pill. No easy answers. But no less true.

4 Way to Hear Your Own Wisdom

It’s taken me years (and years and years) to acknowledge that I had wisdom that was uniquely, distinctly mine, let alone hear and apply it! I have stories attached to why: why it has been so hard for me, why it took so long…

I doubt my story is all that different from yours.

If you grew up in the Western World, reason, facts, and objectivity reigned. There were laws: gravity and perpetual motion. There were those who wrote the laws: our Founding Fathers, God (him)self, maybe Moses. And there were those who interpreted or enforced the laws: parents, priests, pastors, police, politicians, patriarchy…

The consistent message was this: The answers are obvious; just find and apply them. To think for yourself, let alone trust what you think/feel is way outside preferred and acceptable behavior.

It took me a long time (and lots of heartache along the way) to believe anything differently, let alone do anything differently. But I have learned. I have changed.

A quick story:

Close to twenty years ago, still married, my daughters very young, I began to notice that the running dialogue in my head was distinctly different from the words I spoke or the actions I took. At first, I disregarded it. But over time, the noise was too loud and the gap between who I was being and who I wanted to be was far too wide.

So I started writing it all down (with password protection). I let myself speak – finally, freely, unedited and unrestrained. And though every bit of it felt way too dangerous and way too risky to actually do anything about, I began to hear something – like a heartbeat.

I recognized that I wasn’t “wrong” or “crazy” for what I was thinking. I was actually right!

For a long time, what I heard within (and wrote) was completely counter to what others expected of me and, it seemed,, highly risky. It was close-to-impossible for me to trust what kept coming up, showing up, and speaking within. But eventually, I recognized that the more disparate my thoughts from the status quo and what others wanted/expected of me, the truer (and wiser) they were – FOR ME.

And now? Thankfully, I hardly ever notice a difference between what I hear within and what I say or do. Sometimes. Every once in a while. And then I remind myself, yet again, that what I know is right. I am right.

(This is not to say that I never make mistakes, that I am right about every opinion I hold, that I cannot be changed. It IS to say that the voice/heartbeat I hear within is right – unquestioned, reliable, mine.)

So, the how-to’s for you?

1) What shows up for you if you incorporate, even believe that the more crazy or countercultural your thoughts (your inner wisdom), the truer and wiser they are?

2) Pay attention to, even list out (with password protection, if needed) what you really think, what you really feel, what you really know. Let yourself literally hear (or see on the page) the wisdom that is yours – that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. OR record yourself on a Voice Memo on your phone. Let yourself speak. Say what you actually want to say! Then listen back to just how clear and certain and yes, powerful your wisdom actually is!

3) Track what (and who) gets in the way of you actually speaking the wisdom that you hear. Pay attention to those gaps.

4) Extend yourself grace. Believe me, I don’t have this whole hearing-my-wisdom thing down. I still struggle to hear the wisdom I KNOW my body offers me. I still struggle to be quiet or still or meditative long enough to let silence carry me to deeper truths and knowing. But that know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice? Yeah. I hear that one. All the time. And it’s really, really wise.

That voice? That wisdom? Hearing (and trusting) it as your own? 

Mmmmm. May it be so.

*****

If this feels challenging for you – and compelling at the same time – I’d love to talk with you more. These are (thankfully) the kinds of conversations I have with my clients. I offer free one-hour calls. Not for discovery. Not to sell you on anything. Just to listen for the wisdom I know is there and invite you to even more.

Every Monday I write (and then email) a letter…to you! It’s filled with more of my stories (like the one above), the stories of other women who offer us their wisdom and call us to our own, and as much encouragement and hope as I can possibly muster. Oh, and I also include what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, even baking lately! Gift from me to you. And…because it’s written to/for you, I just need to know where to send it! SUBSCRIBE.