Hello and happy New Song Day!
I’m so eager to share this one with you. In this step of the journey, we take a look at the role that COURAGE plays in the process of cultivating peace of mind and grabbing hold of genuine agency in difficult circumstances. Here it is:
“Sweat & Butterflies”
WATCH the lyric video
STREAM or DOWNLOAD the song
exclusively on Bandcamp.
Come listen, watch, enjoy, and share!
This album project …
… is all about exploring how to realize both serenity and the power to act in difficult circumstances.
To make this album, I’m giving myself a series of journal prompts that help me dive into concepts like coping, powerlessness, acceptance, courage, and agency. My responses to those prompts become the source material for each new song.
(The writing about “Sweat & Butterflies” that follows here will make most sense as a sequel to my first five stops on this journey. If you need to catch up with where we’ve been so far, you’ll find the first five entries here: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)
“Courage to change the things I can”
Picking up where we left off last time:
I’m accepting the things I cannot change. I am letting them go.
So … now that my hands are empty …
they are free …
to change the things I can.
“Courage to change the things I can.”
I wonder why courage might be necessary? Let’s explore …
Make a list of things I have the power to change, both in general, and also specific to any circumstances that are currently causing me distress.
In preparing for this step of the journey, I watched the Brené Brown Netflix special, Call to Courage. If you are able to watch it, I cannot recommend highly enough that you do. In it, she shares this definition, which is a foundational principle of her research:
“Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”
With that definition in mind, does the notion of acting on any of the items on my list make me feel vulnerable?
- That is, is there any action on the list that makes me feel uncertain, feels risky, or has me feeling emotionally exposed? If yes, explore in more detail what that vulnerability feels like.
What are the risks to me in acting to change what I have the power to change?
What are the risks to me in NOT acting to change what I have the power to change?
Another couple of quotes from the Brené Brown special:
- “There is no courage without vulnerability.”
- “Can you cite a single example of an act of courage in your life, or in someone else’s life, that didn’t require uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure?”
Go over my list and, with each item in mind, complete this phrase with as many endings as I can think of:
“Courage is ________.”
Fear of Heights
Things I have the power to change:
- my actions / my thoughts / my reactions / my choices
- what I say / what I do
- how I take care of myself
- how I treat others
- my own boundaries
- my yeses / my noes
- taking responsibility for myself
- making amends when I’ve wronged someone
- what I eat / what I watch / what I read
- who I spend my time with / how I spend my time
- to what or whom I give my energy / to what or whom I give my attention
- how I spend my money
- when I rest
- whether or how long to stay in a space / in a relationship
- who to trust with my story / who to trust with my heart
- in whom I invest my love / my friendship
- my own understanding / my own learning / my own growth
- discovering, determining, and defining what I value
- acting according to my values
- how I use my privilege / my voice / my power
Ok … can I just say this right up front? All of this feels vulnerable.
Because this list is proof,
in black and white,
in my own handwriting,
that I can’t pass the buck on my own experience any longer.
This list is full of ways in which
I have the power to step up to my own life.
This list is for no one but me.
If I’m to “change the things I can” …
… to ACT …
… to take responsibility for my own life and my own experience …
then I’ve got to … simply … do that,
I’ve got to dive right in.
And in doing so,
I don’t get to blame anyone or anything else
when it hurts,
or when I get it wrong,
or when it goes off the rails …
… because these are the things within my power to change.
That feels extremely vulnerable.
It is the heart of uncertainty. It is risky.
In each of these actions,
and in the more general sense of showing up to my life,
I am totally exposed.
There’s no longer anyone to point a finger at
for my own discontent, my lack of peace, my stagnation …
… because … my goodness … look at that list!
There is power in that list.
And it’s mine.
It’s dawning on me that
grabbing hold of my own power
is one of the most vulnerable things
I will ever do.
I could take the risks and fail.
I could swing for the fences and miss.
And that might feel embarrassing, humiliating.
I might rustle other people’s feathers,
if I act in a way that doesn’t match what they expect of me,
either because of how I change from the way I’ve acted in the past,
or because I thwart expectations that the culture puts on me — or on people like me.
And that might be uncomfortable.
I might attract the attention, and the criticism, of others,
if in their view I speak too loudly, or honestly,
or if I take up too much space,
or if I appear to ask for too much out of life.
And that might hurt.
I may lose or fundamentally alter relationships
that were based on a no-longer-relevant version of me.
And that my cause me to experience loss, grief.
But if I don’t act …
I risk living an unrealized, unfulfilled life.
I risk not living in harmony with my values,
and therefore I risk letting myself down.
I risk failing myself.
I risk not experiencing genuine love, connection, or belonging;
because if I never live my truth on the outside,
if I never allow my true self to be seen,
then there is no way to be loved, to connect, or to feel like I belong.
I risk becoming withdrawn, isolated, and disconnected.
I risk not experiencing meaning in my life.
I risk my own sense of freedom and joy.
I risk stagnating in an unsatisfactory status quo.
I risk not being part of making the world the just and beautiful place that it can be.
Courage is …
… leaning into vulnerability.
… doing it scared.
… feeling uncertain, knowing I can’t control the outcome, and showing up anyway.
… acting on my values.
… being aligned in my speech, my actions, and my presence with what is true, even in the face of potential criticism or rejection.
… doing what I’m compelled by truth to do, even though I risk failure, embarrassment, criticism, or humiliation.
… choosing to stay engaged even after getting hurt.
… choosing to stay engaged even after getting it wrong.
… knowing I’ll experience failure, and jumping in anyway.
… multiplied by others who love me, and with others who are engaged alongside me.
… standing tall.
… speaking from my heart.
… examining myself, my assumptions, and my blind spots.
… making amends.
… taking care of myself.
… making, knowing, and defending my boundaries.
… standing on what is true, on what I value.
… saying yes when I want or need to say yes.
… saying no when I want or need to say no.
… owning my own life, taking responsibility for myself.
… doing my work (my personal, internal work).
… feeling my feelings and listening to the messages they bring me.
… acting to meet the needs those feelings identify.
… reaching out for connection.
There are two chapters in this story:
there is my life before courage, and my life after.
Before — it is small, scared, stuck,
and characterized by suffering.
After — it is big, and full of possibility.
It’s still terrifying!, but also exhilarating,
It’s meaningful, and fulfilled.
I’m connected with myself,
I stand tall as I live my truth,
I live in harmony with my values, with who I want to be.
I feel all the feelings,
and I use them to educate myself about what I need,
and to point me toward how to act.
On the other side of courage are all of the things I long for,
all of the things I want in my life.
I visualize this Before and After
as existing on either side of a deep, but narrow canyon.
Narrow enough that it is possible to make a running leap from one side to the other.
But … I’m afraid of heights.
I steer clear of the edges of things when I’m hiking,
or when I’m exploring a tall building.
Whenever I’m watching an action movie where the hero is dangling off the edge of something, with a big drop below — even though I know it’s just a movie — my palms get sweaty, and fear flares up as a physical reaction in the lowest part of my abdomen.
And that is why this visual metaphor is so apt for me …
… because the chasm that lies between the ledges
of Before and After is filled with
failure, embarrassment, criticism,
humiliation, judgment, rejection,
loss, change, and discomfort.
But I’ve evaluated and enumerated the cost
of remaining on the safe side, and it is too much.
It’s much greater than all of the risks that lie below.
Courage is calling me to leap over to the other side.
I want to be brave.
I know it’s the only way to show up in the world as fully me.
I know it’s the only route to being connected with myself and with others.
I know it’s the only road to exercising my agency.
I know it’s the only path to every good thing that I want in my life.
And so … courage.
This is why I need courage.
To show up for my life.
To change the things I can.
Thanks for reading, and for listening. I’ll be back again in a couple-ish weeks with what comes next. ♥️
Love and heights — shannon