A History of Emotional Courage

September 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm 15 comments

This blog began as a tool, as a way for us to update Feeleez customers on new ideas, good news, and heart warming stories. It was one of the things we were told a business must have, and I volunteered for the job. I imagined keeping posts relevant to our empathy game and poster but fairly quickly photos of our kids were on there, then some parenting thoughts, later hormonal rants, and before I knew it I had hijacked the whole thing with personal thoughts and feelings.

Now, when I sit down to write I’m not sure what is going to come out of my fingertips, not sure how deep into my personal heart I am going to dip, and at times I wonder if this soul-baring is business savvy, if it’s too much information. I can reassure myself that our company is based on feelings, on accepting them, celebrating them and helping one another unlock them, and thus a blog that looks at those, even if they come from one spirit, makes sense. But the truth is, I can’t help myself. It feels good to share in this way, in this space.

When I was young a terrible thing happened to me, something you’d never wish on anyone, something that caused me to hold tight to my mother’s belt loop and to become the fastest fifty-yard dasher at the elementary school. But though the belt loop was ever-present, though I could sprint to pick up the newspaper and be back within the safety of my home before a normal person could blink, I was still afraid. I was as safe as I was ever going to be, nothing horrible could happen under the watchful care of my family, but what I couldn’t be protected from was my feelings, in particular my fear.

So, at the ripe old age of seven I simply decided to not be scared.

Somehow I had deduced that I was the only one that could give myself the security I craved, and so I declared myself unafraid and let it be so.

Over the years if I felt some fear about an event or an action, I also felt compelled to carry-out exactly that event or action. Fearing it was worse than doing it, so time and again I walked straight into my greatest frights. Other fears were less obvious, less easily tackled head-on, like walking into a crowded room of strangers, giving a speech, or  crossing the room at a party, but I found that if I put my body in a comfortable position, one that came across as ease, I would feel ease. As my stroll became languid, casual, and confident, so did my emotional state. Others received me as calm and thus I became calm.

The problem with this method was that when it didn’t work it felt like a lie. No matter how carefully I arranged my outer-self, sometimes my inner-self was still fearful. In those instances the sloping set of my shoulders was a performance, the flick of my hair was studied, each mannerism that was carefully designed to still my pulse, to steady my breath, to carry me over to the fearless place, was part of a facade. Also, as you stride powerfully down the corridors, looking very much like you know what you are doing, or where you are going, others assume you know what you are doing and where you are going. Which means that you do not receive kind offers of help, or hands outstretched to lovingly guide you, instead you get a lot of sneers, especially from folks threatened by your confidence. You get jealousy.

In my twenties, on a warm New Year’s Eve I made a new decision: to be honest. I decided to simply tell the truth. When feeling nervous I didn’t toss my hair and contrive a casual step, I claimed it, stating unequivocally that I was a nervous wreck. When I didn’t want to go to a potluck because I felt shy and wasn’t able to find something to wear, I didn’t fabricate other plans, I didn’t pretend I had lost the host’s number, I told the truth. I was immediately rewarded with the joy of authenticity. I thought others would find this approach appealing too, that the people who hated me for my calm and confidence, the ones that called me stuck-up, too-good, or too-together, would feel better now. Perhaps now that they saw my “just-like-everybody-else” emotions they would like me. This wasn’t the case.

It seems to boldly state your feelings, to state your truth, is more intimidating than a hair flip.

I didn’t immediately gain friends but the decisions have stuck. Not the false shoulders, the faking-it-’til-you-make-it part, but the decision to be fearless and the decision to be honest. I was afraid of heights so I jumped off a bridge with a make-shift bungee cord around my waist. I was afraid to be alone so I traveled to faraway places, alone. I sought authenticity, the courage to tell the truth, so I wrote, revealing things, showing my less-pretty self. I realized if I made the first step of my own volition, off the bridge or onto the page, I found not fear, but power.

Occasionally I remember that people read these words, people I care about, people who intimidate me, people who don’t like me, and people who are rooting for me, and my fingers freeze a bit, stall out and look for phrases that please or, at least, won’t offend. But I can’t maintain the vigilance, the faces become fuzzy, I lose track of what “pleasing” even is, and I continue to type. When I hear of an “enemy” discovering my “secret”, this blog, and even feel the blunt stabs as they attempt to use my sentences as weapons, its disorienting – the feeling of having left my diary open next to the toilet- but then I remember, these are my words, my intention placed them here for all to see. They are as true as I know truth to be, and therefore can not be made foul.

As it turns out, I am not rendered less by my exposed vulnerability, I am instantly set free.

Perhaps there are others who hold my words before them as they march through a crowded room, as they stare at a ceiling at night, or as they leap off their own self-constructed bridges. I’d like that. I certainly stumble, that is certain, but I never tumble all the way down, so if you are afraid, you have permission to step into my courage, to borrow it like a library book, until you find your own.

Entry filed under: life lessons. Tags: , , .

Shhhhhh… Waiting

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kris laroche  |  September 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    i love you.

  • 2. Mahala  |  September 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I love this Nat. Thank you.

  • 3. mom  |  September 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I strive to paint like you write.

  • 4. carrie  |  September 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    you impact me and i don’t know you at all
    wish we friends
    thankyou for your truth
    i love it

  • 5. Jeff  |  September 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks Nat. I love you.

    • 6. nataliechristensen  |  September 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

      I love you too.

  • 7. Nancy Wharton  |  September 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    This was beautiful and quite touching Nat. It let me know you a little more, thru the years Nd the decisions you made.

    Course I also said things like, “why can’t I make decisions like that – to not be afraid, to be honest?” And you know how well that works – “Oh I think I’ll just take on her path for mine..” uhhuh, it would never work – I only get my path…the one I can’t always find or think I’ve lost. Our bumbly, stumbly paths – trying to stay
    awake and conscious.
    Love you Nat.

    • 8. nataliechristensen  |  September 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

      I’m glad you liked it!

  • 9. annie  |  September 14, 2010 at 7:16 am

    i love this and you!!!
    a makeshift bungee cord? this kindof astounds me.

    • 10. nataliechristensen  |  September 15, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Well I guess the bungee might have been legit but the operation itself was makeshift and illegal.

  • 11. alyssa  |  September 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    oh natalie you’ve brought to tears to my eyes yet again.
    i love hearing your stories and lessons, and i will happily borrow some of that emotional courage. thank you.

    • 12. nataliechristensen  |  September 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

      great. it’s nice to know you are “out there” reading it.

  • 13. isa  |  September 15, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    i love what ypu write and tell and share! thank you!

  • 14. anne  |  September 16, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Long time lurker…delurking to say that I LOVE your blog! I read both yours and Kris’, though I never comment, and both of your words, stories, and insights have really affected me. I find myself thinking about the way I live and parent in light of your example. So thank you.

    • 15. nataliechristensen  |  September 17, 2010 at 6:49 am

      Thanks for de-lurking! I love that.


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