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Finding the Courage Within

Dr. Laurie describes how we scare ourselves into inaction.

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A colleague of mine had a serious operation last month.  She has had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for over 30 years, and lived through some severe flares that kept her bed-bound.

The result of some of these flares has been a crippling of her hands, and in particular her right hand. The deterioration -- that so many of you know so well -- has continued.  She has had more and more trouble using that hand to write, to drive, to open doors and jars, and to hold a cup of coffee.

For some time now she has been considering hand surgery to replace her knuckles.  This would unbend and unfreeze her hand, but the surgery is lengthy and potentially very painful.  The fear of the pain and being even more incapacitated kept stopping her.

Who wants to voluntarily sign up for pain, a hospital stay, and an uncertain outcome?  What if -- after all the trouble -- it didn't even make that much difference?  What if there were more pain?

She was full of doubt and indecision.  She talked about it for several years, and kept finding reasons to put it off.  The bottom line:  she was scared.

Last month, she did it.

The full results aren't clear yet, but the intermediate results are stunning.  She can move fingers that haven't been in motion in 20 years.  It makes her cry to experience the change and the possibilities that are now here for her.

It makes me cry, too, and it makes me wonder how it is that so often we don't make the moves that would change our lives because we're scared.

Courage.  The word comes from cour or heart.  Some of the work of living our lives in the biggest and strongest way we can means living from our hearts -- letting that energy move us forward.  Trusting our heart energy to carry us through those stuck places and those frightening valleys.

Who wants to voluntarily sign up for pain, a hospital stay, and an uncertain outcome?  What if -- after all the trouble -- it didn't even make that much difference?  What if there were more pain?

On a news show last week I saw another example.  A town in the Midwest had been the site of a deep mine.  It turns out the metal they were mining was toxic when large quantities of it were exposed to the air, and there were hills of sludge and waste piles all around the town.  It was declared a disaster area, and everyone was asked to move out of the town.  The government paid to relocate them, and slowly all of the businesses closed. The Post Office left.  There were no more grocery stores.  The schools and churches were empty.

The story focused on a woman who had lived in this town her entire life.  She was born there, married there, and had her children there.  She was being interviewed because she refused to leave.  She couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  She couldn't let go.

Wow.  The visual was her house -- surrounded by these mountains of toxic gravel -- and she was rocking on her front porch, staying put in a ghost town.

What a metaphor for the way we sometimes live.  We can't imagine the next place -- we are afraid of what it will take for us to get there.  So we stay put.  Talking about how hard it is.

If that feels like you today, go into your heart.  See where your courage is -- to take one step in the direction you need to go.

It may not be as dramatic as having your knuckles replaced, or moving to a new town.  It may be deciding that it is necessary for you to start some exercise, or take a class because you really are thinking about training for a different job.  It may be investigating some new treatments or starting your own blog.

Whatever it is, breathe into your heart and let your courage unfold.

Then set forth.

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