Life is a continual process of cultivating courage...
Ten years ago, not to the day, but roughly, Candice Smith and I spent the day together with a friend with marketing expertise learning about a marketing strategy for a new business. We had decided to ‘join forces’ and form a partnership as Thinking Environment teachers.
At that time, I had already been running my own consultancy, TLC, since 1992. I remember that during the day, as we thought together to articulate what we were about, a strong theme emerged around the courage it takes to be fully human.
When I left at the end of the day, we still didn’t have a name for our business. As I drove home from the City Bowl to Kommetjie, “Braveheart” popped into my mind. I wanted to dismiss it, knowing that it would forever conjure images of Mel Gibson in a kilt. But as I drove on, the “strapline” emerged…“cultivating courage”, and together they made sense. They named something elemental for me…that life is a continual process of cultivating courage in order to be fully human.
If ever there has been a year for cultivating courage, in my lifetime at any rate, 2020 has been that year. I was reminded in a conversation last weekend about the very early days of lockdown, March of this year. I remembered, as we spoke, about that feeling of waking up every morning and breathing deeply to see if I still could. That lasted for two, maybe three, weeks. Checking every morning, checking my body, to see if I was going to survive.
I remember, next, coming to terms with the label “vulnerable”. It’s one thing to choose to be vulnerable: a courage-cultivating act, and entirely another to be labelled it by people I will probably never meet.
I remember curling up in my bed and weeping at the thought that I would not see my youngest child again in 2020, and that to not see him was a choice I would never make for myself, but an injunction enforced on me, again, by people I did not know.
As it happened, he quit University and came home as soon as cross-Provincial travel was allowed, having been defeated by the challenges of on-line learning and the separation and isolation that had been imposed on his dreams and expectations of Campus life.
But my example is just one of billions of unfulfilled expectations littered across our globe: cancelled weddings, newborns growing into toddlers not yet held by their grandparents, trips, vacations, gatherings of all sorts, funerals attended by no-one but the priest.
It’s been a year in which we have all had to dig deep. A seminal moment for me was a Facebook post, and I sadly can’t remember the author’s name now, in which she said “we are in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. Same storm, very different boats”. It woke me up (again!) to the extraordinary privilege of my life…its safety and security, and gave me a courage-cultivating boost to face forward and carry on.
For those of us who have not had to face threat to our food security, who had access to financial support through the loss of income, who had the resources to stay safe, something else emerged alongside the threat of Covid-19 and the strictures it placed on our lives.
We began to understand more clearly the instruction that accompanies the Component of Ease: offering ourselves and each other freedom from internal rush and urgency. We had time to think, and be, and we became creative. For us, the year brought many unexpected gifts. It has been a time of profound paradox. And paradox can be confusing. How can it be that in 2020, BraveHeart has had one of its best years yet?
Undoubtedly, if virtual connecting is all that is available to you, conducting those virtual spaces in a Thinking Environment will transform those experiences. Just the miracle of a visual virtual table has turned the frustration of missing body language into a seamless way to participate. The virtual space benefits from the presence and practices of a Thinking Environment like plants benefit from sunshine and rain. And I had fun creating my virtual tables, as part of a new hobby that has emerged from the early days of lockdown: koki pen folk art flowers!
And now, as this year draws to a close…… we know deep down that the first day of January 2021 will not mean that the challenges of this year are magically over. The need to cultivate courage will continue. Right now, the challenge we face is to resource ourselves for more. Yesterday a colleague shared an insightful article on the distinction between fatigue and depletion. Fatigue can be cured by sleep. Sleep will not resolve depletion. Depletion needs restoration.
And so, that is what I wish for us all now: a time of restoration. May we make wise choices in the month of December, that will fill our cups. Yes, let’s rest our bodies, and yes, let’s restore our minds. And let’s meet again in a new year, with our capacity to cultivate courage intact.