Courage in Solitude

My latest reading obsession? Books about traveling, solo.

Yes, you’re right. I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of eat.pray.love. Someone told me it was better than the movie, and so far, I agree. Elizabeth Gilbert has a facility of language that makes me smile. I’m glad I decided to read/listen to this, in the midst of my other books.

Along this same theme, I have a very inspiring and informative book called Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo by Beth Whitman. This book has inspired thoughts in me about possibilities for life after AmeriCorps. After this year, after my commitment ends, and the next step is taken. It a ways off yet, so I can’t say much, but still, there is something so entirely seductive about the idea of leaving and just…going.

Also in my checkout, I am loving the book Only Pack what You Can Carry  by Janice Holly Booth. Her book sounds a bit like Eat, Pray, Love, without the added overt ideas of spirituality thrown in. She professes that there are four essentials on one’s life journey (fitting for my blog, don’t you think?) They are solitude, introspection, courage, and commitment. Looking at these four, there is one that is clearly more difficult for me than all the rest, that being courage. This woman has gone through so much in life. She’s seen so much, traveled, adventured. At 44, she fulfilled a lifelong dream to venture into slot canyons in Utah. I find her story inspiring, and had to stop and think about this quote towards the end of her section on courage:

“Our greatest teachers are the terrible moments when we think we can’t do the thing we need to do, when pain and fear and doubt join hands to choke the spirit out of us. But those are our finest moments, when we’re called upon to summon courage. They give us the confidence to face daily life and losses with a kind of steadiness we hadn’t had before.”

Then there’s this other quote, delivered via the person who still knows me best, even after all that’s happened. Or, maybe that’s not true. Maybe the last few months have brought enough change in me that I can actually say I’m not the same person that I was. Nevertheless, he wrote the quote to me some years ago. Coupled with the repeated statement that I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to if I would just realize it, he gave me this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are younot to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

I’ve spent too much time in my life being afraid. I think those of you who know me best know that this is true, though I suppose it’s a true statement in general that people are driven by fear. We’re driven by fear and love, and likely some muddled mixture of the two that oscillates between two extremes depending on life’s circumstances and our own internal workings. Moving out of my home state was definitely a step away from that which I have known. It was a step of faith that what was unknown here was better than what I knew if I returned to somewhere I had been before. And now I’m looking inward at my own fears and how they have limited me as I think about what it would mean to pursue something passionately, knowing that I could very possibly be alone in my pursuit.

Challenges requiring courage:

1. Running and other physical challenges. I’ve told myself and others that while I may enjoy being active, I am not athletic. I have used this as an excuse to not pursue anything that would make me lose my breath for too long or push me past what I thought I was capable of doing. I want to push myself beyond the place of “I can’t”, because I know that attitude is the only thing making the statement a reality. I’m inspired by my friend Angeline who is setting out to run a half marathon in January, though she’ll admit to walking parts of her training program now.

2. Going some place alone. There are many time where I would’ve liked to go do something or see something, but I was too afraid to go alone. I want company at art museums and restaurants, in hotel stays and road trips. I know I can do it alone, but I fear that it would not be worth going on my own. I won’t even allow myself to consider the “what if’s” here, but they haunt the recesses of my ambition, and I am tired of them.

3. Developing relationships with people. While I’m really good at keeping in touch with people that I’ve known for several years, it is really difficult to get to know me if you’re just meeting me. There’s so much risk in showing who I am to someone. What if they don’t understand? What if they reject me? What if…? It’s silly, really, because most of the people that I have spent time with have resulted in the formation of great friendships that I deeply cherish.

Now the question is, what am I going to do on this journey that employs courage, commitment, solitude, and introspection? How do I challenge the person I am with the fears I hold to having the kind of adventurous life that will make me grateful for every breath I take and remind me to be in awe of Him with each moment’s passing? And most of all, how do I reconcile the person I was with the person I am with the person I am capable of becoming?

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