DON'T SAVE YOUR COURAGE FOR A CRISIS
Pete and I had our first date in over a year. And when we got home, we had a row.
The following day, we needed to have a conversation.
In many ways, it would have been ‘easier’ to brush it under the carpet, put it down to the fact I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, or that we just didn’t go out often enough, to look for all the good things about our relationship and quickly ‘forgive and forget’, so that we could enjoy the rest of our weekend.
We both knew, that this time, that wasn’t an option.
It was time to have a serious conversation about something that has plagued our relationship, that we’ve never really fully dealt with.
The consequences of not having the conversation were becoming as much of a threat to our happiness as the fear we both had about getting real about the situation.
And there’s one thing I know:
The courage you draw on in times of crisis is always available to you.
We often think of courage as something that activates in a disaster, when we witness an accident and rush to help, or our child has a health emergency and we swing into action.
And it’s true, sometimes courage is an act of bravery in an extreme situation.
Yet much of the time, our opportunities to be courageous are with our words, in our everyday relationships.
To have the conversation we dread.
To say what we really believe.
To give a different opinion than the one commonly held.
To share our deepest thoughts.
To admit to our weaknesses.
Courage, in these times, is most often verbal, emotional, or written.
The pen is mightier than the sword, and it takes equal courage to wield.
When we decide to have a conversation we’re nervous about, we open doors of potential.
When we say what we think, and feel, it changes things.
I’m talking about having real conversations, about things that really matter, with the people who matter to us.
I don’t mean this as a license to be rude or harsh – like those people on reality TV who proudly declare: ‘I’m honest, if you annoy me, I’ll tell you about it. I tell it like it is and I don’t hold back.’
Er, no. That’s just an excuse to be a douchebag. They’re not ‘telling it like it is’ – they’re telling it how they perceive it.
Because that’s all we can ever do. How we believe the world to be is all based on our individual perception.
Often, people get so caught up in their opinions about things that really don’t matter, that they channel away their feelings about what’s important.
And this is a vicious cycle, because the more we channel our attention away from what matters, the angrier and unhappier we get - which of course gives us plenty more ‘stuff’ to have unimportant negative opinions about.
We don’t need to run around aggressively telling people ‘how it is’. Life is a never-ending lesson in developing the skills of knowing which are the essential conversations, being brave enough to have them, and practicing our ability to communicate effectively.
There are more than two sides to every story.
There’s no point in arguing with somebody who can only see their side. If the situation or the person really matters to you, then you can choose to share information and learn that you are both correct (or both wrong). If the situation or person isn’t important, move on, let it go.
Now here’s something important to look out for:
It can be easier to assign our discomfort with a situation to our perceptions – to decide to do the inner work, blame our mindset for the problem, and avoiding making changes in the external situation, by having a conversation.
In relationships, we think we’re being accepting, and taking responsibility for what ‘we’re creating’ – and of course, those two things are essential. However, without balance, what we’re really doing is making excuses for a partner’s unacceptable behavior, because we’re afraid of what might happen if we decide to no longer accept the unacceptable.
We might fear physical harm. We might fear verbal abuse. And most often, what we fear is being abandoned.
And the truth is, there’s a part of you that cannot be abandoned.
There’s a part of you so strong that it cannot be broken.
You are not just a human body, and a mind.
You are a soul, and on your journey to this moment you’ve experienced many terrible things, throughout many lifetimes, including this one, and yet here you are.
And wanting more.
That is the nature of us.
We want to experience more – happiness, learning, adventure, and most of all – love.
It’s easy to mistake all sorts of things for love: lust, companionship, the fear of being alone.
Love cannot be defined or explained, it can only be felt and experienced.
And deep-down, we know what love is.
We know if our partner truly cares.
We know if they really do want the best for us.
We know if they support and encourage us.
And we know if they have dealt with enough of their own baggage to be able to show with actions what they say with words.
Likewise, we know deep-down if we can say the same about our own attitude to our partner. Do we really care? Want the best for them? Support and encourage them? Is there a part of us that fears what might happen to our relationship if they follow their dreams? Have we dealt with enough of our own baggage to show up as truly loving?
I’ve been telling Pete for a long time that I want to be taken out for dinner. “I want you to make plans, and surprise me. I want you to arrange stuff, and not leave everything to me. I don’t want to have to always be the one who makes everything happen.”
From time to time I’d say it, and he kept agreeing, but nothing changed.
Have you ever noticed how TV shows, sitcoms, movies and books often have a plotline based around people not being honest? We watch (or read) inwardly screaming ‘Just TELL her!’ and they don’t – they get interrupted, or she walks away without hearing the full story.
Time passes – sometimes years – before the full truth comes to light. The characters marry other people, or don’t know who their parents are, and a million other scenarios for missed opportunities of love and happiness – so much is wasted when we waste time avoiding the truth.
This doesn’t just happen on screen and on paper. It happens every day, all around us, in our own lives.
Unlike in a film, where a lifetime is condensed into a couple of hours, we live every single minute. No shortcuts, no skipping to the end. We go through life experiencing fractional happiness because we’re scared of what will happen if we’re honest about what we want.
And the only thing that gets compromised is our happiness – and when we compromise our own happiness, it impacts everyone we come into contact with; especially our children.
We think we’re doing others a favour when we put them first. Really we’re just using them as an excuse because we’re not brave enough to have an honest conversation about what we want. That’s not fair to anyone.
Lately, ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman keeps coming on my imusic shuffle. “Someone’s got to take care of him, so I quit school and that’s what I did.” She doesn’t sound very happy about it. We tend to romanticise sacrifice as being noble. In reality, there’s a great risk of becoming a martyr – and that energy is one of the most unpleasant to be around. It’s a vacuum that sucks all the love and joy straight out of a room.
We all know someone like this. We all have the ability to be like this ourselves. And we all have the choice not to go there.
I was approaching Pete with a martyr energy. “I do everything. Poor me. Waaaaaah.”
Not very sexy. I wouldn’t take it out for dinner either.
I also wasn’t telling him exactly how important this was to me.
He had no idea how much of an issue it was becoming in my head.
The truth is that I wasn’t communicating effectively because I was scared of what might happen if he actually took control.
I’m a Get Shit Done kind of a person. I make decisions, I choose what I’m doing and when. What if he actually planned something and I didn’t like it? What if he arranged something and I didn’t want to go? I’d given up control of my life before and it didn’t end well.
Deep-down, I had some serious trust issues going on.
And I couldn’t tell him that, because then it would be my fault, and, also, much worse, then I might have to give up control, whereas without admitting it, I could secretly keep the control and pretend the fault was his.
Wow, how exceedingly healthy.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I did some energy work around my trust issues.
What I didn’t do, however, was communicate any of this to Pete.
I figured that doing the inner work would be enough, and that everything would magically rearrange itself on the outside.
Sometimes, that does happen.
Lots of times, I’ve seen the external change quickly in response to changes on the internal.
And sometimes, it’s easy to think that by doing the ‘inner work’, we can avoid doing the uncomfortable action part.
The truth is, when we stay silent about our needs and wants, and fail to invite others to help us find a better solution, we can’t complain when nothing changes.
We also miss the opportunity for our star player to run onto the field.
We’re surrounded by energy that has yet to take shape as matter, events, and experiences.
It’s pure potential.
It responds to the directions that we give it.
So when we stay silent, pretend we’re happy, sacrifice our dreams, and keep our truth a secret, we give a clear message to the Big U, and that message is: “Do feck all.”
Conversely, when we express ourselves, admit we want positive change, make our dreams non-negotiable, and speak our truth, we give the field of potential clear instructions: ‘Help me.”
And it does.
Energy becomes matter in response to our clear instructions.
A whole new world of potential opens up.
Sometimes we get an immediate, positive response when we have a conversation we’ve been avoiding.
This generally happens when we’re not expecting it.
Because when we don’t expect a particular outcome, we’re detached.
When we go into a conversation with an expectation, we don’t allow the other person space ot show up as an individual, and it makes the energy of the conversation heavy – and negative.
We all know those people who instead of just saying what they want, or asking for what they need, plan instead: ‘If I say x, he’ll say y.” “I want him to think this, so I’ll say that.” “I might want x in the future, so I’ll say y now.”
And we come away from those interactions feeling ‘off’, or irritated, or manipulated, and we can’t explain why.
And yet sometimes we do the same thing ourselves. Instead of just being upfront, we skirt around an issue, or drop hints, or wait for our lines to be read between.
Life gets so much easier when we stop pulling levers and pushing buttons and hoping someone will miraculously respond the way we want.
And instead, just say what we want, with no expectation on the other person to provide it.
Who’d a thunk it, hey?
Say you want x!
Maybe it’s embarrassing. Maybe you feel stupid. Maybe a million and one things!
Nothing feels more stupid than thinking: ‘If only I’d _______.’ What a waste to see your current partner move on and give someone else exactly what you want. What a shame to end a relationship because you weren’t having your needs met, when no-one really knew what your needs were. What a huge regret to spend years being unhappy because you thought you were communicating one thing and your subconscious was making sure you definitely weren’t.
Give people the opportunity to surprise you.
Give people the chance to show up and support the real you.
And most of all, give yourself the chance to show up and support your true self.
Get honest with yourself first.
If you can, talk to someone who only has your best interests at heart and has no vested interest in the outcome of your situation, and is therefore able to be neutral.
Have an honest conversation about what you really want with your loved ones, without expectation.
Draw on your courage today – it’s always available to you.
Don’t wait for a crisis. Don’t save it for a rainy day.
The most powerful conversations – with yourself, the Big U, and those you love, focus on what you DO want.
If you want change in relationships, speak about what you want, focus on the light, not the dark.
Give people a chance to rise up and meet you where you want to be, rather than putting energy and attention on the flaws and cracks.
This is important.
So often we say: “I’m sick of this’ ‘I don’t like this.’ And expect something to change. Nothing happens.
Yet when we say ‘I’d really like this.’ It’s a completely different conversation.
If you know what you’d like your partner to do – ask without expectation.
That way you are fair to everyone, and you give them the chance to show up or not.
Shine your light where you want to go, not where you wish you hadn’t been.
And be really careful what you wish for.
Just as fear and ego can block us from following our hearts, they can also confuse us with false desires, based on what’s expected of us, or what we think we ‘should’ do.
Get really clear about what your soul wants.
Ask it, and sit quietly enough that you can hear the response.
Your soul and The Universe working together make much better team captains than your brain and your ego.
You decide who runs the show.
When you say what you want and you ask for help, be willing to receive it – even if it’s not the help you want, or the way you would make it happen.
People suggest things because they want to support you.
It can be very hard for women who Get Shiz Done Fast And Alone to accept help and ideas from others.
In our Big Conversation on Saturday, I told Pete everything. What I really want in our relationship, how I want to be treated, how hard I find it to receive and why, and the work I had done around trust, in order to allow him to take control.
I had no expectation of the outcome. That was the scariest part. I had hope, and yet I also knew that carrying on the way things were, was not an option for me. If I was going to share the reins, we as a family needed him to pick them up them.
Thankfully, he was more than ready. He had seen that I was upset on Friday. He knew it was something I’d tried to express many times before. He sensed that I was completely serious about wanting things to be different, and also that I knew I had to show up differently too. We both took responsibility for what we had created, and decided together what we wanted to create next.
There were a few other things that contributed to the success of this conversation that I’ve learnt the hard way over the years:
Don’t have important conversations:
- The second your partner walks through the door. Just because you’ve been thinking about it all day, doesn’t mean they have.
- When either of you have been drinking
- When either of you are hungry
- When there are other people around, even if they’re in the next room
- Seize the moment when it comes (don’t wait for it to be perfect –remember those wasted lifetimes from the movies)
- Be calm yet confident, even though you are nervous
- Remember this is important to your soul
- Detach from outcomes
- Be clear that you mean it, and it’s not a bad day or your hormones talking
- Have decided what you will no longer tolerate
- Be absolutely clear that your happiness is non-negotiable
- Take full responsibility for your part in creating the situation
- Want the same happiness for your partner
- Remember that you are safe
This last one is essential. There is no real danger. (If there is real danger of physical harm, get out, and get help.)
There is always a way to work everything out. When you think about making change, the ego will immediately tell you ALL the things that will go wrong, and paint the worst picture it can to stop you taking action. The worst-case scenario is just that – a scenario, meaning: a description of possible actions or events in the future.
Years ago my fear of being a single mum and losing my home kept me stuck. I wasted a long time imagining the worst that could happen. When I found the courage to have the long-overdue conversation, I was detached from the outcome – good or bad. I just knew I wanted to be on my own, with my girls. If that meant being a single mum and living somewhere else, so be it.
Four weeks later I met Pete. And something else happened: the global financial market crashed. The interest rate on my mortgage unexpectedly dropped from 4% to 1%. The payments dropped to 25% of what they had been, and I could afford to keep my home.
I had no way of knowing those things would happen.
I only knew what my soul wanted, because I’d spent time on my own thinking, asking, and getting clear.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. It just meant that hiding from myself was no longer an option. Courage was called off the bench and onto the field.
All of my fears about ‘what people would think if I got a divorce’ came from ego. It’s something my ego loves to think about:
‘What will they think if I fail?’
‘What will they think if I succeed?’
In the end I realized that living in a little box called ‘Things I can do which will only be approved of’ was a surefire way to be miserable most of the time.
Our logical minds can only see:
‘If I do this, A will happen, and if I do this, B will happen.’
What we don’t see are all the other actions available to us if we widen our perspective, and that there is also a C, D, E, F, and a million other possible outcomes that open up when we just do what our soul wants to do.
Remembering this allows me to relax. My only job is to get quiet enough to hear the call to action, get my energy sorted so that my subconscious doesn’t feck things up, and then get up and act.
So often what we think we want, is our ego’s fantasy of belonging somewhere that our soul doesn’t really belong.
We stay in relationships, friendships, jobs, and businesses that no longer fit us, because our ego paints pictures of what it could be like ‘if only’, to keep us stuck. It’s only fear-ridden ego, which is terrified of change, that believes in ‘better the devil you know’.
Fantasies and fear keep us stuck.
By recognizing them for what they are, we can free ourselves.
When we do that, we open the door to our true potential, where all the love, happiness, and wealth we desire is waiting for us.
As one door closes, another one opens, and sometimes the most powerful decision we can make is to choose to close a door on something we know that we don’t want.
Often that means we have to find the courage to speak our truth, and have a conversation that we’ve been avoiding.
Every time we choose our true dreams, desires, and potential, we choose to allow things to get better, and just as quickly as life can seem to keep going ‘wrong’, we change our trajectory and things start to go ‘right’.
It was scary admitting to Pete how I was perpetuating the problem I was complaining about.
It meant that I’d be giving up control of a lot of things.
Or, what if I gave up all the control, and he didn’t step up, and then no-one would be making sure things were taken care of.
I also wondered if he might be angry or annoyed that I’d been blaming him for something that was just as much my fault.
I knew it was time to face up to it all.
I had to close the door on being the boss of my family, because that was the only way to open the door on the next level of our marriage, and to gain the relationship that deep-down, I really want.
I had no guarantee that door would open.
My husband is the most incredibly patient, understanding, big-hearted, and supportive man I have ever met.
He listened, and he spoke.
The more I took responsibility for the problem, so did he.
We both promised to show up differently for each other.
Promises are one thing. Actions are another.
I was hopeful, and I also had no idea if anything would change.
All I could do was keep my own promise to let him take control.
We had a good week, things felt different, and the energy between us had shifted.
And then, last Friday, I heard the words I’d dreamt of hearing for years:
‘Would you like to go out for dinner tonight? It’s all arranged.’
I didn’t ask for details.
(And I silently thanked the Big U that I’d bought an extra dress when I went shopping the previous week.)
It was one of the best nights of my life.
Apparently it’s happening again soon.
I don’t know when.
And this reforming-control-freak is, surprisingly, loving that.
Don’t let your human mind accept less than your soul signed up for.
Awkward conversations, with people you love, done from the heart, can be just as powerful as those that flow easily.
Never under-estimate your own ability to be brave.
And don’t save your courage for a crisis.
Written November 2016