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Fierce Courage

I am practiced at living a compartmentalized life

each box separated from the other

so I can breathe and manage

in a challenging world

She was my second daughter

alive on this earth for 32 years

living with an individuality all the while

behind the bars of liver disease

She was born a sick baby

resisting to accept and learning to manage

her diseased body, in this world for a purpose

reminding me daily to appreciate what I got.

She was sassy and belligerent

tall and beautiful and marched

into this world with bravado

laying people flat once they found out.

We were warned the clock was ticking

the black cloud was looming

trouble was coming

to put our seat belts on

She was hilarious and troubled

loud and silenced

loyal to a fault and lonely

as she hung on to what she knew and denied

I learned my voice was hidden by my pain

advocating her needs with health professionals, educators,

insurance agents and anyone else who tried to

define what she needed based on their rules.

I surprised myself with the power of love as I

grew and changed, denied and accepted

the inevitability of her exit long before my time,

I discovered fierce courage.

My compartmentalized spaces became

brave spaces where I put on my brave face

and entered a painful situation with

brave coursing through my veins.

She would often remind me to think happy thoughts

as she laid in the hospital undergoing another test.

She’d look me straight in the eye and demand

my attention because thinking anything else wasn’t allowed.

Brave space.

Every human on earth has to find their brave space

though it’s much easier to hide under the covers,

breathe in warm air and stay silent

Finding our voice is brave space.

Standing up against others is brave space.

Taking action for justice is brave space.

Loving ourselves no matter what is brave space.

When I see others standing in brave space,

I am inspired to keep standing in mine.

I practice brave space.

I practice brave space with you.

Together we will create brave space Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” We exist in the real world We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds. In this space We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world, We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere, We call each other to more truth and love We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know. We will not be perfect. This space will not be perfect. It will not always be what we wish it to be But It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Just before this meditation, we decided not to go to Thanksgiving dinner at my daughters’ house. It’s really hard to face these things that we don’t have control over. I wanted to share that. And it’s okay to cry.

  • Thank you for being so true and authentic. I’ve been around so much of the opposite of that. It fills my heart to be around authentic and true people. It helps me. Thank you.

  • A few things came to me about being brave. I don’t know how you did it with your daughter’s passing. It’s either deal with it or walk away. It takes so much courage. The way my family member has suffered and been in pain for so many years, sometimes it just guts me out inside. I have to be brave for them, they’re being brave. And there’s my four cats who are elderly now. Down the road—I hope it’s a long time—I’m going to have to be really brave. They are what’s kept me going for years. I also think of the pioneers—how brave they were, they were freezing and starving, and all the hard work they had to do. They didn’t have our conveniences. How brave. It is such a relief to be here in this group where people are honest.

  • Thank you so much for your readings. All I know is that I am grateful that I listened to whatever brought me here. Stephen Jenkinson said that the difference between truth and reality is that reality also includes everything that is not true. I have to think about that. One of my family members is not coming for Thanksgiving dinner, she’s disassociated herself from the family. During the reading—I loved the fierce courage—I equate it to how I fought for my husband when he was sick. I am reminded of orchestral concerts. My favorite part is the tuning prior to the concert. When all the instruments come together to pitch. I equate that to life. We are over here and I have to tweak some strings and practice. There comes a moment in time, this fierce courage, it’s a focus. Sometimes we have to do these hard things. My family member blames me for a lot. I am reminded of a Family Circus cartoon where a mother is with her children all in a tree, and a passerby asks, “How do you divide your love among all those children.” The mother says, “Love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.” I have gratitude for this group, that helps me tune and refine, so that my love multiplies out to people whose reality is still filled with pain.

  • Thank you for the reading and thank you for the image of the tuning. It was profound for me the difference between a safe space and a brave space. When I was young, I spent a lot of time under tables because they felt safe. I even decorated them. As I got older, I looked for safe spaces a lot. I would hold things in a lot. One moment that brought out a safe space for me was Tiananmen Square. It was that note, that tune. And it allowed me to stand up and make an announcement in church. I was so afraid of public speaking, my voice was very deep inside of me. That led to me working for the church and giving sermons, and finding a comfortable space with public speaking and sharing from my heart. I resonate with a brave space, and that note, I can feel it.

  • That brought back for me the incredible series of connections and circumstances. The Tiananmen Square headquarters was located in a US town, run by college students who had fled just before they would have been captured. Every time I see that picture of that one guy and the tanks, speaking truth to power, so amazing. And this group, I always wonder how the next day can be more moving than the day before, and it never fails.

  • Thank you. I appreciate the honesty and depth of what people share about themselves. I think for me, the brave space term helped me put into perspective the range of what it means to be brave. I have associated it with doing something big. But what’s big or easy for one person may be hard for someone else. For me, a brave space is taking the time and compassion to understand my own criticism of others and of myself. They go hand-in-hand. I am noticing how I am doing it, I’m not successful and not connected in a way that needs to happen for me. I feel this discussion is hopeful and an energizing way for me to be with it. I know I can be critical and I may not say something. I’m not understanding where it’s coming from. I appreciate this experience of allowing me to get a little closer to that.

  • Susan Jeffers says that if we find ourselves being critical, we are being critical to ourselves first. Just uncovering that is a key to changing our relationship to outside. Your awareness is the first step. I encourage you to read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers.

  • Thank you. You are an illustration of being brave. When we are brave, we don’t even know it. I think of my own trauma, looking back on it, unbeknownst to me I was very brave. When I tell my story, people are in shock how brave I was. I didn’t try to look at my mental artillery. We are more equipped than we even know for getting through things. I am thankful for everyone here who helps us each open up. We are teaching each other.

  • Thank you. I love the line “we have the right to start somewhere” and “we have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.” I’ve always cared about safe spaces. I work with different organizations on racial justice. I used to walk around with a safety pin on my lapel saying I’m a safe person. It’s a joke. To bring it up to a brave space—as a white person, I will and have made mistakes. I am starting somewhere and I have a responsibility to examine and admit when I’m wrong. It’s such a powerful idea, a brave space, on so many levels.

  • There’s a line in Narcotics Anonymous about “the gift of desperation.” It reminds me there is sometimes a fine line between desperation and courage.

  • Thank you, friends, for sharing this space with me and each other. Thank you for spending your precious 15 minutes for yourself and sharing that with us, using your ears and eyes and your heart to be present so that we can be together.

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