Courage shows up in many different ways. There are those who demonstrate this quality by the degree to which they take risks and how they live with a “go for it” attitude. There are those such as soldiers, police, fire and rescue who put themselves in harms way, to help and protect us. Then there are the often faceless, nameless people who lead their life from a quiet, internal place of courage.
It took incredible courage to care for Gary during his illness. It took more to find the strength to go on without him. Over the years, there have been witnesses to my courage, people who recognized this quality in me even when I didn’t see it for myself.
Just weeks before Gary died, I attended a meeting for a feature film project I had been developing based on the life and death of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Ken was a Nigerian political activist murdered for taking a stand against oil companies and the Nigerian Government. He was someone who also exemplified courage. Forest Whitaker was interested in directing. We had set up a pitch meeting with him because Djimon Hounsou had stepped up to play the role of Saro-Wiwa. The meeting went well but as things will go with film projects, nothing transpired.
When Gary died a few weeks later, flowers arrived from Whitaker and his staff, which meant a lot to me. They knew because Djimon let them know. I had called Djimon to tell him the news. He was shocked. We had been working together for months on the project and I had never once mentioned the reality I was dealing with at home. Though I didn’t know Gary was terminal, I knew he was very ill. But I kept that part of my life separate from my career.
In his deep base voice rich with an African accent, Djimon spoke to me of my courage and my strength ~ to have shown up and worked on the project as I did and never reveal my personal struggles was, to him, an incredible virtue. In the days, months and years to follow, when the darker times hit and I wondered how I could keep going, I would often reach back in time to that conversation. I used Djimon’s words as a touchstone and an inspiration to keep going. If a man who was once homeless on the streets of Paris could see courage in the way I led my life then surely I could step up and keep choosing to be courageous.
I see a lot of fear at times in my own life and in the lives of others. A significant part of coaching is centered on educating people about their fears, shining light into those dark corners and giving them tools to step beyond the fear into their brilliance. This requires courage and I am humbled and awed over and over by those who take on their challenges, find their own touchstones and make their way past the fear.
To honor the quality of courage, next week I will feature blogs about and by those who demonstrate this quality in their lives. Guest bloggers, Julie Fornaro and Kelly Farley join the CBT blog with pieces that speak to this theme so check back in for a week of inspiration and to celebrate those who choose courage over fear.