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Are you courageous or comfortable? (Part 1)

According to Brene Brown a researcher from Houston and Oprah guru, it is scientifically proven that you can be either courageous or comfortable but it is impossible to be both. And in order to feel joy one MUST be willing to be vulnerable.

Now for most of my life I have to admit I have been willing to forsake joy in order to avoid vulnerability. And I was all good with being comfortable and not courageous.

One might ask who wouldn’t choose to be comfortable? Isn’t this a life goal to get to a place where one has no worries and no stress?

But this isn’t comfortable as in wearing your favorite sweats or having enough to eat. This comfortable is choosing to not try because you MIGHT feel pain.

I had a student that hid on the day of the state regents exam rather than take it. His reason: no one in his family had ever graduated high school and if he did he wouldn’t fit in anymore. He chose comfortable.

Courageous might be the complete opposite for two different people. For one woman it might be going out in public with no makeup, jeans and a tee-shirt, thereby having no fancy clothes or makeup to hide behind. For another (this would be me) it would be getting all dressed up thereby drawing attention to oneself instead of blending in.

I’ve avoided vulnerability and courage like I now avoid fragrances.

Until recently.

Now my MCS has become my superhero cape. I know I’m courageous because I haven’t been comfortable in a very long time.

But I’ve learned that vulnerability and courage are not something that you acquire like a piece of jewelry that can be worn and kept forever until they are passed on in your will. One cannot give them to someone else and they have to be newly acknowledged and acquired with each situation.

Dr. Brown said one of the most vulnerable things for men was asking their wives to make love. These were people in a long marriage. And yet, they felt vulnerable and feared rejection each time. Maybe this is why so many marriages are failing, people get married thinking now everything is going to be comfortable, I don’t need to be vulnerable anymore? I don’t need to be courageous anymore? Just think I don’t have to go on first dates or risk being rejected when I approach a girl? Now I’m married, so I’m safe. In fact I think most if not all relationships fail because one person is willing to grow (be vulnerable) and one stagnates (be comfortable). The two are opposing forces. Imagine them as on each end of a rubber band that keeps getting stretched. If one person does not chose to move toward the other, the rubber band snaps and inertia catapults the two far away from each other.

With MCS I have to be courageous or I die. I had to ask people to stop wearing the toxins around me. I’ve had to ask people to leave my home. I realize now that those that refused could not overcome their need to be comfortable vs being courageous and doing things differently.

I’ve had very little joy in my life and I now realize it is because I refused to be vulnerable. I refused to take the chance to try to make things better because they might just get worse.

But I’m learning it’s worth the risk.

Courage is very different for different people. Some going 100 mph on a motorcycle is courageous others it’s saying to a friend, “I need to tell you how I’m feeling. Will you listen?” There is resistance in everything we do. The greater the desire the greater the resistance. Think about something you really, really want: divorce, change careers, say I love you to your new love. I’ll bet as soon as you think about making the change, even if it would bring you great joy, the first thing that happens is a list of all that could go wrong NOT a list of all the things that could go right. Go ahead write down that list. Be in comfortable mode. I’m divorced. I know this place.

If I get a divorce:

1. I’m not employed I won’t be able to feed myself or my son.

2. I’ll have no insurance.

3. Where will I live?

4. I’m in grad school. How will I do that and take care of my son?

5. I’ll lose most of my friends.

6. It won’t be safe for my son. His father drinks heavily.

7. People will judge me for leaving or say I told you so for marrying him in the first place.

8. My dad died when I was young. I don’t want my son to go through not having a father.

9. To many more to mention.

In reality. My husband and I were divorced long before we signed the papers. For the first three years of my son’s life, we all lived in the same house, ate the same food, went to social functions. But the only thing that said marriage in that house was the legal marriage contract. There was no love or respect or joy. There were two adults refusing to leave the comfort zone and life was miserable. I thought I hid all this from my son, but now that I see the choices he has made as an adult, I find that he is stuck back in that horrible marriage. He now has to fight his way to his courage and out of the comfort zone of high drama relationships and low striving for growth.

I now know that the statement, “I’m staying in the relationship for my son.” Is total bullshit. The real statement should have been, I’m staying in the relationship because I don’t want to be vulnerable. I’m afraid of joy. I would have to grow as a person, if I left. I would have to do the work to face the mess of tangled fears I brought from my childhood into my adult life. I would have to admit that the emotions of ambivalence, apathy, and self loathing are energy and energy affects everyone it comes in contact with. I have control over the emotions I feel but not the effect it will have on someone else. I have NO RIGHT to use my child as a scapegoat to avoid living MY LIFE.

In the end, I negotiated my separation agreement. My grad school was paid for. I retained insurance while I was in school. I moved in with my parents to help with raising my son. If my ex showed up and I thought he had been drinking he got to visit his son under my supervision or not at all. A few friends drifted away but even more came into my life. I explained honestly to my son why we were divorced and he was fine with it. No one judged me for leaving. A few judged me for marrying him in the first place. Since I took this as stepping stone toward growth, let them have their issues.

So today, I challenge you to make that I’m comfortable list and then write a second list, an I’m courageous list. And then chose if you should stay in the unhappy marriage or the unhappy job….

Please note I never took my marriage vows for granted. I discussed what bothered me, what I needed to change. I tried to get him to go to counseling with me. I explored all the options of saving the marriage. My marriage list to leave:

1. Do I still love you: No

2. Is there any aspect of my life that I am better off being with this person vs leaving this marriage: No

3. Am I staying because I’m more afraid of the unknown than the pain I currently exist in: Yes

4. Ten years from now do I still see myself with this person: No

5. If I found out our marriage contract was for some reason invalid, would I marry him again? HELL NO.

“The only courage you every need, is the courage to fulfill the dreams of your own life.” (Oprah)

So are you going to be comfortable or courageous today? Are you going to be apathetic toward your life or joyful?