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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Courage Challenge Report: Dealing with Dragons

It being an unusually mild February break, my daughter, the Lovely K., declared her intention to sleep outside in a tent. We set it up on Wednesday, just one step from the porch, and she and a friend piled in for the night. The following morning I found that although the friend had slept the night through in the tent, K. had come in around 11, and slept on the sofa. Her explanation was that she hadn't taken enough blankets and warm clothes. Mild February, but still February in upstate New York.

So the next night said she would give it another go. This time, no friend, but lots of extra blankets, coats, hats, etc. She was tired and ready to climb into her nest of quilts and covers at 8:30.

Physical courage, as we have said on this blog, involves willingness to endure discomfort. It also involves willingness to withstand the threat of snakes and strangers and things that go bump in the night.  Note: it's really a good idea if nobody puts rubber snakes in the tent. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The fear at the bottom of the hole

It has been argued that there is, fundamentally, only one fear: the fear of death. This hypothesis says that if you trace any fear to its deepest, darkest root, it turns out it's the fear of nothingness, of non-being, our mortality. But I recently came across a very inspiring passage from How To Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish (and yes, I read books like this!) that offered me a new insight into this fear.

"Mortality is the condition of being able to die, regarded by many as a curse, but more properly appreciated as a gift, the gift of design and choice, of gain and loss, of hope and desperation, of failure and redemption, all modes of being that are available only to creatures who, like sentences (and novels), have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is the inevitability and shadow of death that provides life with a narrative arc, and provides moments in that narrative with a meaning; for the meaning of a moment - the distinctiveness - is a function of the place prepared for it by a past and the place waiting for it in a future...Without the specter and period of death, there would be no urgency of accomplishment, no expectations to be realized or disappointed, no anxieties to be allayed. Each moment would bear an equal weight or equal weightlessness." (p 154)

Part of what we seek to do on Lion's Whiskers is offer you suggestions for reframing fear and courage. What if, rather than bemoaning and cursing your fears, you looked at them as a gift? What if every fear is an opportunity to create meaning out of your experience?

Ask yourself: without fear, can you have courage?


Monday, February 13, 2012

Parkour? Or Peace Like a River?

The subtitle for our blog talks about "challenges on the path ahead." I want to establish some working definitions for the purpose of today's post. Let's stay that "the path ahead" means whatever goals you have for your life, for your children, for your family. Let's then agree that "challenges" are whatever obstacles or barriers lie across that path as you move toward your goal. They might be physical challenges, financial obstacles, emotional barriers - roadblocks come in all shapes and sizes. Please hold these definitions while I digress a bit.

Just recently I read somewhere (and I'm afraid I can't give credit where credit is due, because I read a lot of parenting content on-line and I don't remember where ran across this) that being a good parent means making a choice between what is easy and what is right. I puzzled over this for a while and at last concluded that it sets up a false dichotomy. It implies that what is right is not easy, and because most of us prefer easy to hard, it further implies that we would rather not do the right thing - because we're lazy or scared or busy or tired or impatient or weak. But what if choosing what is right is also the easy choice?

I'm going to assume you know what is right - for yourself, for your children, for your family - and that your "right" may not look exactly like my "right."  But let's get back to the challenges and the path ahead. There will always be obstacles on this path toward what is right for you and your kids. So what happens when the road is blocked?

Friday, February 10, 2012

5-Minute Courage Workout: Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself Uncomfortable!

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:
Part of developing physical courage is to gain, through experience, a comfort with discomfort.  It is impossible to know one's physical limits and/or capacity without testing them.  It is through conquering our fears of high places, being cold,  underwater, fatigued, thirsty, or whatever particular physical discomfort we may have, that we have the opportunity to boost our physical courage capacity.  It is through confronting physical discomfort and pushing through pain, that we can learn (and teach our children) that we have the capacity to survive situations that may someday truly test our limits.  Our assumed limitations often have as much to do with the story we tell ourselves about our physical discomfort as any actual physical limitation.  Pushing ourselves just that little bit past our usual comfort zone can often reveal surprising strength.

Here's a list of 5-Minute Courage Workouts by age range to help you and your child to develop some comfort with physical discomfort:

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Stories, Narrative and Storytelling

This again is from Bruce Jackson's wonderful The Story is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories, and speaks to our human urge to reframe our experiences into coherent narratives so that we can understand what happens to us and around us:

"When we can't figure out the plot in real life, people say, 'It's senseless, just senseless.' And that may be true; it may be senseless. Sense is a product of our intelligence, not a condition of the world. But few of us are satisfied with 'it's senseless' as an explanation. We want bottom lines. We want villains and conspiracies and plots like those in movies and novels; we want to live in a causal universe, a universe in which things make sense."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Courage Question of the Day

Here at Lion's Whiskers we are hoping to collect examples of physical courage.  To recap, here's how we define physical courage:

Physical courage is the one type, from the Six Types of Courage, that most people think of first.  It is the type of courage that allows us to risk discomfort, injury, pain or even death—running into burning buildings as a firefighter, facing an enemy on the battlefield, undergoing chemotherapy, climbing a mountain, protecting a child from a dangerous animal.  We are right to be wary of pain: pain tells us where our boundaries and limits are.  However, sometimes there are things more important than pain, and our physical fear becomes a border to be crossed.  Physical fear is often blown entirely out of proportion: pain is often greater in anticipation than in fact, and that dread can become an insurmountable barrier.  Physical courage also involves recognizing that your body is how you participate in the world; keeping it healthy, strong, and resilient prepares you for all kinds of challenges, not just physical ones. 

Do you think it takes more physical courage to climb a mountain or battle an illness? Do you think it takes more courage to learn to sleep in the dark, take your first steps, or try diving off a diving board for the first time?  Do you notice a difference between your son and your daughter, in terms of how they define physical courage and what it looks like in their lives?

Can you remember a time that you or your child had to have physical courage?  Please post your thoughts or stories here. 

We would very much appreciate hearing from you!