Must Love Crows
The 3 phases of courage - must love crows

Everyone has things they don’t like doing. My least favorite thing to do? Put flea medication on my cat, Jack.

Jack has a special place in my heart. No joke, he helped save my life. When I was struggling with sobriety, he showed up at my door, looking for love.

Love Heals. The love I felt for him was one of the catalysts that helped me figure out how to love myself. So the cliché about rescuing animals is absolutely true in this case: I saved him just as much as he saved me.

Over the past few weeks, my little fur dude’s activity of choice has been scratching himself. If my suspicions were correct – that he had fleas – it would mean I’d have to apply flea medication, which, not surprisingly, was on his list of least favorite activities as well.

The coldness on his neck from the alcohol in the meds freaks him the fuck out, which breaks my heart because the little man already has PTSD (his previous owner died tragically.) That said I’m keen on locating some hard proof before I start the process.

Unfortunately for the both of us, I found one crawling on his face the other day. I was bummed to say the least. What we had to do (it takes two to apply it) came with the added bonus of being shamed and ostracized.  And no, I’m not talking about the Facebook comments section: this is what Jack the cat does to us humans when we apply the stuff.

We applied it anyway. The other option was him getting infested and our home getting ransacked with fleas – not happening. And true to form, he freaked out.

He tried to outrun the feeling on his neck down the driveway, up the driveway, into the backyard, and into the neighbor’s yard.

Shortly after his run commenced though, he stopped in a pile of dirt. I watched from the window (he needed his space) as he sat down and closed his eyes, looking like a furry little buddha. There he stayed for over an hour.

Somewhere amongst my intermittent window watching of him and dish washing/thinking, some profound-ness came to me:

Was he uncomfortable? Yes.

Did he realize that there was no way to outrun his discomfort? Yes.

Did he continue to try to outrun his discomfort? No.

To a cat, it’s logical to stop running. He doesn’t have all the human idiosyncracies clogging up his mind, telling him to do otherwise.

But for a human, it takes courage to stop.

In the eyes of a human, what Jack did was courageous. He could have kept trying to outrun the flea medication, and ignored me for days. But he knew that he’d just end up suffering more.

So he let himself sit in that dirt pile for a bit, and watching him do so got me thinking:

We need to get used to sitting in the dirt pile with our feelings.

Feeling shitty is temporary. So is feeling happy. Where we get into trouble is when we diagnose feeling terrible as permanent and shut ourselves off from the chance to feel better, by refusing to let ourselves feel it.

I remember when I used to immediately red flag feeling anything less than good. I’d either head straight to the doctor, thinking I needed to up my antidepressant ASAP, or else I’d just get wasted.

I would diagnose myself as seriously screwed up, all for being human and having an off spell, ie, a day, a couple of days, or a week.

It’s not bad to feel unhappy, and it takes courage to stop trying to outrun our unhappiness.

In my case, investigating and sitting with my unhappiness has taught me how to be Courageous.

I’ve come to know 3 phases of Courage:

The first phase – Noticing that you’ve normalized a behavior that is unhealthy, like running from how you feel. Just witnessing that you’re doing this, and how it might not be working for you, is Courageous.

The second phase – Doing things differently the next time you notice you’re ready to extend that same behavior. Courage is changing things up: If you’ve always done it one way, try another.

The third phase – Continuing to try to do things differently, in spite of failing to do so. Courage is committing to doing things differently the next time around.

Acts of Courage, in whatever form or degree they come in, are powerful.

Any time you choose to do things differently it’s a win, not only for you but for the people and the world around you, too.

No act of courage goes unnoticed by the world.

Despite the lack of a pat on the back or a “Way to go, babe!” there are heaps of people being positively affected by your efforts to be well. You are setting an amazing example.

So don’t stop setting examples. Don’t stop being courageous, in whatever phase you can manage to at the moment.

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