[Bella’s intro. In this guest post, Amy Carpenter offers two things I value highly: an affirming view of single parents and the perspective of a psychotherapist who recognizes people’s strengths, even when they are not so sure about them themselves. Amy was kind enough to offer me a sneak peak at the book on solo parenting that she is working on. I love it and once it is published, I’ll tell you more about it. For now, here’s Amy Carpenter’s take on dancing with fear and courting bravery. Her focus is on solo parents, but as she notes, the implications are relevant to everyone, regardless of their marital or parental status. Thank-you, Amy!]
Dancing with Fear, Courting Bravery
Guest Post by Amy Carpenter
As a therapist, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing fear with my clients who are single parents. Together, we look at ways to accept fear and “dance with it”, in order to arrive at a place of non-resistance. On countless occasions, I’ve been able to witness the miracles that happen when a solo mom or dad lays down the sword they’ve wielded against their fear. After all, fear is something we all have in some form or another, whether it’s a fear of failure or of not being good enough, fear of the unknown or fear of what others might think. Sometimes, everything can be moving along just fine, and fear will still come knocking, asking questions like: “Is it really ok that I’m on my own?”. The truth is, our internal reserves are more accessible when we no longer feel a need to overcome our fear. Instead, as Rumi states, we learn how to treat the fear that waits at the door as our guest.
What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is the relationship we have with our courage. Courage has come to mean a great many things that do not necessarily line-up with everyday life for most people. For example, someone can be considered very brave when they decide to train for an iron man, or launch a polar expedition, or sail around the world, or back-pack alone through South America. In short, bravery often means making some very BIG things happen in life. Things most of us would never even consider doing, let alone have the time or resource to complete. What then, does that say about the everyday variety of bravery? Do we have to be stellar to be brave? Do we have to undertake something awesome and epic in order to have courage? Or can we claim bravery as something much more personal, something that for us, may be no less awesome, epic or stellar, however ‘commonplace’ it might appear to the world?
For example, a massive amount of courage is required for someone with social phobia to join a sorority, or someone with PTSD and a history of family neglect to parent a child with special needs. A parent committed to raising children alone is brave by definition, because they live every day with the stigma that single parent homes are “less than”, yet they strive to do their best anyway. The bravery list can go on and on. Just fill in the blank of whatever circumstantial obstacle may exist and instantly the commonplace is elevated to grand status; ambitious and brave as an Everest expedition.
Everyday bravery gets overlooked for many reasons. Perhaps there’s just too much to do in a day to really think about what is being accomplished in the realm of courage. Perhaps it’s easier to focus on the happenings of social media, YouTube, or a Hollywood movie. Or perhaps it’s just too uncomfortable to think of oneself as brave. Like an oversized shirt that really should belong to someone else; bravery doesn’t always align with our self-concept. Especially when we stop to consider, as we do, the vulnerable spaces we each possess. Spaces that can feel so dominant, courage becomes like a five-year-old trying to play in the NBA. Vulnerability and fear are the all-star players who have been in the game a lot longer. Bravery hardly stands a chance, but this doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it doesn’t mean it can’t make a basket if given half a chance.
It’s downright astounding to think of the gains we might receive should we FULLY own our courage. How much confidence, determination and wherewithal we could bring to our endeavors if we recognize that we are indeed, brave beyond measure. Whatever the form, however great the vulnerability, courage is what keeps us committed to the process, whether it’s solo parenthood or running a corporation, launching a creative idea or giving a public speech. Courage is there all the while, like that feisty 5-year-old on the basketball court, racing like hell to get those two points. Making a basket is the ultimate goal. And when you stop to think about it, courage is the only one who can.
Amy Carpenter, LCSW is a psychotherapist and writer living in Rockport, Maine. She recently completed her second book, Channel Crossing: The Challenge and Success of Solo Parenting (currently under editorial review). Amy is a veteran single parent and managing partner at Singlehandedly.me, where she writes and curates essays on the solo parent life. Find her at Amycarpenter.net.