“Tears are evidence of lost courage.”
— Sandra Ford Walston
Every Woman’s Journey of Discovery
This book is about women and courage-how women can begin to live their lives more fully by discovering and reclaiming the virtue of courage. It specifically helps women to develop courage as a resource, to learn how to draw often on that resource, and to teach others to do so.
Incorporating real stories of contemporary who have called on courage to transform their lives, this book is more than a catalyst for change. It provides an inspirational blueprint to help women achieve growth through understanding and embracing courageous attitudes and actions.
The women quoted in this book are not famous; they are every woman. You will see how, having become aware of their own courage, they followed their convictions, took risks, faced the future, and pursued their dreams. As you, too, discover your courage, you will build the tools necessary to create the life you desire.
Courage is the finest virtue, the heart and spirit of life. The purpose of this book is to encourage every woman to identify and access her own reservoir of courage, reclaim the power of the heart, and integrate both into her feminine energy.
My life experiences are similar to those of other women who encounter the normal bumps and bruises of living. Yet I feel that an invisible ally that may elude women has guided me. From an early age, I recognized and cherished the energy of courage. When faced with crises in life, I discovered that I could always count on courage to help me with the constant reinvention of my being. I have drawn on courage to overcome illness, reveal vulnerability, face obstacles, and confront abuse.
I first became aware of my own courage when I was five years old. A rare form of chickenpox threatened my life. My parents rushed me to a hospital where I lapsed into unconsciousness for a week. I was so ill the doctors told my parents I might not live. The experience left me not only with physical scars but a profound awareness that if I could overcome critical illness, I could overcome almost anything. This budding awareness, which I now know was a burgeoning reservoir of courage, continued to strengthen and sustain me through many phases in my life.
Another pivotal event occurred when I was twenty. As a Catholic, I was taught to abstain from sexual activity before marriage. Nevertheless, I became pregnant out of wedlock. The pregnancy was a lonely and terrifying ordeal. For three months, I persevered through morning sickness that lasted all day long, and dry heaves forced me to throw up in street gutters as I walked to college classes. Honoring my faith, I felt compelled to go to confession and absolve myself of what I considered a sin. Movies depicting women dying during childbirth had made an impression on my young mind, and I feared that I might die before being absolved of my wrongdoing. Desperately distraught and confused, I didn’t know which way to turn. But after much introspection, I was able to confront my disgrace and face a priest.
Entering the confessional with tears of shame, I told the priest of my dilemma. Remarkably, he told me, “God has forgiven you, but you have not forgiven yourself.” In that moment I was filled with an enormous sense of relief and comfort. I realized I had the power of choice. I did not want to marry someone I did not love, nor did I want an abortion. So, with great pain and internal struggle, I decided to give my baby up for adoption. Nothing has compared to going home from the hospital with empty arms.
My experience with the priest turned out to be a monumental blessing. From that experience, my “courageous will” became real to me, and my consciousness of the power of courage provided me with a tool I have used all my life.
Years later, as an adult, I followed a man I was to marry from California to Colorado, where he established a new business. While a major move can be a difficult transition for anyone, this adjustment was greatly complicated by a painful breakup shortly after our relocation.
Angry, disillusioned, and completely discouraged, I had to face the unknown. I was profoundly frightened by the instability of my life, and there I was in a city where I had no friends, family, or job. My core fear was that I would not survive. If I did survive, how could I persevere under the circumstances.
I felt vulnerable, fragile and abandoned. Many times, while flying to visit my family for the holidays, I prayed the plane would crash. If I died, my disheartened spirit would no longer be in pain. I would not be required to reinvent myself.
Yet, in moments of prayer and meditation, I kept hearing an internal voice offering hope: If you can make it through this depressing ordeal, great insight and a special gift will unfold.
This crisis re-awakened my awareness of courage as a force that I needed to survive. With courage, a devastating experience could be redeemed as a source of fresh insight, clarity, and purpose. This turning point convinced me that God had put me on this planet to sharpen and evolve the courageous spirit within me, and to encourage other women to do the same.
As I matured, I was keenly interested in developing self-awareness. Observing how I approached the normal transitions of my life, I noted that my ally- courage- served me well. I made drastic career changes every six to eight years, and each industry I entered was significantly different from the last. Yet as I moved through the fields of education, real estate, banking, and business consulting, I was able to transfer my skills with relative ease from one business sector to another.
When asked how I could so easily maneuver through these career transitions, I replied that the desired outcomes were easy for me to envision and implement as long as I drew upon my heart’s desire and my courage. In each industry I was motivated by the excitement of working on my own. Creativity, an essential element of my character, partnered with my courage to “invent” both my professional and personal life.
Assisting others is a goal in my life, whether as a friend, consultant, speaker, coach, or author. Fascination with the richness of life and a deep commitment to upholding the highest of human values have been the threads from which I have woven my life experience. I experience all aspects of my life with passion. I challenge myself beyond the status quo, pushing for excellence in sports, travel, relationships, writing, and speaking.
For a long time, I didn’t realize that this approach to life was unusual. Living life with gusto seemed natural, innate. But I know now that is not so. Living life with verve is a cultivated skill. With courage as my strength, I have been able to design meaningful goals for my life. And doing so has enabled me to claim my heart and spirit.
Writing has never been one of my ambitions. I am a public speaker and prefer to express myself orally, so writing this book has been one of my two greatest acts of courage. The other was giving up my son for adoption. Thanks to that wonderful and caring priest who helped me, I mustered the courage I needed to forge ahead. I knew even then that nothing would ever be as difficult as that devastating experience.
As a five-year old, a young adult, and a grown woman, I used my courage to reinvent myself. As I continue to nurture the courage I discovered during those particularly difficult times, courage became an invaluable companion during the more ordinary trails of life.
During the many times I edited this section of the book, I became aware that I was crying. I was crying about the first half of my life, and I realized the tears were evidence of lost courage—the times I did not draw from my reservoir of courage.
With a vulnerable heart filled with courage, I dedicate this book to my son, always loved and never forgotten; his memory gives me the courage to do what I am called to do.
Why Women and Courage?
I wrote this book to help women understand what courage really is, why society rarely recognizes women as courageous, and why such recognition is vital to knowing ourselves. Discovering courage awakens an ancient feminine energy that every woman should utilize. Reading this book and working through the three-step process (See Chapter Six) can be a major step in integrating courage into your life.
COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue challenges women to expand their self-perceptions and adopt courage as one aspect of a complete self. When a woman recognizes her conditioned responses- when she ceases to be a product of the past and calls upon the aid and comfort of courage- she will tap a reservoir of energy. Then, and only then, can courage serve as the catalyst for transforming obstacles into opportunities.
In this book you will read stories of real women who share their intimate experiences in manifesting courage. The women interviewed come from diverse backgrounds, and there is no correlation between courage and age, ethnic background, or education (see Research and Survey Results on page 56).
The years of interviews yielded the Source Wheel (see page 86), which depicts twelve Behaviors of Courage. Specific action techniques can then be used to integrate courage and enjoy the benefits of doing so. A special section called Books Recommended by the Courageous Women has been prepared as an additional resource for your journey.
By fusing courage with their innate energy, all women can enhance their ability to act from their hearts. When confronted with a choice, you can consciously call on courage as a guiding force. And by understanding how other women have used this forgotten virtue, you can gather energy to meet challenging experiences, expand your perceptions, and enrich your life.
All women have had debilitating experiences that compel self-examination and reinvention. Many emotional, physical, and psychological crises are common to women cross-culturally: fear, loss, illness, abuse, betrayal, and low self-esteem. Yet the courage to face and conquer these obstacles is available to every woman.
COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman is a powerful tool for discovering a new force, acknowledging an existing one, or recovering a lost one. Allow its images to open your mind to a more spirited and joyful way of living. Then take what you need from its passages to fill your heart and spirit. It is for every woman. And every woman is you.