If I were king of the forest

Recently I’ve been contemplating courage – the role that quality has played in my life and the degree to which I’m not feeling it at the moment. I’m not feeling a lot of things; depression has me operating on a narrow bandwidth at the moment and I’m trying to find things I could change that would help with that.

Often people think about courage as a response to fear. Courage is what you call upon to square up to threatening situations. I assume I’ve still got it in me to show up for the things that must be done, but I’ve not been tested in a while on that score. I’m really happy not to be tested and am in no hurry to have to be brave about anything.

The courage I’m missing is more of a state of being. I used to have more boldness, and a willingness to go open hearted into the world and throw myself fully into things. I’ve become cautious, wary, mistrustful. It’s not been an irrational or unreasonable process, not even slightly. It might even represent something like wisdom. However, I don’t like this version of me. I liked me better when I was a bit less sensible and a lot more open and available.

It’s not as simple as choosing differently. There’s an emotional exhaustion underpinning all of this. Experiences have taken a toll, and the prospect of pouring from an empty cup is unbearable. But perhaps that means the question is really about how to refill the empty cup. 

Part of the point of living with courage is to be fearless in face of uncertainty. To love without hesitation, unafraid of whatever does or does not result from that. To give, to care, to show up… That was easier to do when I felt that I made a difference and had things to offer. To find my courage again I need to find a sense of purpose and worth. I need to be able to imagine that showing up fearless and wholehearted is worth something in some way, and not just to me.

How many times can a person get this sort of thing wrong before they stop believing in it? I’ve got a lot of things wrong. I’ve messed up really badly with a number of people along the way – perhaps I chose the wrong people, but there’s an exhaustion that comes from having done the wholehearted thing and have everything I was trying to do fall apart in my hands, yet again. Love like you’ve never been hurt is a bloody difficult thing to aspire to, and nobody talks about what happens when the hurt level starts to compromise your underlying ability to love.

I don’t have answers at the moment, but it seems productive to frame the questions. I don’t want to be closed and anxious. I also don’t want to mess things up by being too intense (I got called weird and creepy a few years ago, that one still haunts me). 

I suspect that reclaiming my courage and my former way of being in the world is going to depend on finding spaces where that’s actually wanted and welcome. I may need help with this. I’m exploring that too, albeit cautiously at the moment.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “If I were king of the forest

  • karenenneagram

    It’s not easy being a passionfruit in a bowl of apples, which is what you and most of the people who love you are. And there are many, many who ‘grok’ you, and for whom your presence on planet is in itself a gift even when you’re not in ‘give’ mode. There are many things I could say in response to your words, but you don’t need many right now and there is just one I need to. Which is to remind you of what you already know but the depression hides from you: that your gift and contribution, your meaning and worth, come from the unique you and what moves in your heart, and not others ‘finding a use’ for you. Being welcomed and understood is necessary, yes, and it’s for who you are, not for what you earn by ‘giving’ what they approve of. Sometimes we are lonely, and when we’re both lonely and depressed we can believe the loneliness if down to inherent lack of worth. Not so. Sometimes the river whirls in a backwater for a while… no blame.

    Oh, and Archangel Michael’s a really good fella for sustaining you in knowing that, and in gentling you back into the world as you.:)

  • Annemarie

    It seems to me you you try and live with an open heart ❤
    It’s not wrong though to have boundaries in your life and USE them. This is not about fortress building but self- respect. No permeable membranes allowed!
    Keep dancing when no one’s looking 🌹

  • lornasmithers

    I think I get some of this. I’ve made loads of mistakes throwing myself into things and coming up against my limits as an autistic person, and failing, and getting hurt, and having to retreat to lick my wounds, and afterward experiencing a good deal of wariness and self-doubt. Whilst my issues come from personal limitations it sounds like yours come more from human interactions?

    • Nimue Brown

      I don’t know at this point what’s functionally my limitations and what of this can fairly be attributed to other people, it’s probably a bit of both. Just had someone drop me entirely and the only possible explanation involves me holding a boundary around something that was making me really uncomfortable… I am not reliably good at dealing with people, certainly, and that has dented my confidence considerably.

  • locksley2010

    I don’t know if this helps, but all I could think of is a quote from the 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee):

    “Courage isn’t just a matter of being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.”

  • What is courage? | Druid Life

    […] been thinking a lot about courage lately (previous post about courage). Often we define courage as feeling the fear but acting anyway. What troubles me about this […]

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