I have lots of precious childhood Christmas memories. One of them is sitting back-to-back with my twin sister on Christmas Day morning as we unwrapped our presents so that neither of us spoiled the surprise for the other in respect of the contents of a Christmas gift. (In those days twins were given the same gifts by aunt and uncles. Does that happen now?). Another great memory was playing out for hours in the snow with nobody saying, “Don’t throw snowballs. It’s dangerous”. (Back then, we seemed to have several inches of snow in the North-East of England every Christmas school holiday before global warming took effect). And, up there with the best of my memories, is the Christmas Day viewing of The Wizard of Oz. First shown on television in the UK on Christmas Eve in 1975, it became a annual feature of Christmas TV in millions of households across the nation. Last year its slot might have moved to New Year’s Day, but its appeal and the messages in it are still relevant almost 45 years later.
Who is your favourite character? Mine, without a second thought, is the Cowardly Lion. The lion who needed courage to make him into a proper lion. The lion who used to make me wonder how he wore his lion outfit for so long without itching! The lion who was scared of his own shadow. But in December 1975, I didn’t know anything about courage. I only knew that lions were supposed to have it and the Cowardly Lion didn’t.
It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I started to wonder what courage was all about. I started to wonder because I became a terrible worrier and dreamed about what it must be like to be brave and to have no worries; by the time I reached secondary school I was frightened of my own shadow. My worries grew worries of their own and all the while, my twin sister, who was a whole head and shoulders bigger than me on our first day of secondary school, tried to comfort me by telling me everything was going to be ok.
Why am I writing about this? Because, I’m still trying to work out what courage looks and feels like. I’m far less of a chronic worrier but it’s still very much part of who I am. I recognise now when the worry wheel starts to spin but it’s taken a lot of work to reach this point and I can’t take sole credit for that. I have hugely supportive family and friends but it’s the professional help that I receive along the way that’s made me understand that I’m normal, that courage is there within me, it just looks different to how I think it should look. We all have courage within us. Worry just makes it a bit harder to find.
This last year has required enormous amounts of courage from all of us: courage not to lose hope, courage to know that tomorrow might be a better day and courage to face our greatest fears and show up.
Please share this blog post with anybody you know that is searching for what courage might look like. Turn to yourself too, because it’s all of us. Just like the Cowardly Lion, we can be encouraged to open our hearts to find courage and it’s ok to feel vulnerable. It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok not to feel ok. It’s ok because it’s how each and every one of us feels at some point or another. It’s just a bit harder to tell who’s feeling that way because we’re not wearing itchy lion suits.
If this feels like a time where you’ve lost sight of your courage, close your eyes, take a pause and a breath, and if you listen closely, you’ll hear it talking to you. It’s there and it’s saying, “I’ve got you”.