Saturday, November 22, 2014

YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS!: Seeking the meaning of this exclamation

TELLING MY "UNGRATITUDE" STORY.  Here I am taking out all those negative remarks out of my body spirit during our premier performance of the Soulprint Players on Sunday, November 16th, 2014, at the Mask Center in Little Five Points Community Center, Atlanta, Georgia. The theme was gratitude in its entire spectrum, including the opposite. (all photos by Dean Hesse)
"YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS!" a fellow InterPlayer proclaimed to me after our first performance a week ago here in Atlanta. We had just finished our debut as the newly minted Soulprint Players improvising on the topics our audience had given us related to the theme of gratitude. 

Hallelujah for COURAGE! But what does it mean? What exactly is COURAGE?

I thanked my fellow InterPlayer for his remark and then was drawn away by the celebratory hugs and remarks of other InterPlay performers. But his remark nagged at me, harkening me back to the many times viewers of my artwork at an exhibit had exhorted the same remark:

GESTURE CHOIR ON "GROWING OLD".  Here I am (second from the left) supporting Atlanta InterPlayer Gerry Cook (far right) as he tells his story about "growing old." It felt tremendously freeing to let my body wisdom imitate his movements. I practiced "easy focus" and followed Gerry. He succeeded in telling his entire story through movement without words. How interesting! How courageous!
Part of my discomfort at this proclamation emitted by those who SEE me and my work is that their remark about my courage does not feel complimentary. No. 

The phrase, "YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS!" exists in another category of social discourse, something other than a gift of praise or an acknowledgment of an accomplishment. Their remark, instead, appears to be a hidden REVELATION about themselves. But what is that revelation? 

Let's try some meanings on:

I would never paint or exhibit an image that is so raw.
I would not be open to expressing such personal content in a painting or performance.
I would not show pain or confusion to the public in an art form.
Exhibiting one's emotional life in performance unskillfully would be embarrassing to me.
I believe I would not present myself to the public unless my dance, song, art was perfect.
SHAPE AND STILLNESS ON BEHALF OF LAUGHTER. Imagine your fellow performers deciding to laugh uncontrollably while creating shape and stillness on behalf of laughter. "What should I do," I asked myself, struggling with what my body spirit wanted to do and how I wanted to follow my fellow Soulprint Players in what they were doing. I hit the ground laughing...ecstatically following!
Well, with all the courage I could muster, I returned to the InterPlayer who had pronounced me "SO COURAGEOUS" and asked him what he meant by this exclamation. That's a first for me. Previously in other creative arenas, I had somehow felt ashamed for not eliciting more noteworthy praise around the outcome of my creative efforts.

We had a brief but meaningful exchange. He told me that he admired me for being authentic in a way that he strives to be. He felt that I know who I am and that I state that knowledge honestly and unafraid. And, yes, his remark, YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS seemed to be more about him than it was about me. 

Or, it just might be, YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS is a statement about us both in relation to one another. After all, we exist in a world of "I am's" and "You are's."  A lot more could be said on this topic!
I FORGOT TO HAVE BABIES.  Telling a side by side story about gratitude for "babies" with two other women who are mothers. "I forgot to have babies," my story began. I was able to tell my authentic story about NOT having babies and the sadness it brings me some times. How cathartic! How authentic? How courageous?
These days the word "authenticity" is getting a bad rap for being a buzz word and resulting in anything but what the word means (see a previous blog that I wrote about authenticity). For now, I will say YES. I AM COURAGEOUS. I am authentic. THANK YOU! InterPlay is providing another way for me to experience and expand this courage.

I hope I can support all of you pilgirmins you in your own courageous journeys towards authenticity. Hallellujah!
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me about your understanding of YOU ARE SO COURAGEOUS! I want to know! Please share!
Other Hallelujah Your Truth Blogs about Courage


  1. Interesting blog and question. I suspect people find others courageous when they do something that the other person can't fathom being able to do. I also think underlying every courageous act is a bit of foolheartedness, I would say I find firefighters who run into burning building courageous, but I also think, on some level, that running into a burning building is a very foolish thing to do. That said, for me, whenever someone calls me courageous, I genuinely don't get it. I've been called courageous for taking care of dying parents and friends, and for other things that just seem like something one is supposed to do. I'm not sure there is really such thing as courage, just foolheartedness in service to others or perhaps oneself. Probably not the answer you were looking for, but you asked ;)

  2. Oh my gosh Trish! Thanks for writing your response to this blog! I really appreciate your perspective. I do think that underlying people's remarks about my "courageousness" is some aspect of "foolheartedness." Perhaps acting as a fool allows for some playfulness that we all crave. After all I am a recovering serious person. And I want to acknowledge you for the silliness that serves you in much of what you do. And you were courageous for the care taking you did for your dying parents.

  3. Great blog Ruth with some great questions. I too get a little self-conscious when I hear those words, you are so courageous. I love that you asked and I loved Trish's comment about courageousness and foolishness going hand in hang. In the Tarot deck the fool is one of (if not) the highest cards in the deck you can get. I love you and I love how you show up with your whole heart and your whole self. So glad I get to play in this world with you!

    1. Christine! You are so courageous! So glad to be on this journey with you! WOO HOO!

  4. Ruth, I enjoyed reading your blog--interesting questions.
    When someone says to me, "you are so courageous!" I usually hear that as "I would be afraid to do what you did." I agree that it is often more about the other person.

    1. Joyce thank you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts about this. I am still trying to understand the significance of sharing this fear with me. I'm wondering if people are needing to be championed. Maybe I should ask them what they would like to do, what action they would like to take--where do they want to see their courage show up....

  5. Fabulous!! And the photos convey so much! Deep gratitude to all of you for being of service in the world in this way! Looking forward to connecting with you after Thanksgiving Ruth!! xoxx

    1. Cathy Ann thank you so much for taking time to come read and comment on my blog. I look forward to learning more about you!

  6. What a thought-provoking post. My experience of being called courageous mirrors yours in wondering exactly what was being said. Yay to you for returning to comment made by your fellow InterPlayer. It's just that kind of dialogue that really helps clarify our own understanding of ourselves and others. You've inspired me to continue this conversation with my friends - thank you!

    1. Yay Me! Thanks for the acknowledgment of asking my fellow InterPlayer about what he meant. I learned so much in just the asking and answering....yes to asking intentions....