Explaining Courage to a 5 Year Old – and Loneliness to Myself

Last weekend, Clara and I spent the afternoon at Crawford Lake. At the end of the day, we browsed the gift shop and ate Popsicles and drifted back out into the early evening sunlight to sit in the grass. Clara tumbled and rolled down a gently sloping hill; I sat amidst the clover and examined the few things I had bought at the gift shop: an artisan scarf, some candles, a rock to keep inside my yoga bag to always remind me of my intention during practice.   

Clara fell against me, looped her arm around my neck and leaned in close. I could smell the sweat on her skin and the faint smell of her shampoo.

She spotted the rock and asked what it said and what did it mean? 

How do you explain courage to a 5 year old when it’s a concept that you’re only beginning to just now understand yourself?

I did my best; I explained that courage was like being brave, and doing things that scared you. Immediately she asked why anyone would ever do anything that they were scared of.

“Because it feels really good,” I replied, without any hesitation. 

I’m only just realizing that now.

Many times in my life, I’ve  been scared of being alone. And I’ve been completely and utterly immobilized by my fear. I’ve been scared of people leaving me, and what it would mean if they did. Reversely, I was scared of leaving and what that would mean if I did. I recognize now how that fear of being alone has kept me from making some pretty big decisions in my life – and from taking control.
Being alone was an unknown. Not being alone was easier.

It’s amazing what you can think about while sitting in a field of clover, holding your rock that says courage.

Being alone for so many of us seems to be something that should be avoided. Only a few months ago, I posted this to my social media: “I’m often told by others that being alone is not a bad thing. That I should enjoy it; embrace it even. I know it’s always being said from a place of love, and for the most part, I agree. But sometimes, it’s really hard hearing that from people that aren’t actually alone.”

That was a challenge. It still is, actually. I don’t know many people that are actively choosing to be alone, that are embracing it. So I think for many, being alone is still an unknown, and it’s a hugely difficult thing to relate too. 

I often say that I’m alone but not lonely and this is true. There’s something so completely empowering and liberating about enjoying being alone, enjoying your own company without the crushing accompaniment of loneliness. It’s powerful. But I can also be alone and lonely, this is also true. Some of my days without Clara are harder than others.

On those days, I’m dealing with my fear of being alone and it’s taking me courage to do so. It’s perhaps the most courageous thing that I have done for myself. And with that courage, I’m experiencing a shift in my thinking. 

What I thought about the other day, while I sat in clover and Clara tumbled and played, is this shift in my thinking and how it’s come to pass that I don’t fear being alone or feeling lonely. For me, being alone, and to a deeper extent, feeling lonely, is not a bad thing; nor is it really something I should be scared of. When I’m alone, and as a direct result, when I’m feeling lonely, it’s always because I’m wanting to be with others. I’m craving connection and that craving in itself is a beautiful thing. 

And the alternative, of always being alone and never feeling loneliness, while self-protective and would seem ideal to some people, would mean that I’ve become a person that functions in isolation and doesn’t crave connection. 

That is not somebody that I want to be. 

I believe it takes a lot of courage to admit to feeling lonely, especially to people that you perceive are unable to relate. They may seem sympathetic but not empathetic and the difference between the two can be isolating in itself. It can, frankly, be lonely.

But being lonely, as I’ve discovered, is not a bad place to be if only because it’s a reminder that I want more. And that is so much better than not wanting anything at all.

It takes courage to be alone, but far more to be lonely. But it takes far more courage to admit to loneliness. But the funny thing is; when you can admit to being lonely – to yourself; but especially to others – then suddenly you’re not quite so lonely.

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2 Responses to Explaining Courage to a 5 Year Old – and Loneliness to Myself

  1. KimLivingstony says:

    Tawny you are such an amazing woman and I feel blessed to see your journey to becoming even more so. Clara will have an example of being that is so fabulous. Life is about being and this seems to be what you are embrassing with such gusto and yes Courage. Not that being alone is easy but it is obvious. Being lonely is tough to admit because you actually don’t need to be alone to be lonely. I think there are probably more people who are actually lonely than realize it because they are not alone. Your honesty of your life trials and challenges is so very refreshing and a teaching tool not only for your daughter but for the rest of us as well. Thank you. I hope you have some time when your in NS to visit. I do always enjoy time with you.

    • Kim, you’re right – not being alone – but feeling lonely is a tricky thing to experience as well. I don’t know if that kind of loneliness is worse or not. I’m grateful for your words and will absolutely find time to see you in NS this month. ❤️

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