The virtue of Courage


One of your most prized possessions is integrity;  … you should never compromise it. 

Byron Pulsifer

I never hear the word integrity without thinking about the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling. The poem illustrates the enormous responsibility the poor little word must carry. To always be true to oneself and to act in agreement with those beliefs in a way that is authentic and honest. In behaving that way, you must also be willing to face the consequences of this. Seems so simple, and many of us consider ourselves as having integrity, but few can prove it when the time comes.

Stand out from the crowd

As people, we are quick to follow the path of least resistance and to fall for popular opinion. We like to give in to peer pressure as the kids call it. Hashtag slogans that are trending fascinate me. I so often wonder whether the people who use them believe in what they are saying or are they only trying to be relevant. Having a large following is not a prerequisite for integrity; or vice versa, more’s the pity. Imagine if the world’s influencers were all people of integrity? How different the conversation would be?

who are you?

To understand who you are is a complicated question. I would even argue it is an esoteric conundrum. How can you be true to yourself and be congruent in mind and action, yet still allow for growth and open-mindedness? I conclude this makes integrity a strength. To appreciate who you are, but also to recognize what you are not and admit to being wrong. To do that, a person must be able to overcome pride and ego and I realize that is the hardest thing for most people to do. 

philosophical weekend?

That is why I saved this strength for last and left it for a Saturday. I hope that over dinner, or during your conversations this weekend, you will have an honest conversation about integrity and what it means to you. In what ways have you shown integrity? Has your integrity ever been tested? I fear my integrity is often mistaken for humour or quirkiness. Something I am working on as an adult, trying to be more assertive. Then again, perhaps my social awkwardness is as much a part of integrity as is my values. Ah, the mysteries of the human mind. Are we as dark and basic as Freud would have us suppose, or as humanitarian at heart as Carl Rogers would hope? I hope we are not that dull that we fall in either category. 

Be true to yourself, no matter how wobbly

I like the way Milne has Pooh explain integrity. He is honest about who he is and his abilities and he makes no apologies for it.

“ [M]y spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places…” (Milne, 2006, p. 73).

I suspect many mistake integrity for being a good person. Instead, integrity lays the groundwork. Integrity is when people can take you at your word, that you are who you say you are. Also, integrity requires you to fulfil your promises, no matter what difficulties you may encounter. 

seeing with new eyes

I have been watching the media and society during this entire coronavirus epidemic and the one thing I believe it has revealed is that integrity is not something you can fake and it is not fickle. Think about the people surrounding you? Consider their behaviour? How many people have behaved in accordance to what they projected before the crisis? Are you seeing people in a fresh light now? I am, and I am not ashamed to say it. I will also admit that I was wrong about most people. I have learnt so much about humanity during this crisis. I have learnt so much about myself and about those around me. Lockdown has been a gift to those of us who enjoy studying people.

Be childlike, not childish

What I have learnt most, by watching my children and their classmates adapt to this crisis, is that children are probably the people with the most integrity. They are unashamedly who they are. Whether it is the little boy wearing a batman mask with his spiderman costume or the girl in her princess dress trying out her brother’s skateboard, we can all try to be more like our kids. 

The truth about truth is integrity

Do you see now why integrity is so precious to me? It is not about just being true to yourself, but allowing other the space to be true to themselves. Allowing yourself to believe that they are true to themselves. Therefore, without integrity there can be no trust and no tolerance. What is a world without trust and tolerance? What is the world without integrity?

If strengths are the building blocks that make us resilient, then I would argue integrity forms the foundation. 

“If you can keep your head when all about you [a]re losing theirs… [y]ours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”

Integrity or stupidity?

Something else to think about, as we speak of integrity; Rudyard Kipling refused knighthood on two separate occasions during his lifetime. Imagine saying no to the queen when she is about to bestow such an honour upon you? I imagine that would take some integrity and courage. I will let you be the judge.


The virtue of Courage


“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

Persistence is something we all know something about. Lockdown and isolation require all of us to persevere in ways we did not think possible. Last year we would never have believed that we could make the sacrifices we have been making. How interesting is that? We do not know how resilient we are until we are tested.

Much ado about something

The time we spend on an activity alone does not factor in perseverance. Spending hours reading your favourite book or binge-watching a popular series is not perseverance. Why? You are doing this for enjoyment. The defining factor for perseverance is continual goal-directed behaviour despite hindrances, complications and dissuasion. It is just a boring academic way of saying that if you keep trying at something, even when you freaking hate it; you are persevering. Much like you and your family are doing right now with this lockdown and all its rules.

We can

It is funny, I would like to say ironic, that I am struggling to persevere through this article. It is one of those strengths which is better experienced than explained. I am finding it difficult to write anything that may inspire you. I feel in my heart that at this moment you are already using this strength to its maximum. We all are. This experience is unique for everyone, but it requires sacrifice and persistence. However, after lockdown is over, the world is still changed forever. Our need for persistence is far from over, so it is lucky that we all are proving ourselves rather adept at this strength.

out of the mouths of babes

I would like to share my favourite story of my baby girl Sofia. It is a story I often reflect on when I am facing my own arduous task and wish to give up. It always gives me the courage to carry on. Sofia suffers from birth, with chronic constipation that causes her tummy an impressive deal of pain. The details are not important, but what is relevant is that this condition often causes her tummy to balloon, making climbing or sliding like a normal little girl difficult.

On one bad day, Sofia was trying to climb up on a plastic slide her father bought her for her second birthday. As these toddler toys are, the steps were not very steep or far apart which makes it difficult for her to climb up with her tummy. Two steps up, then she would fall off, but she kept on trying. She knew the power of persistence. It broke my heart to see her try so hard for so long to do something that other children do not find difficult at all. Eventually, she managed all the way to the top and with a glee reserved only for toddlers, she screeched, “Yay! I win!”.

celebrate small victories

I remember knowing then and I still do, “yes you win my baby. You won when others would have given up. Good for you, Sofia, for celebrating yourself and your perseverance”. I hope this is something you will do too when you face your next obstacle. Try and try again. Try unorthodox methods or try new advice, but when you succeed, and you will, even in the slightest, I hope you will yell, “Yay I win!”.

a tale of pooh

In the tales of Winnie the Pooh, Pooh has a similar test of perseverance when he has to climb several branches only to fall all the way to the bottom and land in a gorse bush. He next tries a balloon which pops and then another balloon. It does not deter Pooh, which is a credit to his perseverance.  So what tree are you climbing?

I wish you luck. 


The virtue of Courage


“Wildflower; pick up your pretty little head,
It will get easier, your dreams are not dead.”

Nikki Rowe

Vitality has two levels and both are equally important for a person to live life according to the strength of vitality. The first is physical vitality. This is when a person is physically well, therefore, displays energy.  The second level is when a person emotionally engages activities with positive energy.

First Level

The first level is traditionally up to you and your doctor. Do not settle for just a diagnosis, strive for a solution, whatever it means. Modern medicine can only do so much. If you have a chronic condition like I have Fibromyalgia, one must find new definitions of well-being. You need to be the best well you can be within your physical limitations. Being sick does not mean you can never be well.

If an illness can be cured that is one thing, but if it cannot, there are levels of wellbeing that you can strive for. This usually requires research, learning as you go, and joining support groups. I recommend The Mighty. Please note that alternate levels of wellbeing are outside the purview of the average doctor. It is up to you and how much energy you are willing to put in. HOBOLIZ will discuss this level during another post another time.

Second Level

The second level of vitality is the one I want to discuss today. Doing activities with enthusiastic energy. Tall ask for some activities I know. Therefore, energy conservation is so important and hence a balance between responsibilities and recreation is crucial. If you spend all your energy on what needs to be done, you are left with no energy for the things you want to do and your life becomes unrewarding. If you spend all your energy on doing the things you want and none of what needs to be done, well then, the consequences may vary depending on how far you take it. I imagine though it will leave you somewhere between broke, unemployed, divorced, or imprisoned, regardless, the result is not good.

Vitality is not the same as passion

If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. This cliché is true, but I always feel it could also be the intro to a cautionary tale. This is because again, it leaves no room for balance. There is a reason it is a popular slogan for pyramid schemes and cults. No, vitality is a strength because it encourages you to put positive energy into everything you do, assuming that you are careful in balancing your activities wisely. Thus, that which must be done and that which wants to be done gets done with the same level of enthusiasm. This strength makes life rewarding and uplifting. When others see you do hard work with enthusiasm it is inspiring and makes vitality contagious.

What does Vitality look like?

 ‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’ ‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’ ‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting to-day?’ said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.

(Milne, 2006, p. 147).

My almost-two-year-old son is the perfect example of vitality. He eats his breakfast, brushes his teeth, unpacks his toybox, or destroys our garden with the same high intensity of excitement. My daughter, who is six already moans about certain activities, but not my son. Everything he does, he does with joy and this includes his chores such as feeding the dogs. You can argue that he is too young to distinguish between the things he must and the things he wants to do. I would rephrase that argument. I propose that he is not yet cynical about the things that must be done. It is fun for him because he makes it fun. My job as a parent is to encourage him to keep seeing it that way. We could experience that level of pleasure too if we made that choice for ourselves.

in reality vitality is a little different

Cleaning house is a chore I hate. I am not going to tell you porky pies. I am not going to pretend that my house is sparkling clean, because, like Mary Poppins, I am singing and cleaning my way through every room. NOT happening! I could if I wanted, but honestly, then I would not have the energy to do anything else. That is the truth. In the priorities of my life, as it stands right now, facing COVID, a clean house is not important. Since my sister’s death, writing for this blog is not an everyday priority. If a company were paying me to write, things would be different. Or at least my choices would be different.

What does it look like for me?

My goal at this very moment in my life is very selfish. On a bad day, my goal is just to ensure that I, as a person can function. In other words, get out of bed and be alive with as much vitality as I can muster. Honestly, some days that does not even get me as far as getting out of my pyjamas. On better days it is about being there for my family with as much vitality as I can muster. Again, those days do not always look as peachy as I would like. On my best days, I muster enough vitality for myself, my family, and my writing. Those are my favourite days. Admittedly those days require a lot of help from my moms because small children and writing are NOT COMPATIBLE.  I forgive myself for my bad days so that I can have the energy to achieve my good days.

What about you?

I hope that you, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever your choices, that you can do the same. Prioritise your survival first. Find ways to make everything you need to do enjoyable and approach all your activities with excitement. Drop the energy-sapping stuff that are not important. They will get done when they need to. Perhaps the answer lies in the family cleaning together. Maybe the answer lies in starting small fun projects that finally lead to bigger more rewarding projects. Only you know what needs to be done and what you like to enjoy. I hope you are making enough time for both. I also hope that you are making the not so fun stuff as fun as possible. Use music, singing, bribery, or imagination in any way you want. I hope you will share your winning strategies with us.

superpower vitality

My sister, Cherine, finds that she can better face stressful tasks after she has organised something. I think that might be her superpower – wish I was more like that. That is why, with her permission, her neat cupboard is my chosen image for this strength.

What is your super power?

Till we chat again TTFN…

The virtue of Courage


“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel
Bravo to the Brave Heroes

I think it is impossible to think about this time of isolation without thinking about bravery. There is a lot of talk about the bravery of the healthcare workers and first responders during this time and rightfully so. They have been incredibly brave and selfless. This illness has frightened all of us, so it takes an enormous level of courage to go and attend to those who are infected.

This blog, however, is not about repeating that which is already being said in the media, but hopefully saying something new.

There are UNSUNG Heroes too

I would like us to discuss the different versions of bravery we have been seeing during this time. The bravery of the shop tellers where you buy your groceries. Those bravely fighting depression in isolation. The bravery of families sharing the burden of work and home-schooling. A newfound appreciation for the bravery of our teachers. Their willingness to face our obstinate children. Side note here: I am sure I am not the only one learning new things about my precious little monsters. Who knew little people could be so consistent in their stubbornness? The jury is still out on whether I am proud or horrified. Feels like lazy writing to say that I am a little bit of both.

Then there is the bravery of those dealing with loss. The loss of freedom, the loss of a loved one or those dealing with the loss of their income or business.

Fear comes in many shades of yellow

The one thing I have learnt through this coronavirus experience is the many different levels of fear that there can be around you in every day situations. Fear that you may not even be aware of. Fear that we have previously taken for granted. I have also learnt that every different type of fear, requires a different type of bravery to overcome it. Bravery or courage has become this all-encompassing fashion word, when in reality, it is a complicated thought process. Or at least, it should be.  

Do not take fear lightly

Motivational speakers and personal trainers love to throw around the phrase, “feel the fear and do it anyway”, almost as much as they love the slogan, no pain, no gain. This is all good and well when you are afraid of trying out a new pilates class. Try it. The worse that can happen is that you look ridiculous in yoga pants. Fear does take on new meaning when it involves the future of your family, your health and your financial stability.

If a caveman can, so can you

Fear is not something to be ignored. It is a biological survival instinct. If our cave dwelling ancestors just felt the fear and did it anyway, we would not be here. They would probably have been eaten, poisoned, or fallen to their deaths. Fear needs to be identified, analysed, and only then confronted, if possible. Sometimes fear is simply good common sense and the wisest thing to do, is to do nothing. How do we know which is which? We talk about it.

Break the silence

You want to talk about real fear. Tell a man he needs to tell you what frightens him. Seriously try it. I bet you will go through a list of five generic phobias before you will reach one genuine answer. Men are wonderful examples of this, but they are not unique in their reactions. The most difficult thing about fear is voicing it to others. Now that is an accurate illustration of something being ironic.

The very act of saying what frightens you already diminishes the power that fear holds over you. It is the first step in combatting fear, but it is the thing most of us fear the most. Admitting that we are afraid. Once the fear is out in the open, one can begin to disseminate it and address new ideas or strategies.

Do not be afraid of conversation

This is the type of bravery I am talking about today. The courage to have that tough conversations. Are you the one battling with decisions that frighten you? Do you know of someone else battling with fear? Have the courage to open a dialogue.

Please notice here, that I say open a dialogue. Do not hand out well meant advice. “Thank you for your unsolicited opinion on my life” said no one ever in the history of this planet. NO ONE! No matter how good the advice may or may not have been. Or however noble the intention was. Open a dialogue. Great place to start is by asking open ended questions. Questions that start with “tell me”, or “describe to me” or even, “what are your thoughts”.

“How are you doing?” is going to land you in the pointless “I am fine how are you?” territory.

Be prepared

Another thing to consider is timing. Timing and fear is like oil and water. Get it wrong and the two will never mix. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help, or to tell someone you are afraid. Doing it while they are binge watching the last episode of Game of Thrones is poor timing. Pick the right time to speak to someone. Ask them when would be a good time to speak about this issue. Make it a date and prepare for it.

I am afraid

How about I take the first step? I am afraid that no one will ever read my blog. I know my fear sounds vain and sis on you for judging me😉 I am afraid that if no one reads my blog, no one will ever have these discussions. Talk about spirituality, talk about real kindness, talk about fairness or citizenship outside the realm of politics. My blog is about putting the information out there so that someone may have the courage to change the world. Does not matter how small that change may be. If no one ever reads this information, it can never be of any use. That is what I am afraid of. It is a future without change that terrifies me the most.

Bon Jovi sings, “The more things change the more they stay the same” and this is sadly true. Real change requires real courage.

The Brave are everywhere

Anyone can be brave and that it why bravery is a strength. Take Piglet for example. He is the most cautious and nervous character in Winnie the Pooh, but when his friends are in trouble, he finds the courage to brave.

‘Oh!’ said Piglet. ‘Because I – I thought I did blinch a little’… ‘You only blinched inside’, said Pooh, ‘and that’s the bravest way for a Very Small Animal not to blinch that there is.’ Piglet sighed with happiness, and began to think of himself. He was BRAVE …’ (Milne, 2007, p. 150)

I hope you will be brave this week too. TTFN.