My hero story

As part of a really beautiful and activating personal growth programme I’m about to complete, we were asked to tell our Hero’s Story.

To look back on my life and sieve for the situations in which I dared leave the usual, to step into an arena, to take risks, to believe in myself.

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Hero?

I spontaneously thought of a million examples in which I moved forward bravely, and I couldn’t come up with any grand one at the same time.

Thinking of my Hero story, I feel accomplished and like a failure simultaneously.

See, I have a dear faraway friend who is an army doctor and who rescues people from Mount Everest and in war zones and anywhere in between – and he is one of the most beautiful, smiley, warm, loving and humble people I have ever had the privilege and honour to cross paths with.
When I think of heroes, he comes to my mind and heart.

I don’t come to my mind or heart when I think of ‘hero’, but this exercise called me to do just that: find my own heroic stories.
Interesting, and for me therefore: food for thought and processing.

First, I looked up ‘hero’ in the oxford dictionary, just to make sure I got it:

Hero:

  1. A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
  2. The chief male character in a book, play, or film, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize
  3. (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.

Then there is also the Hero’s Journey, often mentioned, well-known and strived for by growth seeking folk, such as my ambitious self:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Some of my Hero’s Stories

OK, so let’s go about recognising myself on my path, and seeing a moment that required extra bravery and faith. A turning point moment, one of those moments that by saying yes, or no, and by taking brave conscious action, my path would be changed, and mainly, I would transformed in some way. I know this to be true: change comes from action, action comes from courage, courage comes from action… it’s a flow that is fun and scary to join!

You’ve got a voice to change a nation yet you’re biting your tongue

I spontaneously thought of that speech I made at my cousin’s wedding back in 2008.

Truthfully, it was more of a toast, but to me it could just have well been a Ted talk in an arena filled with millions.

My other cousin, the bride’s sister, had nudged me to make a speech – I was the maid of honour, and ‘it would be nice’, she’d said. I knew she was right, but the thought made me nauseous. See… this nudge came to me at a time when I would blush when I had to speak up at a meeting, or tell a story when everyone would listen (yes, even at family events) – heck, I’d blush at ‘hello’.
But: I did it! I wrote a speech, it took me days to write. Then I read it over and over again. I learned it by heart. I made my sister listen to it three times on our drive from the church to the venue. I barely spoke a word to anyone during the reception, refrained from drinking before the speech, and barely touched the starter course of the meal… And when the time came, I braced myself, walked up to the stage, took that microphone and… made my speech.

I know my toast was for the bride, really, but in my reality, this was a very selfish moment. While the words and sentiments were for her and her husband, the intention and act were for me. For my brave self. For my voice. For my standing. For my courage. And for all the opportunities I wanted to grab for myself. For not accepting my own beliefs that limited me. For busting the fears and self-judgement and all kinds of mental saboteur talk as to why I would be bad at this and nobody would want to hear me.

I stood there and spoke out loud for my own potential.

A huge added bonus was that people applauded and complimented me afterwards. And what do you know, it did boost my confidence, and since then, I have made more speeches, I tell my stories out loud, I speak into a microphone to hundreds of people in aeroplanes in my job as flight attendant, I deliver workshops to groups of people in my job as a coach – I have even given trainings to airline crew on how to make public addresses. Don’t get me wrong, it still stirs up my insides to think I am to make a speech or speak up in public, I’m not ready to go on TED (yet), but since that day in 2008: I know I can do it.

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
Jack Kerouac

Or the Eiffel Tower. Or both. 

I’m afraid of heights.
That, too, is an understatement. And a lie.
This fear here is real. I feel heights, even the thought of heights, in my body. I remember the first time I walked over the Golden Gate bridge with my cousin (the bride, way before she met her husband), bravely going with her because she was a civil engineer student back then who loves bridges. It would have been wrong to not cross that bridge of all bridges with her.
I felt every single tiny vibration. Never mind being told by the expert that those vibrations needed to be see, the thing about a phobia is that the mind knows it is irrational, but somehow the body and heart feel unsafe.
So I entered a state of trance walking across it; like a mantra I told myself to just keep walking, while my skin felt like it was shrinking around my body, my tummy was on a rollercoaster and I just had this one desire which was to slowly kneel down and roll over into a side-lying child’s pose. But I kept walking, she took the photos. And I walked straight, without altering my speed or course. I vaguely remember couples having to separate to let me by – I don’t remember interacting with them in any way, though I may have.

Phobias take over the body. They also grow, and by growing they reduce our range of possibility slowly and surely. Unless… unless we meet them. We all know this.

Meet the fear, be with it;
and only then can you live with it, even move on from it.

And so it happened that one day, in 2014, I went up the Eiffel Tower.

I had lived in Paris for three years (15 years earlier) while studying there, two of those years with a view of the Eiffel Tower. I had brought all my guests to its feet and waved them off, peacefully waiting for them in the park below. I did enjoy lying in the Champ de Mars, and never felt any desire to go up that tower. But here, that day in autumn when I was visiting a very dear and entrusted friend, he surprised me by bringing me to the Eiffel Tower. As dear and entrusted as we were, he didn’t know of my fear of heights.
However in the meantime, I had been working with coaches and the likes on ‘stretching the comfort zone’ and growing beyond my limitations.

I realised immediately that I was presented, once again, with the opportunity to stay – or grow.

I remember briefing him on my needs (‘I need you to stay with me, but not talk to me, and for the love of all gods, make no funny jokes or swift movements!‘), and I remember him treating me to a thimble of overpriced champagne at the top.

From that day on, I’ve been going up things. Not enthusiastically seeking the experience, and still innerly negotiating the value of ‘going up’ versus ‘not going up’ (sometimes I don’t go up, more often, though, I do) and I meet this particular fear with a more informed opinion:

‘I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower, I’ve crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, I’ve had a meal on the CN Tower and I will no longer be told by fear that I can’t do it – if I don’t do it, it is because I don’t want to, that’s all!’.

 

Climb that goddamn tower and mountain, oh yes, do it!

time flies, best fill it with moments to remember

time flies, best fill it with moments to remember

In 2016 I climbed my own mountain in My Big Walk through Swedish Lapland – an act of courage that happened inadvertently and for which I still take the liberty of bathing in pride.
(you can read the stories in my other blog here: My Big Walk – lauraschummer.com).

We are everyday heroes, really.

The more I think of it, the more I see our everyday heroism.

Meeting someone new requires the courage to open up, even if only in politeness. Opening up to someone new and trusting that I’m safe, whatever happens, requires a certain amount of courage.

Surviving every single heartbreak is a heroic act. The fact of leaning in to the possibility of being loved or hurt is heroic to my mind.
Facing the hurt and letting it go (for some reason, that seems to have been the pattern in love for me so far, lean in – let go) is another heroic act.

Writing a personal blog post and publishing it to the world requires courage.

Joining a personal growth training does, too.

Asking myself the important questions in life, and being with the answers, even challenging them, takes courage.

It can be really hard to get up in the morning and trust the process, even when I don’t understand or even see it in periods of setbacks and downs.

Accepting that today may not feel like my day, and still believing in the power of presence in the moment, the power of pain and healing, the power of universal forces aligning, is an act of courage.

Every conscious step and every conscious pause can be seen as acts of courage.

Oh, we are all heroes when it comes to our own courage;

we are the hero of the story that is our life.

So how come it doesn’t feel like that?

Is being brave being a hero?

To me, there is one thing that stands out in what the Oxford English Dictionary definition says about ‘hero’:
A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.’ A hero is admired for their noble qualities. 

Essentially, to me, being a hero has always been hand-in-hand with an act of generosity, kindness and salvation towards others.

Like my army doctor friend, who is a hero to me because he saves lives in very dangerous, for him too, situations.

I always believed that, despite my acts of courage for myself, I will only be a hero when someone else gets to benefit from it. For some reason I have always seen that to happen in extreme situations, such as war zones, hospitals, tragedies, traumas, therapies and healings.
And since I have not yet had the courage to uproot and ‘go in’ to those situations, since I have not yet had the confidence to believe that I may have a skill that could actually benefit someone in distress, I have not yet seen myself as a hero.

However this exercise, the writing of these words, has helped me consider that we are, actually, heroes to each other. In our very every day life.

We are heroes, to each other, in our everyday life

I noticed a while ago, that whenever I have taken the courage to step outside the comfort zone, I was always, ALWAYS met at the gates by others cheering me on, and helping me forward.

We have allies everywhere, I believe every encounter we make can be an ally to us in some way (read my post Meandering about Wonderland on the different kinds of people we meet), and maybe being the ally to someone else’s courage or healing is what makes us a hero.

Whilst I needed to face my fear and scratch my slithers of courage together to make that wedding speech, it was my cousin who nudged me who is the actual hero of the story: she saw my potential, she believed in me, and she encouraged me in the right ways to be and stay brave whilst facing my demons. My cousin is the hero of my hero story.

And maybe,
maybe, I’m the hero to someone else’s courage?

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“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”- Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn By Living (1960)

 

You’re a dreamer

Featured

Coaching and talk processing help me connect the dots of my experiences and learnings with meaningful threads. And connecting dots with threads turns individual moments into useful insights, The stories that make up my life.

Here’s a thread that came to me in a recent Points of You workshop.


“You’re a dreamer”

Many years ago, one of my first serious crushes told me that I was a ‘dreamer’, and he made it sound like it was a bad thing.

I was in my early twenties or late teens, somewhere in that general age blur, and I had just told him an idea I had for myself – about taking a time-out and accepting a student job in the faraway land of the US. I remember bubbling about it to him, excited at the prospect I had been offered.
And I remember him, disparagingly, replying:

‘You’re such a dreamer!’

The statement crushed me.

I took it as a judgment, even an accusation, like I was doing something wrong. This relationship didn’t go any further. I was young, in age and in relationship, we both were, and I like to think that by now I would be able to make less assumptions about what he meant, and ask him. In this story, neither of us continued our pursuits.

Still, it broke my heart and this very statement left a bruise I didn’t remember having until recently.

Back then,
being a ‘dreamer’ sounded childish and childish sounded wrong to me.

I grew up in our society that prefers knowledge-over-curiosity, reaching-goals-over-growing, facts-over-experience, and so I gently started to be more ‘adult’, more reasonable. I did more of the ‘right things’ and attempted to be less of a naïve dreamer.

At that I failed.

And of that failure I am proud! While I did get the decent job, the mortgage, the car… I kept dreaming up ways to fill my, what felt boringly mundane to me, life with colours and sparks.
Alongside my responsible job and life, I have studied and worked abroad, travelled the globe, volunteered, woofed, and learned how to be a coach, a group facilitator, a massage therapist, a yogi and most of all, I’ve met myself and my tribes and some of my strongest allies and best friends.
Now, more than ever, I stand firm in my grand belief that:

Dreams come true and magic is real!


None of any of this is news to me, however the dots connected in a Points of You workshop I attended recently.

Points of You Faces

Points of You Faces

Join me on a processing journey.

My Potential Me

We were doing a powerful process called ‘The Potential Me’, in which we travel through our past, present and potential.

Points of You works with photos and words, and our power to create from suggestion and perspective.

We may call it random, we may call it magic. All works for me.

Connect with a moment in the past

We were invited to connect with a moment in the past that was relevant to us. The past being a minute ago or a lifetime ago, or anywhere in-between.

Pur bonheur
I went back to the first moment I remember wording ‘pur bonheur’ out loud and feeling bliss. I was with my cousin on the banks of Lake Mead, on our road trip through the US South West in our very early twenties. We had just pitched our tent, the sun was about to set, the blue colour of the lake shimmered, the rocks and canyons were turning all shades of orange and pink. The sky was that deep blue before nightfall, and the stars were beginning to appear. I remember sounds of people talking and laughing on houseboats and campsites in the distance. Martine and me were sitting on the ground of our humble home for the night after a swim in the lake and I thought to myself ‘there is no place I’d rather be in this very moment’, and saying out loud ‘pur bonheur’. I don’t know why the French came to me, but it did.
It translates to pure bliss.

Choose a photo

With this feeling, we got to choose ONE photo card of a face from the 99 cards laid out, one that resonates with the moment we’d just travelled to.

I chose a picture of a young lady who looked free and happy-go-lightly, smiling openly and straight at the camera. Innocent, and in a way bold.

Yes, she represented the life-embracing young lady I was in that very moment at the lake.

Take a reflection

The next part of the process was to choose a reflection card that contains a word; they were facedown so, here begins the serendipity process of finding messages and meaning in pretty much anything that comes our way.

My card said ‘ROCKER’, it lit up my heart.

Of course the process asks us to associate the photo, the word and the memory of who we were, and yes, there was a rocker in me back then – that nugget of a rebel who said:

‘I’ll go travel the world and do my thing, even if it is frowned upon.’

She was full of opportunity and dreams back then.

We were working in pairs, and for the next step, we exchanged photo cards with our partners, then we exchanged partners, with whom we swapped reflection cards.

The present me

Through these two new cards, now both random, and we were looking at suggestions around our present selves.

I had been handed the photo of a middle-aged man for my present me.

He looked like a Crocodile Dundee in a way, an adventurer.

In the first moment my heart skipped a beat and I went to the place of seeing these cards as ‘oracles’ announcing what’s in store for me, and:

‘YES! This means he’s there, he’s coming, the man in my life and his love, the hero of my longings. Oh he’s gorgeous and outdoorsy, how beautiful! These cards are magic!’

But with a closer look I saw he was quite scruffy, like he doesn’t take care of himself. The look in his eyes, that look that was directed at the lens, so he was looking at me, that look was doubtful, impatient… maybe patronising. He looked bored and he did not invite me to confide in him, nor lean into him, as I do in my dreams.

He actually looked shut off, scarred without having attempted to heal…

In fact, he looked a lot like my most recent crush-went-lopsided and the heartbreak I’ve been healing: handsome with a good but hidden away heart, and: not very nice to me.

The question that came up for me in conversation with my partner in the process was that my present self may be focusing on something that is not right for me.

Maybe my desire for a loving partnership or a flourishing coaching practice needs a slight clean up, readjustment and refocus?

The reflection card

open up

open up

On the other hand, the reflection I was given said the word… ‘OPTIMIST’.
And yes, my current self is very aware that she is overwhelmed with opportunity, impatience, fear and she does get herself entangled in perspectives that don’t really feel all that great.
She is also, still, a passionate optimist.

‘There is always a silver lining in any cloud.’

This is still true to me, 20 years onwards from that vibrant young girl at the lake.

My Potential Me

A new photo swap, a new partner swap, a new reflection card swap. Here I was looking at invitations to my ‘Potential Me’.

Of the extremely diverse range of portraits available in the ‘Faces’ kit, the photo I was given, through no manipulation other than chance, was that of a young woman.
There was brightness in the picture. She is delightful, plain, fresh, authentic, not wearing any make-up. She has little drops or rays painted under her eyes, a nose piercing and big earring hoops; which makes her look a little hippie, or eccentric, and they add colour and uniqueness to her pure appearance.

She’s pretty, and she’s looking straight at the camera; she’s fierce, calmly confidently fierce. She is approachable, balanced, loving and focused. I realized that she looked a lot like the young woman I had chosen for my past self.

Oh the message to me was so clear!

Back then I knew who I was and how I wanted to be. Deep down I still know when I look forward.

What if I have just gotten a bit off track in my present?
What if the vision I hold for myself  feels heavy, difficult and doubtful at the moment because maybe I am focussing on the wrong thing, or looking at the right thing through a dirty lens?

My ‘potential me’ is basically my pure me: the girl I like to remember, the woman I see in myself. She is free spirited, happy-go-lucky, fierce and focused, beautiful and compelling. She has dreams, and she believes in them.

The reflection card I was handed for my Potential Me said ‘Dreamer’.

Connecting the dots.

As I connected the dots all the way back to that quite branding event so many years ago (which I only remembered at the very end of this process), and as I noticed that twinge inside me that wanted to defend myself and justify ‘dreaming’ once again upon receiving that very ‘Dreamer’ card, the very obvious became clear:

if others see me as a dreamer
it is because that is what I put out there.

More importantly: it is not a bad thing! Actually, when people who encourage growth and authenticity tell me that I am a dreamer, they say so with an excited spark in their eyes.

It is a powerful thing!

Dreaming is a fuel that has gotten me to everyday delights and surprising places so far, and I know it will keep fuelling me if I let it!

Dreamer

Dreamer! Do your thing, believe in yourself.

To the dreamer within I say: ‘Thank you’.

To my doubts I say: ‘Bury your weapons’, it is time.

The woman within my potential I whisper: ‘Put down that resistance that holds you back and dulls your spark. Do your thing, believe in yourself.’

Be alive.

To anyone having read this far I say: Travel! Travel the perspectives, and hold your own truth and potential precious – believe in what feels right.

Follow your heart, it somehow knows the way.

Connect the dots, and see your own stories unfold.

Love,

Laura x

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‘Trust in something (…), because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even if it leads you off the well worn path… and that will make all the difference.’

– Steve Jobs

Stretching that comfort zone in Swedish Lapland

If you keep stretching the limits of your comfort zone, I guess it is inevitable that one day you find yourself at the start line of a 110km hike through Swedish lapland with an 18kg backpack strapped to your back…

I invite you to my travel website www.lauraschummer.com to join me on My Big Walk.

Oh stretch that comfort zone

time flies, best fill it with moments to remember

Dance around the world: my all-time-favourite ;)

This is my ultimate mood lifter.

Always. When I first came across ‘Where the Hell is Matt?’ in 2008 I watched it in a loop for DAYS, and the song has been on all my playlists since. I sing along to it though I still don’t know the actual words. It sends warm chills down my spine as it stirs the never really dormant travel bug in me.

Lx

He’s still dancing, by the way: http://www.wheretheheckismatt.com
(March 2016)

Create your own PAY BACK

You can create your own pay back. It might sound crazy, but it works. It just does. Magic is everywhere. Angels are all over the place, helping us, challenging us, guiding us, holding us safe.

It is our job to let go, see, appreciate… and DANCE!

I posted this article on Creating Memories, my other blog (‘the Universe always provides‘), a journal from a journey to the Philippines a few years back. It’s one of a million examples of serendipitous encounters that keep blowing my mind.

I share it for inspiration and with my heartfelt reminder, to myself as much as us all:

Keep doing the inside job of searching for clarity of who you are and what you want. And keep working towards it.

Make the requests. Believe in them, make them real, in your being and doing, every day.

Trust the process, everything always happens for a reason, there is a learning, a guidance and a gift in everything.

And yes, lean into receiving everything that comes your way, in gratitude.
Some of our experiences come along to remind us of what we don’t stand for. Thank them and show them off politely, yet firmly.

And most, most of everything that happens, is a teacher, a gift that wants to be opened, so FOR THE LOVE OF YOURSELF:

accept the gifts gracefully, gratefully, unwrap them and hold them in honour.

As Albert Einstein said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

 

We make our choices, always.

Magic is everywhere, remember to let go and dance!

Much love, Laura x