It’s okay to turn your back on this tiger

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:51 a.m. to make a post on Facebook to celebrate The Courage Way‘s first birthday. I didn’t set an alarm. My body just woke up as if my inner-book publicist remembered that it’s already morning on the East Coast and it was time to be brave and go public.

After making the post, I went back to sleep a couple of hours to reclaim more rest. Facebook had a very odd video suggestion for me when I checked again. It was this video, titled “I learned why u don’t turn your back on a tiger.”

wait for it…

I have to argue, aren’t we actually safe to turn our back on this silly tiger? After all, he’s behind a glass wall that is engineered to keep zoo visitors safe. We even get to see his feet underwater. His stalking MO is transparent–there’s no hiding from the camera. But he doesn’t know that. Our fight-or-flight instinct, powered by our pesky amygdala, doesn’t know it either. It tells us that some killer monster is about to pounce.

When it comes to creative courage, how often does our fear of a Tiger cause us to freeze or flee? That’s where writer’s block comes from, right? Or the urge to run away and avoid the public eye? Fear of so many things.

That’s why this video felt like a gift message from the universe, albeit odd, being suggested on a day when I was needing courage to celebrate my book online after six months of prioritizing true self care instead of self- or book- promotion. (As it turns out, it wasn’t scary at all, but joyful.) The other synchronicity is that the video appeared the day after I took myself on an artist’s date where I snapped this photo of a tiger:

This Prismacolor Tiger, ironically, showed up the day after a friend shared advice from a feng shui expert. She said it might be good to wear a tiger charm this year to counter conflict with a snake. It’s hard to know how far to take what some see as superstition and others trust coming from ancient mystery traditions. I refuse to live in fear.

How do you discern whether to trust that fear has valid advice or to trust that fear is false? I like to reflect with some open honest questions. Then see what my inner teacher (or inner artist) says in response.

If your creative courage is being stalked by a tiger, perhaps there is a way to reframe that fear. Is the tiger is behind a glass wall, like the one at the zoo? Is the tiger is in fact your inner wild-voice, ready to pounce on you with amazing ideas to release?

If your creative fear is an animal, which one would it be? If your creative courage has a totem animal that will inspire and protect, maybe it’s time to extend an invitation for it to show up.

If we are going to reflect on — and call on — our creative courage, I propose we consider at the opposite condition: creative fear, anxiety, angst and shadows. I’m inspired by Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, in this article from The New Yorker:

How do you understand memory? You don’t study memory. You study forgetting.

Daniel Kahneman, in “The Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About How We Think” The New Yorker

P.S. That New Yorker article also prompts some thoughts about the power and pitfalls of creative collaboration. More on that another day!

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