The story behind the cowardly lion...
I was talking with my mom about the theme of Courage for the Spokettes this year, and that I was asked to come up with some symbol to represent courage and what I was going through. The first thing that popped out of her mouth was the Cowardly Lion. I have always had an affinity for that movie, as do obviously millions of other people, because it is such an iconic story. And there are many lessons in the story that are so relevant and relatable for different times in our lives.
The Cowardly Lion first appears in the story as a ferocious and aggressive predator, only to find out that he is so terrified and full of fear that he doesn’t know how to act and breaks into tears when confronted. The definition of a “coward” is “a person that lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.” However, it is my belief that courage isn’t the sheer victory of the will over adversity. I may think that I can power my way through by will power alone, or to just “suck it up,” but that doesn’t describe real courage to me. The definition of “courage” is “the ability to do something that frightens one,” and for me, that is best demonstrated when I have the willingness to just try and stay present with whatever I am facing.
When I was diagnosed with cancer and was told that I needed four rounds of chemo and a mastectomy, believe it or not, that wasn’t the scariest moment when I was called to conjure up my deepest courage. Especially after I had the first round of chemo, I had a plan. I could map out on the calendar what days I was going to be feeling sick and when I would be getting stronger. I knew how to arrange things in my life to prepare for the surgery and recovery. I had the full map, GPS track and the wonderful knowledge and support of all the women who have ridden that trail ahead of me. But, the day that I left my oncologist’s office after being told that he was stopping chemo and there was a chance that the tumor was benign, I didn’t cheer and go straight home and celebrate. I walked out to the parking lot, sat in my car, and sobbed. I didn’t have a plan anymore. I was back, full circle, in the land of uncertainty, without a map or a GPS or a wheel to follow. Why did this moment of great news feel like the scariest thing I have ever had to face?
And just like the Cowardly Lion had Dorothy and the Scarecrow, the Tinman and Toto too, I had all of you to help me through this and to remind me that I do have the courage to face the uncertainty. At the end of the movie Dorothy says to the Cowardly Lion, “I know it isn’t right, but I’m going to miss the way you used to holler for help before you found your courage.” And he replied, “I never would’ve found it if it hadn’t been for you….” Every time in this process that I’ve wanted to tuck tail and jump through the window, there has been one of you holding on to my tail, keeping me in the present moment.
And it isn’t just me, and it isn’t just the lessons we learn from the Lion. Some days we are the Scarecrow and are believing that we are stupid and have no brains. Some days we are the Tinman and lacking empathy and heart. At other times we are Dorothy and feeling lonely and missing that sense of home. But we interlock our arms, each with the struggles we face from the stories we tell ourselves, and we go together. We all do this for each other… all the time. Each time we toe the start line, butterflies in our stomachs, mustering that ability to face something that scares us, we are demonstrating our own willingness. And each time we are there for one of our own that is struggling, we offer our en”courage”ment and together we do something that is frightening.
So, when anyone asks you about the lion tail on your kit, the lesson behind it is that we each make ourselves vulnerable “to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things” and as a team we are there for each other, to grab onto the tail of the one who is scared, remind them of the courage they possess and ride on.