Choosing Compassion Over Fear: Dear Brave Ones

Nothing Bad Between Us author Marlena Fiol has posted a new installation of her “Choosing Compassion Over Fear” series, this time featuring author and activist Susie Rinehart.

Choosing Compassion Over Fear: Dear Brave Ones

Featuring Susie Rinehart

As part of our ongoing series, Choosing Compassion Over Fear, I am featuring some of our most cherished friends and colleagues to discover how they have navigated the landscape of doubt, insecurity, tragedy, and fear to move toward becoming their truest selves. Today, we are honored to bring you a very special letter from award-winning author, champion ultra-runner, life coach, activist and mother of two young children, Susie Rinehart. On June 30, 2016, she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive tumor on her brainstem. Her doctor told her, “Without surgery, you have less than five months to live.” After multiple complicated surgeries, she has recovered but there were big risks. That was over three years ago. Below, you’ll find words of wisdom for those brave souls who choose compassion over fear.*****

To the Brave Ones


Dear Brave Ones,

Yesterday I was so tired I fell asleep on the cement walkway to our house. I woke up to the postal carrier tiptoeing around me to the mail slot. She did not freak out about me lying there on the ground. She said, “Oh hon. I know. Can I curl up and rest with you in the sunshine?”

That was my Delight #57. I have been tracking delights, inspired by the poet, Ross Gay. I am home now after you helped me get through another surgery and radiation. Thank goodness! I feel great physically and the kids and Kurt are doing well. I am genuinely thrilled to be alive. But some days, like yesterday, I get worn down by fires and homeschooling and COVID and presidential debates. (Delight #43 was my friend Valentina hitting this COVID-shaped piñata.)

The moment with my postal carrier reminded me of the goodness of people. It also made me wonder: Are we letting people know how tired/sad/scared we are? Are we showing up for one another– (even willing to curl up on the cold cement (6 feet apart) with one another) through hard times?

I keep hearing, “I don’t know what I’ll do if this election doesn’t go (the way I want).” But what I’ve learned through having to face tough medical news again and again is that we can say yes to challenges and this crazy life, even when we feel cranky, triggered, angry, and sad. We need to choose love and choose trust. We are bigger and mightier than COVID or the presidential office. When we get attached to a certain outcome, we deny our power to make bigger changes on the ground and within ourselves. (Delight #50 Green Mountain summit with Sally and Leo.)

Fear is our kryptonite. Trust and action are our antidotes. The brave we need now is to raise the vibration in our communities from fear to joy. We do that with love, and we do it with disciplined self-care.

Invest in Joy. Do a 33-day-mind-body-spirit challenge with me. 33 days starting today (Ok-maybe tomorrow or the day after by the time I get this blog out…) The goal? To remember that we are not victims, we are creators. We are far more powerful than we think. We can choose to do everything we can to heal our country (see below) AND heal ourselves by building our inner resiliency. Unless yours is already humming like Kurt’s. When I asked Kurt what his challenge was going to be, he answered, “Get through October.” “And, how are you going to do that?” I asked. He flexed his muscles for humor and said, “Like a BOSS!” His confidence is ridiculous and…contagious.*****

The 33-Day-Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge Starts When You Read This.

  • Do something for your spirit. Do one small thing that brings you joy each day. Joy is a possibility-expander. You are not just doing this for you, but for us. When you tap into your joy, you get out of your rut, and you inspire me to get out of mine. You raise the vibration around you. Joy puts us in touch with who we are and what we are capable of each day. And when we are connected to self, we can easily tap into inner wisdom, guidance, and strength. For me, joy includes napping in the sunshine, foraging for wild mushrooms, walking Leo the wonderdog, making a new painting for the outside of our house, and learning to tap dance. For Cole, it means putting his full weight on his not-broken-anymore foot to press in the clutch and drive. For Hazel, it means learning to breakdance. For Kurt, it’s mountains, elk, and deer. What is joy for you today?
  • Do something for your mind.Choose Books over News. Your nervous system is not designed for our addictive-headline-consumption habit. There is nothing in the news that will truly help you to learn more about something. Read a book. Might I suggest (again) The Book of Delights by poet Ross Gay?
  • Do something for your body. Will you do 11 minutes of arm weights and squats with me? (I just found out that muscle mass makes the body inhospitable to cancer!) And how about a warrior pose while we wait for the coffee to brew? I don’t know where to put walking…under spirit, mind, or body? It feels like all three. Get out and walk.
  • Do something for your country. Adopt a voter. More than 40% of the country does not vote. Write a letter to an unlikely voter and let them know why you voted, not who you voted for. Infrequent voters who received letters voted 3.4% more than a control group. Doesn’t sound like much? Hillary Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by less than 1%. With Vote Forward, I was able to adopt 5 under-represented voters and 20 infrequent voters.
  • DROP something that you resent.Drop one thing that you do out of duty, but that drives you nuts. Drop emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen, that zoom meeting that doesn’t really impact your work. Involve your kids, your sweetheart, your boss. You’ll need to have a couple of hard conversations in order to win a month of relief. Do it.

A foolproof way to stick to the challenge:

Put two jars out on your kitchen counter. Label one with a charity that you love. Put $30 in that jar. Label the other with the name of the candidate you do NOT want to win in November. Leave that jar empty.

Every time you skip one of the days of your challenge, take $5 out of your-favorite-charity jar and put it in the other candidate’s jar. You MUST donate all of the money at the end of the 33 days. This works because we are disproportionately motivated by negative consequences.

If you’re cozy in bed and don’t feel like doing the arm-weights that you promised to do, just think of this scary fact: When you donate to the other candidate’s campaign, you’ll receive that political party’s emails for life.

Ha! But what will truly motivate me to do this challenge is knowing that you might be doing it, too. As I wrote (after the mail carrier incident) to a dear friend in a rough patch, I am metaphorically curling up with you on the cold cement in the warm sunshine.




 About Susie

Susie is an award-winning author, champion ultra-runner, life coach, activist and mother of two young children. On June 30, 2016, she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive tumor on her brainstem. Her doctor told her, “Without surgery, you have less than five months to live.” After multiple complicated surgeries, she has recovered but there were big risks. That was over three years ago. Susie’s incredible journey to find her voice and a new kind of bravery after facing death allows her to share important lessons about pain and suffering, finding and holding onto joy, and the importance of slowing down to experience the sweetness of the moment.

Nothing Bad Between Us

A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness

This story differs from similar accounts of childhood domination or abuse because it tells the story of the author’s seemingly paradoxical responses to the powerful forces in my life, but doesn’t leave it at that. It sheds light on the social and religious dynamics underlying these responses, giving readers insights into and understanding of her otherwise incomprehensible choices, as she found my way back into loving relationships with her parents and the Mennonite community.

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