I am participating in Momalom’s fantastic event called Five For Ten where for the next ten days I’ll be writing about different topics along with an amazing group of bloggers. The first topic is courage. Please click on the Five For Ten button to read some of the other amazing posts on this topic!
I am not courageous. I’m really not. I have far too many fears and hang-ups to ever describe myself that way. I’m afraid of speaking my mind. Afraid of sickness. Afraid of people not liking me. Offending people. Screwing my kids up. Losing someone close to me. Walking around with my skirt tucked into my undies. (Serious concern people!). I wish I could say I’m courageous but there isn’t even ONE example I can give that would label me that way. I got into all 13 colleges I applied to because I didn’t have enough courage to apply to a real “reach” school. There are situations in my life that make me miserable, and they will forever, because I don’t have the courage to speak up about them. Enough said.
But as I sit here thinking about courage, I wonder if ANYONE would describe themselves as courageous. It’s not usually a description that we tag OURSELVES with. Maybe a “risk taker” or “savvy”, or “fly by the seat of our pants type”, but courageous? I believe it’s a word more often used to describe OTHERS. When you ask someone how they ever got the nerve to do something, rarely do they say, “Well, I’m just brave!” No, more often they say, “I don’t know, I just did it. I didn’t think twice.” or, “I didn’t have a choice.” The few times people have told me (usually in a comment on a post I’ve written) that I was courageous to write the words I wrote, I usually, think, “Oh shit, I was probably nuts to write that! I’m going to end up offending someone.” and I then cowardly, take the post down.
I have however, taken risks. But I think there’s a big difference between Courage and Bravery vs someone who takes risks. To me, Courage comes from the heart. From a place of Good. Being a risk taker is more a description of your physical nerve and less emotional.
For example, I’ve skied down off-trail slopes that any other sane 15 year old wouldn’t have dared to. I’ve jumped off 30 foot cliffs into quarries. Smart? Not so much. I didn’t put much thought into these decisions… just did them because they seemed like fun. Risky. Not brave. I wasn’t doing anyone any good by doing these dare-devily things… I just did them to say that I did. For a high five. Brave would be jumping in after a 15 year old had hit her head on a rock in the quarry to save her. Brave would be having fallen skiing and seriously injured myself, only to come back after months of therapy, even if only on the bunny slope. Courage is finding it within yourself to face something that usually brings you fear or brings MOST people fear.
Soldiers, Fire fighters, Police Officers, Rescue workers – all courageous. Because they know the risks, have calculated the risks, but their passion and their heart drives them to face danger. Would they describe themselves as Courageous? Doubtful. They just wouldn’t know any other way. I hold these people up on a pedestal. I honor them. Am impressed by them. Am awed by them.
But I am impressed even more by another type of Courage. The fighting kind of courage.
I think of my 96 year old grandmother as a Fighter. Not the demographic that I’d normally apply the word Courageous to. No, she didn’t dive in front of a pedestrian and save her from an oncoming bus. No, she didn’t overcome a life threatening illness or a childhood filled with abuse. No, she certainly wouldn’t say she has courage. But she is 96. She can’t hear very well. She forgets words. She can’t control her bowels or her bladder. She falls asleep in the middle of a conversation. It takes her forever to get from point A to point B. And she feels like she’s a burden. We’d never describe her that way, but she feels that way.
But she gets up every morning alone and faces her day with strength. She throws her little legs over the side of the bed, holds onto her walker and shuffles to the bathroom. She gets dressed, reads the paper, makes herself tea and visits with her friends. She may only hear a fifth of what they say, but she still stays in their company. Still goes to the dining room for meals instead of staying alone in her room because Living isn’t being alone. As scary as leaving her room may be.
She’s not happy every day. She’s uncomfortable. She’s tired. She is lonely living in her own head without being able to hear what others are saying. She counts the minutes until my mom arrives for her daily visit and when my mom leaves, starts counting until the next one.
She is so brave to push on with her life not ever having an idea what the day in front of her will look like. I often wonder if she takes a deep breath at the start of each day and says, “Ok, here we go again…” because really, her days can’t look much different from one to the next. But the days that DO look different, the days where I come with the kids for a visit ,or the days when she can get dressed up for a special Chinese dinner with my parents, or her home’s dining room hosts “A Night in Paris” theme, THESE are the days that make all the fighting worth it. And the thought of seeing Hannah in her first grade play or Luke ride his bike for the first time? This is why she has the Courage to continue to take her two dozen pills each day, have someone help her take a shower and why she’s willing to sit quietly at the dinner table watching her friend’s mouths move and see the look of laughter in their eyes without knowing quite WHY they are laughing. This is why she doesn’t Give Up. She wants to Be Around. Witness the blooming around her.
Nana doesn’t take risks. I’m quite sure she NEVER took risks even in her youth. But she’s damn full of Courage. Courage to ask people around her for help. Courage to face each day head on and continue to be the compassionate, loving, witty, interesting, interested lady she has always been. Courage to still dress with style asking my mom to buckle her shoes, clasp her beautiful necklace, and tie her scarf.
To me, that’s what courage is about. Unearthing something within your heart… that compels you to act even in the face of adversity because you know in the end, it can only be beneficial. Beneficial for you OR for others. But if you have to say, “Hey look at me! I’m courageous!” then really, it’s not courage at all.
I’m not courageous. I’m too scared to be courageous. But I’m inspired by others’ courage.
Especially my Nana.