Courage

2021 challenge

On December 28, I posed a challenge to my Facebook friends. Along with with Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing every day that scares you,” I asked “Who’s in?” It wasn’t important if I had others join me; after all, the post was more for me – a declaration – a promise to myself. If I intend to continue on this journey of untangling myself, of living an intentional life, of being present, then I really must understand the importance fear plays.

In a few of my previous posts, I have talked about helping my daughter navigate stage four brain cancer. Over the past year, I have faced the greatest fear of any parent, the fear of losing a child. Before she was born, I loved Elizabeth with an intensity I had never experienced. Watching her grow into an independent, driven, intelligent, compassionate human often took my breath away.

Parenthood, I confirmed with the birth of my second child, is indeed breathless moment upon breathless moment. The thought of losing either of my children can still choke me with trepidation, but this is nothing new. I found myself in deep conversations with myself convincing myself not to follow them on their first solo bike rides around town, and I often held my breath as they sauntered to the idling car which held their waiting friends.

Elizabeth’s diagnosis with a brain tumor just after her 21st birthday forced her to wrestle with her own mortality, and in turn, it begged me to do the same. The gift in this obligatory introspection shifted the way I think about fear; it invited me to embrace fear. Over the course of a few years, I recognized that if I allowed fear to paralyze me or if I chose to live in fear of what loomed on the horizon or hid in the shadows, then I would miss important moments. I would miss life.

Not long after this epiphany, I ended a 31-year marriage to an amazingly loyal man, an intelligent, kind-hearted human. I had spent nearly a decade feeling lonely in the marriage – disconnected – unfulfilled. Fear had restrained me in an unsatisfying marriage – fear of hurting our children – fear of disappointing my family and friends – fear of looking like a failure – fear of living independently – fear of the unknown.

As family and friends found out about my divorce, I was often taken aback by their response. While I am sure many hid their disappointment or disapproval, overwhelmingly, the response “you’re so brave” caught me off guard. In retrospect, I had not considered the courage it took to end a marriage. For so long, fear had held me hostage. When I embraced fear as a natural element of life, I freed myself in so many ways.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it,” wrote Nelson Mandela. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” As I began to practice facing my fears, or at the very least peeking around the corner at them, I understood Mandela’s insight. Whether the future involves figuring out how to winterize the house or take ownership of my finances or it demands conversations with my daughter about living wills or life celebrations, if I acknowledge the fear, i take a great step towards courage.

My advice: start small. Choose something in life that creates anxiety: shopping for a car on your own, eating dinner out alone, calling a friend with whom you haven’t connected for some time. You decide which fear you want to play with, and then chip away at it. As you practice acknowledging what scares you, you take its power. And then, before you know it, you are standing boldly in the midst of what scares you most: courageous, brave, upright, and resolute. #MakeRoomForJoy

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

9 thoughts on “Courage

  1. I have so much to say about this post, it may be another very long blog post. I would echo your friends, “You are very brave.” My heart grieves for you with your daughter. I have lived that life of fear for my daughter… living out of the country for 5 years in an armed state, but nothing can compare with your courageous choice to love and lean into your daughter’s brain cancer. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. XO nanc

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  2. You write with vulnerability and honesty. This too is a sign of being brave. Remember that you don’t have to be brave alone. I hope that you have a circle of people to support you.

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  3. An astounding, courageous post. Courage, I thought as I read this, is not a one-time think but daily, to be seized in moments. Not one act but many. We “cannot miss life.” I am deeply moved by your stories, by your daughter, by the loss of the marriage which had its own unique pain. And here you are reminding us to make room for joy. You’re amazing ❤

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  4. Wow. Everything about this post is courageous and vulnerable and honest. The Mandela quote seems to sum your current life perfectly. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it” Kudos to you

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  5. I am in awe of your ability to face fear and embrace life. Thanks for this important reminder that acknowledging what scares us takes away its power and leads us to bravery.

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  6. I deeply admire the vulnerability in your words. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending strength to you as you continue your journey!

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