Courage

Sometimes, it’s easy to see courage. Someone runs into a burning building to rescue people who are trapped. Someone stands up to an abuser or a bully, either to protect himself or to protect others. Someone stands on a street corner to protest against what they perceive as a great injustice. Or, maybe, they yell out in support of what they believe is right. Either way: courage. “Hey, that guy (or gal) is courageous,” we might say. It’s pretty easy to agree on this.

chipmunk in a dish, toronto zoo ... toronto, ontario, canadaOften, especially in my own life, I think courage is easy to miss. It’s in the small things that get a bit lost amid the distractions and sparkles of our daily life. Courage can be a quiet sort of thing. Perhaps we don’t think of it that way because of the 24/7, in-your-face, screaming media culture we inhabit, but courage doesn’t always toot its own horn. It doesn’t have to, after all. It’s courage. It doesn’t need to be anything else.

I struggle with many things in my life. Where I am going … Who I am supposed to be … What I should do with my life … All of these things remain a mystery to me. Maybe I’m not unusual in that respect, but there are times when these things are a heavy and painful burden. I find my mind spinning around and around these questions — the nervous dog perpetually chasing its tail. All I find are more questions. It’s frustrating, and usually leaves me feeling trapped and hopeless.

baboon on a car, toronto ontario canadaThe other day, I realized I’ve never thought about who I am. I’ve never come to terms with the person that is “me”. I read articles or posts by people — all of whom are amazingly talented — who say they are comfortable with who they are. “I’m comfortable in my own skin,” is the typical refrain. I feel so in awe and jealous of this, because it’s something that is completely foreign to me.

I grew up believing I wasn’t good enough. It’s not that my parents were cruel. They were not. I believe they tried their hardest to be supportive. They just weren’t any good at it. They are human and, as such, they are flawed. We all are. It’s unavoidable. And so, I don’t say this out of anger. I love and respect my parents, and I admire their strength and courage in the way they took the bad things life handed them and made the best they could out of all of it. The truth beneath all of that, though, is that my parents were controlling and afraid. They were terrified by the possibility I might make a mistake that would lead me into the same types of experiences they had lived through. They had very specific expectations of who and what I was supposed to be, and I tried, for a long time, to order my life accordingly.

sleeping lion, toronto ontario canadaWhile my parents said all the right and positive and supportive things, their actions told a different story. I had the misfortune of being a perceptive child, which meant I tended to read the subtext of my interactions with them, instead of taking their words at face value. It’s impossible to live one’s life according to the wishes of another person, no matter how much you love them. No matter how much you want to be and do everything that person expects. I wanted to hand my parents this perfect pearl of a life so that I could say to them, “Look! I’ve done it all. I’ve succeeded and become exactly what you wanted. I’ve become everything you ever wished to be but didn’t achieve.” Why was this so important? I don’t know. Honestly, I never thought about it. It was the reality of my existence, and that was all there was to it.

zebra, toronto ontario canadaIn doing this, I failed before I ever started. In my quest to be what others wanted, I denied the hopes and dreams that lived inside my own soul. I did more than that: I actively squashed them, thinking that, if I failed to feed them, they would wither away and die. Those hopes and dreams did wither, but they didn’t die. They stayed there, hidden down deep in some dark part of me, making me feel miserable and out of place inside the life I told myself I wanted. I was the octagonal peg, forever stuffing myself into triangular holes and wondering why I didn’t fit. I felt like a liar and a traitor. I felt like the biggest, fattest, stupidest failure ever to walk to Earth. And so, I slid into my middle adulthood feeling things in my life were terribly broken, but not understanding how to fix them. Heck, I didn’t even know where to start!

iguana, toronto ontario canadaHere’s where I come back to that whole “courage” thing. Bet you thought I had forgotten all about it, right?

I think it takes true courage to be the person you were born to be … to be true to yourself and your hopes and dreams. Perhaps that’s one reason I love animals so much: because what you see is what you get. They are always exactly who and what they are, without all the bumbling around and getting caught up in what others expect of or want from them. I might dye my dog purple and pretend he’s a lilac bush, but he is always going to know he’s a dog. It’s more than that, though: he won’t ever want to be anything other than a dog.

It takes courage to look at a life and realize it doesn’t fit. It takes courage to pull out withered hopes and dreams so that you can nurse them back to life. It takes courage to look at the people you love the most and say, “You don’t know what’s best for me, and I’m going to go my own way now.” But, most of all, it takes courage to love those people, anyhow — not because of everything you’ve been through together, but in spite of it.

sheep, toronto ontario canadaThis isn’t the kind of courage that will be splashed across the front page of the newspaper. It won’t headline the evening news. It probably won’t even manage to go viral on the Internet, unless someone can figure out how to attach it to a cute cat picture.

But it’s the kind of courage I would like for myself. It’s the kind of courage I pray my own daughter will have, each and every day. Sometimes, the little things really are the big things, after all.

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17 thoughts on “Courage

  1. I firmly believe every day is a new beginning. I also think life is a bit of an experiment, therefore if something isn’t working, slough it off! Now this is where the courage kicks in!
    It takes courage and practice to be one’s true self.

    • I love the thought that every day is a new beginning. In the past, I’ve gotten way too bogged down in “the past”, worrying over things I can’t change and trying to figure out what was wrong with me that caused everything to turn to yuck around me. But … the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with me. Sometimes, things just turn to yuck, all on their own.

      I also completely agree that kicking off the stuff that doesn’t work is scary. And takes some real courage. So far, I am not sure I’ve figured out where that courage will come from, but I’m still working on it.

      Thanks, as always, for reading. And for the thoughtful and insightful comment. 🙂

    • Thanks, my dear friend! *hugs*

      If my courage has been with me all along, it certainly does a great job of hiding behind my wibbling cowardice. (ha, ha!)

      I’m not sure I’ll ever know “who” I am. But the important thing is that I am not letting myself think about that, and letting myself think, for the first time in my life, about what I want and about what my hopes and dreams might be. Better late than never, I guess. Perhaps I’ll find some courage along the way. 🙂

      Thanks for reading, and for the supportive comment!

  2. Wizard: As for you my fine friend, you are a victim or disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no
    courage! You are confusing courage with wisdom. Back where I come from we have men who are called heroes. Once a year they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade it down the main street of the city. And they have no more courage than you have. But – they have one thing
    that you haven’t got! A medal!! Therefore, for meritorious conduct, extraordinary valor, conspicuous bravery against wicked witches, I award you the Triple Cross. You are now a member of the Legion of Courage!

    This piece deserves all kinds of medals… for wisdom, insight, and use of cute animal pictures! We should all be happy in our own fur! 🙂

    • Wow! I think your comment deserves a medal. It definitely brought a smile to my face. Love it!

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I appreciate it very much. It’s good to know that my post seemed to have wisdom and insight in amongst the cute animal pictures. Mostly, I wasn’t sure and feared it was a rambling mess. It took me forever to write it yesterday. >.O

      Here’s to everyone being happy in their own fur! A worthy goal, indeed! 😀

    • Thank you so very much! You are always so kind and supportive, and I appreciate that very much.

      No worries — I won’t be dying either of my dogs lilac any time soon. Fae would be terrified and ashamed to find herself a different color. And Shiner would just run through the house, rubbing all over everything while he was still wet. This would leave me with lilac carpeting … lilac bed coverings … lilac chairs … lilac sofa … lilac curtains … Well, you get the picture! 😀

    • Thank you! I’m very happy you enjoyed this post. It was a hard one for me to write, because I felt I was sort of rambling all over the place. That is a sinking feeling, to be sure.

      I had never heard that ee cumings quote before. It’s a wonderful one, and I will keep it in mind. Thank you for sharing it with me. 🙂

  3. I agree. I believe children grow up believing they are inherently good or inherently bad. I have never told mine they were good or bad, but they were prefect as God made them. I love them. I nurture who they want to be.
    My daughter dresses in a funky style. It used to drive my sister crazy because she felt that I shouldn’t let a five year old dress herself. I told her I wanted to encourage my daughter to find herself. Now her daughter is 13 and still doesn’t have her own sense of style and mine is fashion forward at 11.
    You see we were raised to be who our mom wanted us to be. I refused and was rejected for it in many ways. Though as an adult, I was the one my mom liked to brag about. It used to drive me crazy. I felt she got no credit for who I turned out to be.
    That said, I love this post. You’re a truly beautiful person. I see that in your writing and comments. I think writing helps you be authentically you. I hope you continue the journey.

    • Thank you so much for this beautiful comment, and for all the support and kindness you’ve shown to me. I think you were the first WordPress person I “met” when I started blogging here. And I consider myself very lucky for that! 😀

      I love your comments about how you let your daughter dress herself and just find the person she wants to be. Similar things occurred between my mom and me when my daughter was younger — and, sometimes, even now. I always let my daughter choose her own clothes. Didn’t matter to me if her shirt and pants matched or she wore two different shoes … whatever was fine, so long as she wasn’t leaving the house naked. I wanted her to figure out what she loved and to know that she was perfect, inside and out. At 9, she still loves to wear wild colors and gets a kick out of not wearing matching shoes. And I love the confidence she has to go with what she likes. Hopefully, she will keep that confidence and sense of self as she gets older and society starts wearing away at her.

      It’s so funny you should mention how your mom bragged on you as an adult and it drove you crazy. I feel so angry and nuts when my parents say they are proud of me. It’s taken me quite a while before I could even admit that out loud … but, yeah … I totally understand that feeling.

      I think you’re right about writing helping me to be “me”. I hope the journey continues, too. So far, blogging has helped me a lot more than I ever expected it would.

      Thank you for coming along for the ride! 🙂

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