Am I Really That Brave? A Discussion on Bravery

That’s a big fat NO!  In my eyes, at least.

People have called me brave for years and I. just. don’t. get. it.  I don’t feel brave.  Ever.  I am scared out of my gourd most of the time.  But I do things anyway.  I push myself.

What is bravery, really?  So, I went and did some research.  Apparently I have to change my personal definition of bravery.

From Merriam Webster:

brav·ery

noun \ˈbrāv-rē, ˈbrā-və-\

: the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening : the quality or state of being brave

Synonyms: intrepidity, fearlessness, boldness, daring, prowess, heroism, pluck, spirit, audacity, nerve, mettle, spunk.

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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 
Nelson Mandela

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” 
Veronica Roth

If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.
George S. Patton

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It has been written that bravery is being afraid and doing it anyways.  By these definitions and more, I must be truly brave.  Yet it feels wrong/strange/uncomfortable to claim that word as a description of myself.

When my kids were young and my husband kept telling me he “couldn’t”, ie wouldn’t, do things or go places with us and never was interested in having some fun and  instead always chose “work” over us, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do things without him.  I was given a used camper trailer from my older brother and started taking the kids camping all over NY and PA and NJ.  Every time we went, which was as often as I could manage financially, I chose a new place to explore.  I don’t think we ever went to the same place twice.  It was so much fun for me and I tried to make it fun for the kids.  I wanted them to see new places and do new things, too.  After my kids grew up, I then started doing stuff with the grandkids.  He wouldn’t go any time I asked so I chose to go without him.  Did this feel brave?  Not to me, it was just me trying to enjoy my life.

At least once a year, I would drive five, six hours to NJ on a Friday night and back again on a Sunday just to have a weekend visit with my brother and his family, the only family left on my side who lived nearby.  I took the kids down there to camp with them several summers in a row.  I drove to NJ for weddings and new babies several times.   Once I got lost for two hours at ten p.m. when I took a left instead of a right getting off the highway. IMG_1403 My inner radar was tired and misfiring by then and apparently I went down the wrong direction and couldn’t get turned back around.  Drove around frustrated for two hours trying to figure out where I was, even after I stopped and got useless directions at a gas station where the attendant spoke very bad english.  It was midnight by the time I got to my brother’s house after I accidentally found a road number I recognised (actual time from highway exit to my brother’s house = 1/2 hour).  I didn’t admit I had gotten lost lol.  My kids were a bit freaked out by the experience.  My niece and sister-in-law have always told me how brave I was to make that drive.  Really?  No.  Again, not feeling brave at all, just wanted to visit with loved ones.

When my parents moved to Chesapeake Bay, which is even further away from me, I drove there with my kids for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party and then a couple of years later for my father’s funeral.  Without my husband.  He wouldn’t go (work again), so what was I to do?  Go alone.  I didn’t consider it bravery, just something I needed to do.

Now that the kids are grown, I do these types of trips alone all the time.  How is that brave?  It’s what I have to do to have a life beyond this town and stay in touch with family.

NYC2013 001What I considered my first big stepping out point was when I took myself to NYC for the first time on my 50th birthday with my daughter and a friend.  We saw a Broadway play (not the one in the picture), stayed at a motel, took the subway, walked all over, ate too much, and laughed all weekend.  It was awesome and a dream come true that wasn’t ever going to be shared with my spouse.  No bravery involved there in my book, just exploring a dream and having fun, trying new things.

A few years ago, I met some good friends online and made a trip west to see one of them, alone.  I hadn’t flown in twenty-five years so that was an adventure.  And I was nervous and scared.  Telling my husband was scary.  But I missed the west coast and really wanted to go back again and really wanted to see this friend so I went.  He wasn’t interested in travelling.  Two birds with one stone with that trip.  And it was so worth it.  Not feeling brave inside at all during the flights, and actually quite scared at what I was doing, but it was challenging and fulfilling, and I’m glad I did it.

I have wanted to do a spiritual retreat for years ever since I started on this path of self-growth.  I wanted to meet more people who were walking the same path as I was in person so I went to Eloheim’s event two years running.  My husband did not and does not understand.  But I did it anyways because I just had the strongest desire to meet all these people I only knew online and how could I not go?  Yeah it was cross country and cost me a bundle, but I had to go.  Not to mention, I met Eloheim and Veronica!  How else was I going to do this if I didn’t make the choice to go?  Okay, that decision felt brave.  However the trips were each a minefield full of scary for me.  Brand new territory the whole time but oh so worth it.

My next biggest, freakiest, scariest thing (to me) is my planned big move.  It scares the hell out of me, frankly.  If I let myself fall into that pit of fear, I wouldn’t take another step.  But it’s my first choice.  It feels like a choiceless choice.  I have to go.  I so want to do this.  I have dreamt of living in a place like this for years and when it popped up on my radar last year, it seemed like an opening, a portal to my dreams.  Panama5 016I am holding back the reins on my fears while I keep taking one step at a time, clearing things out and tackling one piece of paperwork at a time.  It’s my first choice.  And guess what?  Now that so many people know this, the cat is out of the bag and crap, I can’t back out.  I’ve got all these people, women mostly, cheering me on, watching avidly.  And I know spirit is also cheering me on, too.  Gulp.  So if I cave and let the fears run my life and scuttle back to my cave, I lose my dreams and disappoint a lot of folks.  I am scared shitless, as they say, but I still intend to do it.  That definitely fits the above definition of bravery.

I have had people tell me for years they admired my bravery.  Really?  Some of it never felt brave to do, it just was something I felt I needed to do.  Some of it I really wanted to do and it wasn’t going to happen if I waited for someone else to go with me or do it for me.  But there are so many parts of me that are quite fearful.  One incident in my twenties where I was so not Toronto - ON - Toronto Harbourfront7.jpgbrave was when I drove around the same block three times before turning my car around and going home just so I didn’t have to park, go inside and talk to the unemployment office.  Yep, fear turned my car around.  I have avoided many a phone call so I didn’t have to talk to strangers or make appointments, that’s fear.  I hate heights, I can’t stand near the edge of the viewing ledges of towers like the Empire State Building or the CN Tower in Toronto, it’s a paralysing fear.  You’ll find me waving at you near the wall while you stand at the edge and take photos of the views.  No bungee jumping or parachuting, ever, for me.  And after one terrifying experience long ago, you won’t find me on a small plane again either.  Airplane rides on any plane are spent with white knuckles and silent meditations.  Please let this fly and land safely!  Downhill skiing at high rates of speed is not for me, getting a tattoo sounds like more pain than I want to subject myself to, I avoid asking for time off at work so I don’t have to talk to the boss (authority figure fears), and I won’t ride on my son’s motorcycle with him (he scares me!).  Oh and a biggie, going to the dentist makes my stomach tie up in knots so I put that off as long as possible.  I will also go to extraordinary lengths to avoid public speaking, uh, make that speaking in front of more than 3 or 4 people.

I don’t feel brave in the least. 

So I wonder, how is it brave to want to do stuff and then to actually do them even though others wouldn’t dream of doing them?  Is it brave to do things when you are shaking in your boots while you do them?  I guess so.  However, the things I do are my first choice.  The things I do just feel like things I have to do.  But I often feel afraid inside.  I just force myself to do some things that I want to do but am afraid of for some reason.  I prepare myself to do those things so I can do them with as much confidence as possible.  I learn as much as I can and find a road map so I have some tools at my disposal.  I’m living, not existing.  Within that definition, I am brave.

Like getting on my first rollercoaster in my forties, which I did with rubber legs and quivering insides and questioning my sanity the entire time, I make myself do things.  I was very proud of myself afterwards and also found out how much I loved them!  I still scream like a banshee the whole ride down while my daughter laughs hysterically at me, but I love the rush.  I’m living.  That’s how I feel with this moving away decision.  There’s a screaming banshee in me, terrified, (she’s really, really loud in there) but oh how proud I know I will be of myself later.  That’s the rush.  Overcoming the challenge, testing my mettle.  Is that brave?  Apparently.

It takes me a long while to make a decision that will not only impact me but others.  Do I rock this boat?  Do I do what I want to do?  Do I dare?  Will it be worth the repercussions?  Making the decision to go ahead is scary.  Telling others what I decide is scarier.  Doing unfamiliar stuff is scary.  Sometimes I do it anyway.  Sometimes I run away and procrastinate.  Sometimes I give up all together.

I don’t feel “brave,” but others see me that way because there are times I actually follow through on things that scare them.  Does that make me brave?

Funny how others can see your actions in different lights than you do.  What you see in yourself one way, they see in a different way.  Perhaps this has to do with the fact that we are so familiar with ourselves, we know what we’ve done and thought and felt.  We judge ourselves harshly as a result.  Familiarity breeds contempt?  We see ourselves as less than how others might see us.  Why, they don’t know me the way I do!  If they did, they wouldn’t be so nice to me.  And this follows for our view of them, too.  Look at what they did/do, we say, amazing stuff, wow, I could never do that!  From our standpoint, they look so brave and talented to us.

So, what is bravery?  According to the Warrior, it’s standing there with s*%t running down your leg, all your weapons at hand, prepared and scared to death, but doing it anyway.  I guess I am brave.  Why does that label  still feel like it doesn’t fit?  Because it sounds wonderful and I don’t think I am?  Whoaaa.  More wordy paths to follow and if I don’t stop here for now, my fingers are going to cramp up….check out the Warrior instead.

From Veronica Torres and Eloheim 

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