When you live life as Piglet from Winnie The Pooh, sometimes everything is scary. Not just a little scary. A lotta scary. Shit scary. And on the bad days, immobilizing. (I'd so much rather be a different WTP character. Oh well, you get what you get! And it could be worse, right? I could be Eeyore. Or Rabbit (shudder) NOBODY wants to be Rabbit. Because he's a smug, smug little jerk).
At the beginning of this term, I dropped a class because I literally couldn't make myself go. I wanted to. I really really wanted to. But there were too too many people in this super crowded room and the two times I did go, I spent the entire three hours feeling like I couldn't breathe. So instead, I shot myself in the foot and took a course I wasn't particularly interested in, and, as it turns out, wasn't particularly good at either. I felt *horrible* about it. Because usually, I do a pretty damn good job of managing life in the anxiety lane. Usually I do a pretty good of doing the things that are shit scary to me. But this term, oh man, this term kicked my ass. Kicked my ass with wholly irrational thoughts that I believed to be wildly and irrevocably true. Because that's what anxiety does. It takes your worst thoughts and fears, the ones that you hold deep down and don't dare tell anyone about, and it amplifies them and then it engulfs you.
I spent a few days convinced that everyone in the world despised me. (And though to be sure, I am sure there are a few, the whole world might be a mild exaggeration. But that's anxiety for you. The irrational becomes the very, very real).
I spent a few nights awake with the stabbing feeling in my chest, unable to stop the whirring of my brain, that flitted between agonizing over assignments and stupid things I've said/done and wondering how I'm going to afford this new free life of mine and about my kids, sure that I am ruining them forever. Thank goodness, these days and nights pass. And things even out again. Thank fucking goodness.
(Now, as a wee aside, I *do* think that anxiety makes sense in this world - because if you aren't scared of (and saddened by) this messed up world, then you probably aren't paying very good attention. That said, some of us have been bestowed with a bit more anxiety-making tendencies than others.)
Anyways, reflecting back on those crap-assed days over the past little bit, I got to thinking a lot about the idea of bravery. How brave am I, really? What makes bravery? How do we hold onto it, in these really slippery and uncertain and frankly scary times?
And so I made a list. Of the things I feel are really, really brave. Some of them I can do. Some of them I want to be able to do. All of them are brave.
1. Getting out of bed every single morning and trying to look for some good in your life, and in the world. Seriously. Harder than it sounds.
2. Listening to someone tell you how you've hurt them with an open heart and mind. This is so brave. So very brave. Because it requires really trying to understand your less savoury parts. We all have them. But we'd all rather believe we don't.
3. Admitting you fucked up. Trying to do better next time.
4. Admitting the parts of you that aren't pretty, while holding onto the parts that are. See #2. Some pretty tricky shit.
5. Doing something you've never done before. (Like, say, going to pole dance class with teensy weensy 20 year olds... It still freaks me out. And I'm still doing it.)
6. Believing that feeling ugly doesn't make you ugly. Mmmmm. Hard, hard, hard. But also brave.
7. Saying no to a child who's about to blow their stack. In public. (This is bravery to the enth degree friends, oh yes it is! And rarely ends well.)
8. Trusting someone with your secrets. (Oh, man!).
9. Trusting that your secrets aren't as bad as you believe. (Oh man! Oh man!)
10. Going with your gut and your heart when logic tells you otherwise. This is my favourite. Possibly because I frequently do it. But I steadfastly believe it's brave.
11. Risking real openness and vulnerability even when you know you might get squashed. (Yes.)
12. Admitting defeat. Yep. Sometimes I think this is the bravest thing possible.
13. Refusing to admit defeat. (Oh bravery, you are one tricky bastard).
14. Asking for help. (Oh god - I really suck at this one. Like, super suck. But I wonder sometimes, if admitting that you can't do it all on your own is a sign of strength rather than weakness?)
15. Honesty. This is the bravest, I think. Because it means first taking stock of that really hard stuff inside yourself - being honest and real with yourself about the good and bad and ugly- and then sharing that with someone else. WHEWF! Brave, brave, brave.
16. Skydiving. Okay - I don't get it. Not at all. But I think allowing yourself to plummet through the air with a parachute that may, or may not work, is very brave. Possibly also stupid. But very brave. Though, for the record, you will *never* catch me doing it. (But I have told my sky-dive-crazy child that I will sign a consent for him if he is still obsessed with the idea in his late teens. This will require all kinds of mad mama bravery on my part.
So yeah. Those are some of the things that I currently think are brave.
What is bravery to you? (I really want to know!)