Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Courage and William Wallace


It's a funny word. Say it over and over- and over- to yourself. Go ahead. Say it until the word starts to sound unreal. Like it's just babble. Until it feels like you're having a mild stroke. Go on. I don't mind waiting.

It's a funny word.

To me, it's an even funnier concept. The "courage" I have experienced in my life has been- well, sort of- biblical?- in proportions. "Courage"- a word for them good ol' boys like David (of Goliath-slaying fame), Caesar ("Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once."), and Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" (which, granted, I've never seen, but seriously, even people who haven't seen this movie have seen it). The courage of the white knight. The courage of a lion. The courage of a man facing his own death.

That's not the courage that compels me.

The courage I'm interested in- the courage I  watch with mouth agape and heart ablaze- the courage that inspires and uplifts me- is the courage of the everyday.

Let's give ourselves some credit- life is hard. This existence is hard. There are so many things to be angry about, so many things to be afraid of, and so many things that seem insurmountable- just on a day-to-day basis.

What I'm realizing, though, is that the more of these little things I can confront with day-to-day courage, the better and brighter my world seems.

Yes, it sucked to make the phone call that let me know that I owe 1,800.00 for something that I thought was settled long ago. Yes, it sucked to say to my coworker, "Your day is screwed up because I booked it incorrectly- it was my fault." Yes, it sucked to go to the dentist, my general physician, and the gynecologist (thank god they didn't get their tools confused) all in the same day. Yes, it sucks that I now have the x-rays proving that I need a lot more dental work in the next year.

But guess what- I'm not afraid of any of those things any more. The problems may not be solved, but the hardest part was the initiation- the calling up, the speaking up, the showing up. Now, I fall asleep at night- and sleep through the night. Because I know what I'm facing. Because I know how to handle it, even if it's going to be rough. And because I'm not hiding anything from myself anymore.

Let the dread go. Be brave every day.  Don't let something small get the opportunity to turn into something bigger- and don't wait until tomorrow to start facing it. Rip off the band-aid and take care of the cut before it turns into a gaping wound.

Here is my challenge to you, starting right now:

Check your voicemails, even though you're afraid there will be a message from the debt collector who's been hounding you. Call the old friend whom you hurt and have been too proud to call. Go get that STI test/cancer screening/pap smear/heart test done at the doctor's. Own up to that mistake you made at work. Tell your dad you dented the car. Tell your partner you're struggling. Start that savings account- and use it. Find something to audition for. Check your credit score. Call your mom back, for heaven's sake.

The little things that you're afraid to do are the ones that most need doing. So be courageous. I know that these things are hard to do- really, really hard- and require a stupid amount of energy and nerve. Let that be okay. Tell yourself it's okay that you're afraid. Then kick that fear in the balls and pick up the phone while you're still on that ball-kicking high. Don't save the world. Breathe in, stand up straight, and do what you know in your gut is right. And know that I'm really friccin' proud of you for doing it.

You don't have to slay a giant to be a hero. You just have to get up in the morning.