Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Are you brave?

Recently, I read a magazine article about a daughter who traveled to Mexico to visit her estranged--and dying--father. He was mostly aware of her presence and during a quiet moment asked her "Are you brave?"

It has given me pause, this question. He was asking it, ostensibly, to better understand the daughter whose life he shared only in a vague, shadowy way. But inside the question itself, I think there hides a certain kind of praise already. A certain amount of faith that he would receive confirmation of something he suspected all along. At the very least, the moment between question posed and question answered is rare space to ponder exactly what in one's life could allow for a nod of the head, a quiet "yes."

Am I brave?

I hope so. I think that if I were, my life might be more interesting and satisfying. That's not to say I will ever display the outward acts of courage that universally connote the image of bravery(rescuing my fellow man from a burning building or submerged car). But I think there is a different kind of bravery, an internal function of the word. Perhaps it's time to look deeper.

My husband told me that he was proud of me for going through my D&E with such strength. I think he called me brave. I told him, bitterly, that I didn't want anyone to be proud of me for enduring what I felt to be such a violation. It was a procedure that I decided to have done; how could following through with it be brave? Perhaps there is still too much shame and sense of failure involved in that situation for me to feel that I was being brave.

But, I will allow that maybe, just maybe, my husband was brave for accompanying me into the room, holding my hand and stroking my forehead while it was taking place. (And I am loathe to give him credit for anything in this process, so this speaks volumes). I don't think on that day, during those fifteen minutes, that my husband and I went through the same thing. I was numb, in every sense, I was purposely blocking everything out, which is also not a characteristic of bravery, in my view. My husband had to take it all in, not show his upset, and take care of me (all without passing out at the sight of what was probably a lot of blood). I am thankful for his courage on that day.

I have asked myself, are there smaller ways to be brave? Or does brave always have to be Brave.

My daughter goes to preschool on Thursday. I have looked forward to this day with mostly dread. I know I will feel empty for those few hours a few times a week, at first anyway. It was not an easy decision for me to send her, as she is not even three yet and I know this step begins a lifetime of schooling and all that entails.

When we first pondered the idea of sending her to preschool, it was under the delusion that I might have another baby to take care of, or at the very least, an advanced pregnancy wearing me out. So, we visited a few schools and found only one that was reassuring in their warmth and love for the kids at the school. I put her on the waitlist, and told myself that if she got in, it would be my sign that sending her to school was going to be okay.

In late July, the day that I returned home from the ultrasound showing no heartbeat in the last pregnancy, we got a call from the preschool. There was room for my daughter to attend.

It was a bittersweet moment, but one that I needed very much at that time for a few reasons.

That phone call at that moment taught me that it takes courage to let go of the big decisions, giving them to the universe to hand back when the time is right. And accepting the answer when it appears.

More than that, I know that sending my daughter to school requires courage. Her life is bigger than me, unknowable in many ways, despite my deep desire to protect her and guide her well, despite my need to be her everything. For me to acknowledge that her path is both beyond and separate from mine is difficult indeed. And, well, it's about all the bravery I can muster right now. As Dori said to Marlin, "If you don't let anything happen to (Nemo), then nothing would ever happen to him!"

I'm still searching for ways to be brave, in an everyday kind of way. I don't want to look back on my life and see nothing but an overwhelming mediocrity that has outlasted the meaningless fear that inspired it.

How about you? Are you brave?


At 1:53 PM, Blogger Kathy McC said...

I never considered myself brave. Or strong. Two words I heard a lot when I was going through my miscarriages.

In fact, I am the opposite of risk-taker. I like feeling safe, comfortable.

It irked me a bit when people would say how strong I was because I didn't feel like it. I felt like my whole world was falling apart. The only reason why I seemed so strong to everyone is because my brain went numb. They never got to see me sit in a dark room alone and cry my eyes out. They never saw me as I gathered all of the pregnancy stuff and congrats cards and put them away. I was anything but brave or strong.

Sometimes I feel like if I had been truly brave, I would have waited for my body to miscarry on it's own. But I was too chicken. I didn't want to see it. I wanted to be put to sleep and have it all be over.

Little did I know, the D&C was only the beginning...


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