Being Brave

Despite being the oldest child in my family, I was never the brave one.  I always felt like this was maybe an anomaly but in years since then when I worked as a nanny or babysitter I have often found eldest children less brave than the younger.  This was true of me and my sister.

As a little girl, I prayed hard for a sister. I was a worrier even as a toddler.  I had a Mickey Mouse clock in my bedroom and my parents say I used to cry when his hands moved because I thought he was going to get me.  I prayed for a sister, for a best friend, because this life was just too scary to face by myself. Thankfully, my parents obliged!

But I grew up to be sort of a conundrum between composed and scared.  I don't love it when I have to go into the attic, I don't love it when I have to kill the spiders or go dispose of some dead creature I find in the yard, but I do it.  I don't love to fly but I'll hold my breath and do it.  One time when I lived in a rough neighborhood and someone tried to break into my apartment, I handled it prepared to defend myself rather than hide.  One time I unthinkingly jumped in front of a car to grab a kid that had wandered into the road...a moment in time that has replayed in slow motion in my imagination many times since.  When I was 8 I jumped into a lake to save my sister and in a calm moment of clarity, I thought I was probably going to drown trying to save her.

But I still don't believe I have ever overcome my trembling at the thought of doing certain things.  My mom once found a snake in her living room and the very idea of that makes me think if that happened to me I'd have to tear my house down and start over (for those who are curious, my mom beat the snake to death with a meat cleaver!).

I'm not brave like my sister, though. As a kid, she seemed fearless. She would take any dare, she would say or do anything.  And even now, she is the brave one.  She and her husband love to go on adventures.  It's sad when we go to Six Flags.  I wait for her for the big people roller coasters to finish and then she ride alongside me while I scream on the kiddie rides.  I have a low tolerance for those sort of thrills!

But most people, including myself, are more distressed about internal fears rather than the external.  We fear rejection, failure, abandonment, being alone, missing out, or change.  But being brave isn't the absence of the trembling and fear we experience when we face those moments. Being brave is facing them even when our hearts are pounding and our hands are shaking.

And so it is as I face certain changes in my life, certain rejections, certain criticisms, certain failures.  I approach them the way I do a dead rat in the yard, with the grim determination that I can do it, I can face it and take care of it and once it's over everything will begin to look a lot better!

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