Optimism is the foundation of courage. Necessity does the work of courage. ~Nicholas Murray Butler
A lot of people have been telling me this month how brave I am. I respectfully have to disagree. I will concede that it has been a tough couple of years in the “At least we have our health” department. We’ve spent way too many nights in the hospital, logged an excessive number of miles traveling to various facilities, and eaten a lot of bad institutional food. However, we have also had some major high points (like giving birth to our beautiful children). Whereas it seems dramatic to read about our trials in retrospect, when you’re in the middle of living them, it’s just life. You wake up, you assess the day, and you forge ahead. Over the last year, I have had to take on some roles and duties that I did not necessarily expect. This explains, dear neighbors, why our lawn looks so terrible and our back gate never got fixed properly. I’ve done my best to keep our ship sailing and recognize that there are challenges I cannot conquer. This is when I try to give myself a little grace. I cannot do it all. And I cannot make myself feel badly for not being able to do it all. I just try my best to keep my head above water and tread through another day. Does this make me brave? No. Anyone would react similarly if they woke up in the same situation. When I think of brave, I think of the folks in Iraq and Afghanistan who actually volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way for a greater cause. I think of the students in Tiananmen Square who laid down in front of tanks. I think of Mother Theresa and Gandhi, martyrs who thought nothing of their own needs and ambitions. I think a more apt description of me these days is “adaptable”. I bob and weave through unpleasant news and tough situations. Part of this adaptability stems from my historically optimistic attitude. I think people can make their own luck. (Some of my favorite people have been making their own luck for years.) It’s all in how you frame things. Yeah, it really stinks that Mary Hazel got cancer and that Russell has a nasty vascular condition, but hey, aren’t we lucky we got treatment in time?! I know that all stories do not have happy endings, but I’m hoping to deflect the really bad news for as long as possible. Superheroes are a big topic at my house. Rarely does a day go by when someone doesn’t talk about, dress up like, or inquire about the powers of a superhero. This summer, I’m Wonder Woman. Now I don’t claim to look as good as she does in her red boots and smokin’ bustier, but I am totally stealing those snazzy wrist cuffs. As silly as it sounds, I really do visualize myself turning in slow motion and raising my arms strategically to deflect the negativity I know may harm me or my family. I am not as brave as a superhero, but when it comes to self-preservation, I guess you just suit up and rise to the challenge. I was just telling a friend of mine the other day that even through the worst of situations, I usually feel like things are just going to work out. I know that’s a pretty naive notion, but so far, it has proven true. Perhaps I don’t cry at funerals or weddings for the same reason. Maybe I protect myself by creating a barrier between my fragile heart and genuine emotions until I can look back on the event with perspective. (Or maybe it’s just good old-fashioned denial?) I suppose my aversion to bad news could be falsely interpreted as bravery. The truth is it’s more like a reflex. Nobody chooses to drown. I’ll just keep treading water and being thankful for the help along the way.