Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Courage - to know the difference

Linda, from "Are We There Yet" seems to think I deserve the "Courageous Blogger Award. I'm not sure if her thinking process is working at 100 percent with this one, as courage, by definition, isn't always something I am really overloaded with.

Courage is
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery according to good old Webster's book of words. And I'll be really up front here and tell you when it comes to facing a dangerous situation, I'm not so sure I qualify there. Of course, I suppose it depends on what one considers to be dangerous but I don't think I've ever been in one where my life, limbs, have been out there on the edge. I'm sure as heck not complaining about that lack of happenings in my life though.

I've been in situations where I've been afraid - really scared, you know. Lots of times! From a time way back when I was a kid, playing in the neighbors yard with their son and while running around their house, I jumped over a snake laying there before I even realized what it was. Yeah, I was scared that day, for sure and so was Bobby, the kid I was chasing through the yard with too as he came to a screeching halt right in by the snake, kind of leaning forward as he stopped there, he looked about ready to topple over head first on top of it. We were both scared and were screaming to each other "What is it?" Ok, we weren't total imbeciles - we knew it was a snake -and a fairly long one too but what kind was it? As we took off down to their back porch, still screeching at the top of our lungs, "SNAKE, SNAKE" we about scared the living daylights then out of his older sister, Louise, who was sitting on the back porch steps painting her toenails and she jumped up with us, running into the kitchen, with all three of us almost giving their mother a heart attack.

Their Dad was laying on the couch, supposedly watching a baseball game on tv, but in reality, he was napping until we very rudely woke him up. His first question to all the ruckus was "Wha' happened? Did the Pirate get a home run?" No, no, Howard/Dad - we each were telling him there was this huge snake out in the yard and boy, he needed to come take care of it right then, right there. He gathered upself up, found his shoes and out he went to survey the situation and although he pronounced quite calmly to us that it was just a big old black snake and would hurt us, we weren't satisfied until he got a shovel and clobbered the poor snake and then, carried it down to the old chicken coop to dispose of it. Bobby and I repeatedly went down to that area throughout the rest of the day and until nightfall just to make sure it really was dead. Not really a "life or death" type situation but considering this area is known to produce rattlers and copperheads too and now and again, they venture out of the forest and into civilization so it could have just as easily have been a snake of that variety that had found its way into their yard too. Ok, the fact remains though, regardless of the type of snake it is, if I happen on one, I much prefer that it leave that area but not still breathing. My apologies to those who may think that is wrong, cruel of me, etc., but my theory is the only good snake is a dead one - always has been and always will be.

But what situations have I faced that could be deemed as requiring courage?

The first time I attended an Al-Anon meeting, yeah -I was nervous, a bit scared then until I learned the others there had all at one time felt exactly as lost as I was feeling that night. A little bit of camaraderie there I suppose came through to me from them and in short order, my fears were dispelled and I was fine. It was also one of the best moves I have ever made in my life too and I highly recommend that organization to anyone dealing with someone close to them who has a drug/alcohol addiction. It doesn't cure the issue with that person but it sure does help you to learn how to cope, how NOT to make a bad situation worse than it already may be.

The first time I gathered up enough nerve when my ex-husband told me he was leaving and I responded to him as calmly as I possibly could make my voice (which to me, felt like it was quaking and that I must have been shaking in my boots too) "Go ahead, be my guest." He didn't move out that time but sure did give me a very puzzled look as he was probably expecting me to just fall apart, beg him to stay, to tell him how much I needed him, etc. About two years later, same scenario, when I responded to him again with that same sentence, it was amazing then how calm, cool and collected I really was. And, that time, he followed through with his threat.

I was scared big time then - three children, a house with a mortgage, no job, a raggy old car that could barely make it out of town much less provide decent transportation for me to use to get back and forth to the closest area where I might be able to get hired - at the University - a 70 mile drive, round trip. But, I made a couple phone calls, got myself hired there on a part-time basis for a start. From there, I went to the car dealership where my ex had worked a couple years earlier, talked to the general manager who knew me, knew my ex, and bought myself a brand-new car - a 1979 Chevette! When I look back now on those days, I wonder sometimes how I did manage to survive, but I did it!

I worked by butt off over the years - always having a full-time job as well as a part-time job as an Avon representative and still trying to manage a budget with never enough funds to do much of anything but keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and at least enough clothes for the kids that we weren't relegated to wearing rags anyway. As my son says about those days now, he's glad he chose to stay with me and his sisters and proud to have grown up "on poverty row."

I was really terrified the first day I set foot on the Penn State Campus in my new role back in 1990 as a freshman student too. Heck, I'd been out of school for 28 years at that time and had no clue really what to expect with college level courses, just that I knew this was something I'd always wanted to do but had until that time, never been able to figure out a way to fund the education. That first day, I showed up on campus with all the books I'd had to purchase for the four classes I was taking in my backpack and lugged that heavy thing around the entire day. I figured out by the end of the day, you only had to take notebooks to the classes and you left the text books at home to pour over them when you got back there after classes were done. I should have lost at least 5 pounds that day from sweating so much carrying that heavy load around on a sunny, really hot, August day, but I never had that kind of good fortune - the weight just seemed to never want to go away! And, four years later, I walked across the stage at Eisenhower Auditorium to cheers from my daughters up in the "peanut gallery" and with my Aunt Mary, her son, Ken and his wife Laura, watching me - and Ken videoing that spectacular event. Yep, I was one very proud lady that day, for sure!

Do I have the courage of my convictions? (As that line goes.) Sometimes, I suppose I do, but not nearly enough times for that to make a difference. As I see it, I really haven't done anything spectacular as yet. Unless I really get a move on too and do something, anything maybe, I may miss the boat on that ideal as time is running down a whole lot faster now than it did back when I was 20, or 30, even 40 years old. Yeah, time really does fly and when you hit 60, sometimes it seems it must go whizzing by at the speed of light!

So, Linda -although I'm not so sure I've been all that courageous, I'll take your word for it and will display this with just as much pride as I hold for that lovely blue folder that contains my degree too from Penn State, or the photos I post from time to time of my children, my grandchildren, others important to my life as well. Because you see, without those things in my life, I really would have had nothing to attempt to be the least bit courageous for in the first place, now would I?

And I'll try to live up to the meaning of the word, or better yet, to use the Serenity Prayer perhaps as my guide.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Now, there's something everyone needs to use as a guidepost through life!


lattégirl said...

I would second the motion for you as Courageous Blogger for purely selfish reasons.

Bear in mind that as I write this, I've had a longish day and was yawning to beat the band at 4 PM.

So here goes.

You are courageous because you write from the heart and hold nothing back.

You are courageous because you hold true to your basic beliefs and values without denigrating those of others.

You are courageous because of the way you are such a wonderful mother and grandmother.

You are courageous because you cook and clean when you don't even feel like it. You also do things for friends that go way and beyond the mere scope of friendship.

You, dear Jeni, are a wonder of the world, and if I could make a graphic image badge of that, I would. But I can't, so just take my word for it.

Vic Grace said...

One does not need courage unless one fears. Those that do not feel fear are not brave, but those who are fearful and face what they fear are the truly courageous.

Smalltown RN said...

Jeni..it's funny how we don't see our positive characteristics that it takes someone else to bring them to the fore front...you my friend are very courageous...now you may not have been out in a battle field dodging bullets...no you may not have ran into a burning building to see if anyone was in there...no you may not have walked the beat like a cop...but you in your way...have been, you have raised your family, went for you dream of higher education an write from the heart like no one I know. We all have fears it's what we do with that fear that gives us courage....cheers my friend...

Jeni said...

To all three of you - boy, reading your uplifting comments, had me in tears. Only thing is now, your words make me feel really guilty too though because I do tend to get pretty obnoxious a lot of the time too. Just ask my kids! My son tells the 15-year-old that what she sees with me now -well, that just isn't the same person who raised him and boy, is that ever the truth! I've really mellowed a LOT since those years, thankfully.
I do very much appreciate your kind comments though and will strive to be more in line with what you say you feel in my writing.

lattégirl said...

Be that as it may, every human being has compartments, and all the people in your life (relatives, close friends, stranger bloggers) see some of those compartments and not others.

What we see may be and will be entirely different from what you show to your son or granddaughter. What we see, out here, we like. :)