Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bravery is a muscle

"Do one thing everyday that scares you."  -Eleanor Roosevelt

I've realized lately that bravery is a muscle.  And if you don't use it, it gets weak.

Yes, I'm sure that this is already well known, and many people have probably already written tomes on this subject.... I'm realizing it for myself now.

I was driving on a highway in New Jersey, where I'd lived for 10 years.  For the first time, probably ever in my life, I noticed I felt slight apprehension about driving on a highway.  This is me, who learned to drive, on a stick shift, on the hills of San Francisco.  (I kid you not.)  This is me, who drove the six hour Highway 5 stretch from LA to SF and back like it was a breeze.  This is me who spent 4 years driving from Pasadena to West LA and back, alternating between inching along in traffic and zooming along with crazy drivers.

So my brain said "Me?!"  (or "You?!" ... does the brain refer to itself in first person?  I should ask it.  Okay, I did.  It says yes.) 

And then I realized, I had been cruising around on only surface streets in my New Jersey suburban area for many years, often going months without even needing to get on a highway, or go over 45 mph.

Probably a small thing, not driving on a highway.  It reminded me, however, that if you let your world get smaller, it can contract your bravery muscle.

This month I have moved to a new state with my husband and our two young children, and I have been writing on this blog about how hard all of this change has been for the kids.  How hard it was for me to move as a child.  Friends have commented how strong this experience will make my kids in the future, which is true.  My mind is drawn back to what I've realized before: many of the experiences that I didn't like as a child, that I thought I would go back and change for myself when looking back at them as an adult, are the exact situations that made me the independent, adventurous, courageous person I am today.  I didn't want to have changed schools 6 times between starting kindergarten and graduating high school.  I didn't want to have changed houses 8 times between starting kindergarten and graduating high school.  I wouldn't have chosen for myself to have been on my own at home after school, starting in 5th grade, even though it was very common in the '70s.  But, as an adult, I realize that all these experiences contributed to me being independent, to being capable of dealing with change, to being adventurous.  People ask me "How did you move to New Jersey sight unseen and knowing no one?  How did you go into New York City and figure your way around and get a job, having never been there before?"  Never occurred to me to be any other way.  I didn't know there was a choice.  I guess when you move that often as a child, you have to sink or swim.  When you are on your own, you are forced to be brave and strong and confident.

"Character building."  Ugh.  As a mother that wants to nurture her children, until now all those type of "toughen-up" phrases have made me flinch.  But now, probably also because at this stage my kids are old enough to be at school all day on their own, I am realizing the time has come to accept that it is not only positive, it is required, for me to allow them to experience change, allow them to flounder with hardship, and it will only make them stronger.

And still I make a frowny face just writing that.

Once the painful adjustment period is over, I will (probably? maybe?) be glad for my kids to have experienced this change. 

If they end up as adults that have strong bravery muscles, able to be courageous, able to embrace change, able to embark on adventures, these are some of the best things in life I could wish for them.


This never fails to make me smile!
I've always called this doggie action
(rubbing back on ground, legs wild in air)
"The Dance of Joy"
(based on Balki Bartokomous from the '80s tv show Perfect Strangers)

New routine for us at after school pickup,
there are adults that walk the students out to the parents lined up in waiting cars.
(My motto in life seems to be "Why choose between smiley faces or hearts,
when you can have smiley faces IN hearts?!!")

It warmed my heart for Aidan that every student in his 3rd grade class
filled out one of these and gave it to him.

A girl in his class made this paper ring for him.

A boy in his class gave him 3 Pokemon cards.
He is all about Pokemon cards right now.

Ashley chose these flowers at the store.

7 yr old Ashley's drawing of flowers in vase.
She loves to draw.

I dig the sunrises in our yard.

I continue to see lots of things in Massachusetts I haven't seen before,
even during 12 winters in New Jersey.
These salt/sand containers are everywhere.
I am guessing this bodes of much much snow.

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