Monday, October 15, 2018

What Remembrance Day Should Be About





The days are getting shorter. The leaves have almost reached their peak and have started to gently fall from the trees. 
  
The fall decorations have been replaced in the stores by Christmas lights and baubles. 
  
And the whispers of discontent have begun. In another week those whispers will increase to a buzz that will eventually morph into heated arguments. 
  
How quickly we forget how much we have to be grateful for. How quickly we refocus our attention on criticizing others. 

How quickly we forget what this time should really be about it. 

And who it should be about. 
  
I’ve come to dread this time of year, this time between Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. 

A time when my heart becomes heavier. 

While everyone becomes so consumed by their righteousness, however well-intentioned it may be, I have to wonder. 
  
Because sometimes it seems like I hear more about the rightness and wrongness of Christmas lights and decorations or I hear more anti-Remembrance Day propaganda than I do about the actual people we are supposed to be Remembering and honouring. 
  
When did all of this stuff become the most important things we focus on in November? 
  
And I wonder. Do they truly comprehend the enormity of it all? 

But how could they really, how could anyone if they’ve never lived it firsthand. 

You can have glimpses, absolutely. I did on all of those Remembrances Days past. 

But standing at the cenotaph as a wife is nothing like standing there as a widow.  
  
It’s nothing like being the person who lives with the loss every single day. 

Not just on one dreary day in November. But on all of the days. 
  
For so many of us, too many of us, every day is Remembrance Day. 
  
So over the next few weeks, while my newsfeed fills with anti-Remembrance Day and anti-military articles, with debates about the red poppy glorifying war and the white poppy of peace, and with arguments about Christmas lights being disrespectful, and the value of the Legion, those won’t be the things I’m focused on. 
  
Instead, I’ll be here trying to decide if today is the day I’m actually ready to visit my husband’s grave at the National Military Cemetery. 

I haven’t been there since the day he was buried four years ago. I’ve been to his private grave at home in Nova Scotia. But not here. 

I haven’t been able to go there yet. 
  
Here is so much heavier. Because It is laden with the grief of an entire regiment. And so many painful memories. 
  
Do I go today? Do I go alone? 
  
I could ask my son or my friend who was Dan’s Battery Sergeant Major or any one of my friends to go with me, but I know how hard it would be for them to bear witness to my grief. 
  
And some journeys, the hardest ones, you have to make on your own. 
  
Those are the questions I’ll be asking myself. Not, why does my neighbour have Christmas lights up?

When I go to his grave for the first time, I will undoubtedly relive that day.

Some memories are indelibly etched on your soul.

And as I stand in front of that granite headstone, my fingers tracing our name, I will see and feel it all.

I will see my own sadness reflected in my friend’s eyes as he passes me a crisply folded flag, tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

I will fill the dirt slipping through my fingers. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I will hear echoes of the Last Post as soldiers two-by-two salute their commanding officer’s grave, their eyes avoiding mine lest they not be able to contain their own emotions.
   
I will remember the heat and humidity. My feet were so swollen and sore, my shoes pinched my toes with every step. I just wanted to rip them off but I couldn’t. I had to teeter on through the pain.
   
Just as I would on so many days in the months and years to come.

And I will remember how exhausted I was and how I just wanted it to be all over. Not knowing that it is never, really over.
  
Please let it be over now. I can’t do this another day.
   
I just want to go home. Even though home will never be the same.

The next time you come across a meme or post about Remembrance Day, before you comment or share, or argue with a friend or neighbour I hope you pause for a moment.

Pause for a moment and remember what it’s truly about. Who it’s truly about.

And ask yourself— is what you’re sharing really honouring those who have died and those they left behind?
  
Pause.

Remember them.

And remember, somewhere out there, there is a widow trying to work up the courage to visit a cemetery.
   
Isn’t that what it should really be about?

  
Read Monica's thoughts on War Memorials in Odes to Our Fallen   

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica on Facebook at A Goat Rodeo
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

My Other Dad

by Monica Bobbitt

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they wear combat boots and camouflage (for 40 years). And sometimes they continue to wear those combat boots long after they retire, beret replaced by an old ball cap or a toque perched at a jaunty angle when it is cold. Well, at least my hero does anyway. And he also seems to have a penchant for striped shirts and sweaters.

To say that I am fond of my father-in-law John would be a huge understatement. He is so much more than just my father-in-law, he is my other Dad. He is my friend and confidant, my idol and role model— my own personal hero.

From the minute I started dating his son, John welcomed me with open arms. He was never Major (or Mr.) Bobbitt, he was simply John, until the birth of his first grandchild (my son) and then he became Papa.

John is an incredible father. As a teenager, I was always a bit envious of Dan’s relationship with his dad because his father was so open and affectionate with him, while my dad tended to be more quiet and aloof. My dad was a kids-are-to-be-seen-not-heard kind of Dad, while John was completely the opposite. He was always interacting with his sons, whether it was taking them hunting or fishing, days spent at the lake or a board game around the table. He never missed an opportunity to spend time with his boys. I knew long before I married Dan he would be an incredible father because he had such an amazing role model in his dad.

And Dan really was like John in so many ways. He had his dad’s impish grin, and all of the qualities I so admired in him were inherited from his Dad— generosity, selflessness, humbleness, loyalty, and integrity. Dan also inherited his father’s wild, devil-may-care play hard ways, and though it might have irked me on more than one occasion, I couldn’t ever imagine Dan any other way.


Before Dan deployed to Afghanistan, he told me that if anything ever happened to him, he knew the one person I could always count on, no matter what would be his Dad. He was not wrong.

From the minute John first walked through my door the day after Dan was killed, he has always been there for me and the kids. Because he knew his son would want him to take care of us, and because he loves us that much. He loves me that much.

John has been beside me every step of the way these last four years. Always supporting and guiding, never judging. Sometimes he understood the challenges I faced even before I did. He innately knew how difficult the transition from military wife to widow would be and when I struggled to find my place in the world after Dan, he reassured me that I would always be his family. 

“I’m afraid you’re stuck with me,” he tells me on a regular basis. (I haven’t pointed out that also means he’s stuck with me.)

I know without a doubt, no matter what, I can always turn to John. When I can’t see an issue clearly, he’s always there to provide me a much needed other perspective. And though there have been plenty of times I’ve doubted myself, he has never once lost faith in me.

“Darlin, I know there are times you’ve felt judged, but I’m here to tell you not one of us could have done it any better than you.”

So much of who I am today, I owe to John.

He is my number one fan and cheerleader. He was the one who encouraged me to start writing a blog, and he was the one who convinced me to speak in front of a group of soldiers (infanteers, no less) for the very first time. “They absolutely will find value in what you have to say. And you’re going to do it.” It's been over twenty years since he retired, but he takes a keen interest in the safety and well being of our soldiers and veterans. Once a soldier, always a soldier.

He was right, I did do it. And they did find value in what I said. Every life I have positively touched since that day can be directly attributed to him and his belief in me. He hasn't just impacted my life, he has impacted many. Far more than he will ever know.

John celebrates my successes with me and is as proud of all I have accomplished as my own Dad was. And when I fall down, he is always there to help me back up. 

And more importantly than anything, he has always encouraged me to move forward with my life. Because above all else he wants me to be happy—for real happy, not just on the surface happy.

From moving to dating, he has always been fully supportive. He has even taken to giving me relationship advice, and though he makes an unlikely Ann Landers, he is surprisingly intuitive in this department. He has told me in no uncertain terms that when (not if) I find my other guy, I’d better be just as happy with him as I was with Dan. “Or else. I’ll be kicking you in the bum.” I have absolutely no doubt he means that.

How fortunate am I to have someone who loves me that much? I am so very grateful for this man, my Dad who is not my Dad. 

I recently told him that I told my kids if they ever need to know what their Dad would think about something, ask Papa. That’s as close as they will ever get. He was silent for a minute, cleared his throat, and said,

 “Those are awfully big boots to fill.” 

I don’t know, from where I’m standing those footprints, though not identical, are pretty damn similar. Like father like son; like son like father.



You honor a man by how you treat his widow, and no one has honoured Dan more than his father has. It turns out that his father was an even bigger hero to Dan after he died than he was when Dan was a little boy.

Happy Father’s Day Papa. You are the best Father-in-Law I could have ever gotten stuck with. Although, as you like to tell me quite often, there’s always room for improvement. 

Love always,
Monica



You can learn about Monica’s father in See You Later Old Manthe eulogy she wrote for him.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/



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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What's Gone Is Gone Forever

by Monica Bobbitt

Four years ago today, I got up ridiculously early in the morning to say goodbye to my husband as he was leaving for a six-week training exercise.

"What are you doing up? You didn't have to get up."

"I just wanted to say goodbye."

I gave him a hug and a kiss as he walked out the door.

"I love you. Have a good exercise. I'll see you in six weeks."

I locked the door and as I turned, I tripped over an extra pair of combat boots he had discarded on the floor. Muttering under my breath, I picked them up and threw them in the closet on my way back to bed. Just as I had a thousand times before over the previous twenty-one years.

Later that morning, I followed the trail he’d left behind him.

An unfinished bowl of congealed oatmeal and blueberries on the dining room table beside his laptop that he forgot (or never bothered) to turn off. Half a cup of cold coffee on the counter by the dishwasher. Pajama pants in a heap at the top of the stairs by the living room (where one naturally would leave their pjs). A plastic army clipboard on the desk in the entryway.

As I made my way around the house tidying up after him, I wondered if he would ever learn how to clean up after himself. He was a make-work project in so many ways. Never deliberately. He was just forgetful, and scattered, and a bit of a klutz. He was forever losing or spilling things.

I had absolutely no idea that was the last morning I would ever clean up after him.

Or that he would never come home again.

When someone we love dies, they leave a vast void in their stead. Where a life once existed, now only memories.

Those memories suddenly become our most precious possessions. We gather them close to our hearts and replay them over and over on a loop; like a movie reel of a life. We cling to them desperately, hoard them even, for they are all we have left of the person we lost.

We can’t help but think of all the memories that will never be made; all the should-have-beens and momentous occasions they will miss— graduations, weddings, grandchildren born.

We think of all the unfilled hopes and dreams; the aspirations and plans for the future that are now all gone.

We think of the things they will never get to do, the trips they won’t get to take, things they won’t get to see.

But gone isn’t just those big momentous events or the things they’ll never do.

Gone is so very much more than that.

Gone is a thousand tiny seemingly insignificant, ordinary things that we took for granted every single day. Things we may have even once complained about.

Gone is no more dirty dishes: no half-eaten bowl of oatmeal, no cold cup of coffee

Gone is no more pajamas abandoned in a pile in the most random spot.

Gone is no more PT gear or uniforms to wash.

Gone is no more blackberry constantly buzzing.

Gone is no combat boots in front of the door to trip over.

As I was leaving for my run this morning, I paused in the entryway by the door. I stopped and I listened to an echo of a memory,

“Seriously Daniel, can’t you just once put your damn boots in the closet?”

I looked down at the floor.

There was nothing there.

Just an empty space.

Sometimes you don’t fully comprehend the significance of something so simple in your life until it is no longer there.

All too often we don’t appreciate how fortunate we are until what we have is gone.

Not that we are purposely ungrateful. We just get so caught up in the chaos of life, so busy hurrying from one day to the next, we forget to stop and be grateful for all that we have.

And sometimes in all of the stress, all of the rushing to and fro, we don’t even see how much we have to be grateful for.

We don’t realize just how meaningful a pair of combat boots by the door really are.

We very rarely stop to think about what gone actually is because, well, we never really think it will happen to us.

Gone isn’t just some throwaway term or trite clichĂ© used to define the absence of someone. Gone is real, and it’s enduring.

And gone, it does happen to us. Randomly; unexpectedly. On a sunny May afternoon.

Four years ago today I didn’t know the true meaning of gone.

I didn’t know just how hard it would be to start over at 43.

I didn’t know about the challenges of only parenting three teenagers.

I didn’t know about the long lonely years ahead of me.

And I certainly didn’t know how profoundly sad an empty entryway can be.

I locked the door behind me and as I turned, I caught one brief, final glance of the empty entryway through the window. I brushed away a tear. Just as I have a thousand times before over the last four years

What’s gone is gone, forever.

As I ran down my street, I couldn’t help but wonder how many wives were muttering under their breath this morning as they tripped over a pair of combat boots.

Or how many husbands were grumbling because their wife bought yet another pair of shoes.

It’s so easy to be annoyed by those things; to roll our eyes and shake our heads.

The inconvenience, the cost, the clutter. And why do your combat boots need to be there? Why can’t you put them away? And really who needs that many pairs of shoes? I don’t even want to know how much they cost.

It is only after they are gone that we realize their true value.

Gone.

In one heartbreaking instant.

This morning stop for a moment and look around you. Take it all in— the combat boots, the laundry, the dirty dishes, the blackberry that never stops buzzing, the shoe collection.

Stop and think about what it all represents.

Appreciate it.

Savour it.

Now, while you still can, before it becomes but a memory.

And as you do, know just how fortunate you are to have it. Every annoying, ordinary, lovely bit of it.

Because someday you might just find yourself like I was this morning, standing in an empty entryway with nothing but your memories, longing for the musty smell of mud and boot polish on a pair of combat boots that will never be worn again.

Be grateful for those combat boots by your door.

You truly will miss them when they are gone.

More than you could possibly ever imagine. 


With much love,
Monica

Click here to read Monica's reflections Three Years after her husband was killed.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss follow Monica Bobbitt https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/on Facebook:
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Grass Isn't Always Greener Even Though Facebook Might Tell You It Is

by Monica Bobbitt
All of the lawns on my street are immaculate. Perfectly coiffed and manicured works of art, most of them look like they have just jumped off of the pages of a home gardening magazine.

And then there’s my lawn. 

My lawn is not perfect. My grass is not green, at all. And yes, I do realize it’s only April, but still. My grass is hardly ever green, even in June. And you know what, I’m okay with that. 

I have a neighbour who spends hours and hours meticulously tending his lawn. From May to September it becomes his raison d’ĂȘtre; all else falls by the wayside in his pursuit of the perfect lawn. He spends so much time looking after his lawn he doesn’t have any time to enjoy it. And it drives his wife crazy. I know because I hear them arguing about it all the time. 

If I saw a picture of his lawn on Facebook, I might be envious. Because it is a very fine looking lawn, after all. Much finer than mine. I might even say something like,

“Oh man, look at that awesome lawn. I wish mine looked like that. My lawn is just so brown and boring.” 

And even though my lawn is actually very brown and boring and does not look like it could be in a home gardening magazine, I don't say that.

I don’t say that because I actually know how much blood, sweat and tears (and money) his lawn costs him every year. And you know what? Green grass is just not worth it to me. And also, once you have lived in Petawawa, ON, you learn to live with dry, brown lawn. 

The grass might seem like its greener, but it’s really not. No matter what Facebook says.
  
I was recently having a conversation with someone who follows me on Facebook when she pointed out to me how perfect my life is, and how easy I made it all seem.

Um, hello 47-year old widow, not really what you would call a perfect life, and incidentally, no one has a perfect life. And if they tell you they do, they are so full of it they could fertilize my dead lawn for a year.

And I’ve never once said it was easy. Far from it. In fact, I have been more than open about just how hard moving forward really is.

The truth is, if you were to judge my life by my personal Facebook you’d actually find it really boring, besides all the lovely coffee and gin memes my friends share with me. I did recently post an album of pictures from our March Break trip to the UK to appease my mother. No one, not even me, wants to be nagged by my mother, trust me on this. 

And if you follow my Facebook page you know I would be the last person to tell you I have a perfect life (I don’t). But I would also be the last person to tell you I have a terrible life (I don’t). 

Do I post every negative thing that happens to me? Of course not, because I actually try really hard not to focus on the negatives. Ruminating on them doesn’t make them less negative, it just makes me feel worse. And I don’t want to give negativity that much power.

But by the same token, I don't post every fantastic thing that happens to me either.

I actually strive to find a balance between the positives and negatives. Because life is often a balancing act between the good and the bad. Sometimes the scale goes more up than down, and other times its more down than up.
  
In fact, I try really hard to keep it real on A Goat Rodeo (well besides the goats, they still aren’t real). Like here: 

  
But keeping it real doesn’t mean sharing every personal detail of my life—there are limits. And to answer this question for the millionth time, no I’m not dating anyone but I’ll be sure to let you know when I do, providing he’s okay with that, of course. Honestly.

When did Facebook become the yardstick we use to measure other people’s happiness or unhappiness, or our own self-worth? 

Because whether we care to admit or not we have all been guilty of it at one point or another.

We look at our friends' posts and we assume we know exactly what’s going on in their life. Or we are envious of them and their “perfect” lives.

The truth is, a picture isn't always worth a thousand words. Most of the time we have absolutely no idea what's really going on in someone's life. 

Assuming you know what someone’s life is actually like based on a Facebook post is like assuming you know what a finished puzzle is going to look like by looking at just one piece.

Many people only share their best moments on Facebook (or any other social media); brief snapshots in time that only tell a small part of their story.

That happy couple that is out “celebrating them” at dinner? They are out celebrating a small victory in his battle with PTSD. 

That mom and her smiling daughter?  She spent hours this morning struggling to get her daughter out the door to school. And she’s exhausted, just like so many other Moms (and Dads) of kids with special needs.

That dude who seems to always be at one sporting event or the other? His wife left him six months ago.

And that beautiful blonde who just posted her tenth selfie this month? Well, she was just told a month ago she has breast cancer. And she’s posting those pictures so she won’t forget what she looked like with hair.

Sometimes people post the best of themselves because they need that memory to hold on to.

Sometimes it’s all they have.

And sometimes they aren’t able to say how bad things really are.

And that’s okay because you know what? They don’t actually have to. It’s not our business to know if they don’t want us too.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to keep us all connected but the next time you’re on Facebook, remember you are just seeing a small piece of somebody’s world. Don’t assume you know how great (or terrible) their life is based on their posts, and don’t judge your own self-worth or accomplishments on what you see in your Facebook newsfeed. I guarantee you that despite the smiles, many of them are dealing with issues you have absolutely no idea about.

Oh and the next time I post a picture on Facebook do feel free to assume my life was a bit of a goat rodeo right before it was taken. Because it actually usually is.

"The grass is always greener on the other side… until you get to the other side.”~Unknown

See you on Facebook,
Monica


Click here to read what Monica does, besides drinking coffee.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/



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Saturday, February 17, 2018

I'm 47 For A Moment

by Monica Bobbitt

Today is my 47th Birthday. Forty-freaking-seven. Holy crow.

In three years I will hit that milestone age of 50. If I am lucky.

Yes, if I am lucky.

For a lot of years, especially in my early forties, I was ambivalent about my age. It wasn't that I was particularly stressed about aging, it was just that I was meh about it.

When I look back on those years, I can see I was meh about a lot of things. I couldn't see it so clearly then though. The funny thing is Dan could, though we never really talked about it.

That's why he wrote inside my forty-third birthday card,
"43 is better than the alternative."

Three months later he died, at 43. And I hit rock bottom.

It was the lowest point of my life-- physically and emotionally.

I was a 43-year-old unemployed widowed mother of three teenage children. I had no idea how I was going to support my children, where we were going to live, what I was going to do with my life.

The weight of those uncertainties almost crushed me.

But as I lay there in the darkness, under the pile of the broken pieces of my life, I realized that no one was going to save me. No one could rescue me or fix my life. Except me.

I needed to get up and be my own hero.

And so I did. I got up and I rebuilt my life, piece by painstaking piece.

And as I did, I realized just how much of my life had passed me by. I missed out on so many days because I was too busy stressing about life to make the most of it.

Loss teaches you the true value of time. And changes your perspective. It teaches you what's really important, and what's not. All of those things that are seemingly so important, the ones that cause us so much stress, they really aren't.

So much of my life I spent longing for the elusive "if only."

If only I were better at this or that.
If only I was taller and thinner.
If only my hair was straight so I could have one of those cute haircuts like everyone else.
If only. If only. If only.

The last four years have given me the wisdom to know that none of those things would have made me happier (well, except maybe being taller).

Last year as I was having my hair done for a function, the gal doing it straightened it first. It was the first time my hair had ever been that straight. I looked at the woman in the mirror, and I didn't even recognize her. She wasn't me. Turns out these crazy curls are part of who I am; they are part of what makes me me.

So here I am at 47. Happy being me, just the way I am. Crazy curls and all.

I'm emotionally and physically healthier, and fitter than I have ever been in my life.

Because I decided I was worth the effort (and I am so worth it).

And because I did the necessary hard work. No one else did it for me.

And a crazy thing happened along the way, I realized that not only did exercise help me become mentally and physically stronger, I actually enjoy the physical challenge that comes with it. Who knew? Certainly not me all of those years I spent thinking I could never do it.

I will never be any taller (but I can buy awesome heels). My crazy curls will always be crazy and now they are a little more grey (well, maybe a lot more grey). And I have more wrinkles than I did four years ago, and you know what? I'm okay with that. I think a few wrinkles are to be expected at my age, especially after what I've been through.

I've come a hell of a long way in the last four years.

Farther than I ever thought possible.

I am so damn proud of the woman I have become.

I have a fantastic new speaking and writing career, and I get to study a subject I love.

I've been able to reach out and support others who are struggling. Knowing I've made the difference in someone else's life makes all the difference in mine.

I have three amazing children who never lost faith in me, even when there were times I lost faith in myself.

I have a good life. Because I've built it. It's not perfect; because nothing ever is, and it's not without difficulties and challenges, but it's good nonetheless.

For a long time, I felt that I had to qualify my happiness. As if it was somehow wrong for me to be happy again.

But not anymore. I will no longer justify my happiness to anyone. Because I don't have to. And I shouldn't have to.

I deserve to be as happy as I possibly can be.

I've paid a steep price for my happiness; the true cost of which is impossible for anyone else but me to ever fully comprehend.

At 47, I truly know how very fortunate I am to be 47. It is a privilege that is denied to far too many.

Each day really is a gift. Yes, even those not so good ones.

I am so very grateful for this year. And I intend to make the most out of every single day of it.

Hello 47. I am so alright with you. 

"There's never a wish better than this when you've only got one hundred years to live." ~John Ondrasik 

Click here to read I'm 45 For A Moment 

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/
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Sunday, February 11, 2018

You Can't Be Brave Without Fear

by Monica Bobbitt

Have you ever seen one of those posts on Facebook or Instagram asking you to "describe your life in just one word" (mine was unbelievable, incidentally) or "describe yourself in just one word.”

If you were to ask me to pick one word to describe myself, I'd probably pick friendly. Or funny. Loving or even compassionate. I might even say strong. Or saucy; because, well, I like to call a spade a spade, after all.

But I’d never pick brave. And I wouldn’t ever think to pick fearless.

Which is ironic, because those two words have often been used to describe me these last few years.

I was talking to a friend the other day, and I was shocked when she said,

“You are so brave. I could never be as fearless as you are.”

I was shocked because I don't see myself as extraordinarily brave. I’m not braver than anyone else could be. And I'm definitely not fearless. Far from it, actually. But appearances are deceiving I guess.

And being brave is not the same as being fearless.


I picked up the pieces and rebuilt my life after my husband died— not because I wasn’t afraid (I was actually scared shitless) but because I didn’t have any other choice. The alternative was staying in that deep, dark place; which for me wasn’t an alternative at all. There was no way in hell I was going to stay there.

I knew moving forward with my life was going to be the hardest, most painful thing I’d ever done. I did it anyway.

Was that brave? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. Fearless? Most definitely not.

To be honest, at the time I didn’t stop to think about whether or not I was being brave or courageous. I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to think much beyond the current day. I was doing what I had to, in order to pick up the pieces of my broken life and put them back together to form a new life.

But maybe that’s what bravery is.

Maybe sometimes bravery is doing what needs to be done; not because it’s easy or painless, but because it’s not. Because it’s necessary. 

Bravery doesn’t just happen, to me or anyone else, it’s a choice we have to make. And one we have to continue making, over and over again; day in and day out.

Bravery is showing up and standing up, again and again.

It’s making mistakes and failing. And trying again.

It’s standing up for what you believe in. And knowing when it’s time to walk away.

It’s speaking up and saying what needs to be heard; even if you’re the only one who needs to hear it. And it's knowing when to remain silent.

It’s asking for help when you need it. And knowing when to go it alone.

It's being you, not who the world tells you to be.

And sometimes bravery is saying goodbye when it’s the last thing you ever want to do.

It’s quiet acts and loud ones too. It’s small steps and big ones.

Deciding to start a new career or move to a new town or start a new relationship. It trusting love one more time, knowing full well you could be hurt again.

Bravery is all this and so much more.

But it isn’t being fearless.

You can’t be brave without fear. If you weren’t afraid, you wouldn’t have to be brave.

Maybe my friends are right, maybe I am brave. But I’m most definitely not fearless.

Nobody is fearless, no matter what they might tell you. All of us are afraid of something. Even if we are too afraid to admit we are afraid. Being afraid is part of being human.

There have been so many times these last almost four years that I have been so very afraid—hands shaking, heart palpitating, I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this afraid.

There are times when I’m afraid and things that I'm scared of.

I’m afraid of snakes and heights. And snakes.

Every time I publish something I write, I’m afraid. Because they aren’t just random words, they are my very personal thoughts and feelings. And I am putting them on display for all of the world to read (and judge). Well, maybe not all of the world, but some of it.

Every time I stand in a roomful of spouses to share my story, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that one day one of them will be me.

I’m deeply afraid of not being here for my kids. That is my biggest fear of all. If I think about that one too long, it really does give me heart palpitations. It is a fear many parents can relate to, but it takes on an added significance when you become a widow or widower. Because now you’re the only one.  I'm the only parent my children have left, if something happens to me, they will be orphans. And that is far too painful to even bear thinking about.

I’m also scared of being alone for the rest of my life. Because I actually don't want to spend the rest of my life alone. If I did, I wouldn't have been married in the first place. When I share this with people, they often scoff at it,

“You’re not going to spend your life alone.”

But the truth is they don’t know that any more than I do. And if they do, well, I want a peek into their magic crystal ball.

Because the reality is, I may never meet that other person who is right for me; the one who sees me for me, and not just as someone else’s widow. And let's be honest, I do talk a lot. Obviously.

Being old and sick with no one to take care of me scares me too. What if I fall down the stairs? Or have a heart attack? No one would ever know. It would take them days to find me.

And did I mention the snakes? Honestly, I’m petrified of them.

I’m not alone in my fears. So many people face similar fears every day. Well maybe not the snakes, for some it might be spiders.

I have fears. You have fears. We all have fears. Fear is part of being human.

The choice we all have to make: do we dwell on our fears and let them control our lives? Do we let the fear win? Or do we stand up and face it? Do we choose to be brave?

I made my choice. I'm not going to let fear win. I've already given up so much, too much.

I’m not going to give up today too.

Because living in fear doesn't stop the bad things from happening, it just robs today of its joy.

So I face my fears, every single day. I own them so that they don't own me.

All I can do is what I can do.

I can keep an eye out for snakes. And jump really high and run really fast if one crosses my path (which might not be the bravest response, but nobody can be brave all the time). I can continue to share what I write. I can take care of my health. I can be open to a new relationship. I can trust love, one more time. And when I'm older, if I’m alone, I can get life alert in case I fall.

But most importantly, I can live for today.

And I do. I focus on the here and now, not the what-ifs.

I don't want to give up one day to fear. Not this day, or the next one. Or the one after that either.

I don't want to waste a single day of my life frightened of what the future holds.
I don't know what tomorrow will bring, none of us do, but I do know this: there is a whole life waiting to be lived on the other side of my fears.

And I intend to do just that.

And I hope you do too.

Be brave my friends,

Monica




Click here to learn The Things We Need To Say
To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/





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