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,


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1 comment

  1. I like the heading of this article so much. Every time, when we feel fear, we get some experience, which helps us to move forward.


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