Musings: Bravery

Today’s topic is: “How are you brave?”

brave (adj.):  ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing the ability to do something that frightens one.

My first thought was “I’m not brave!” When I think of bravery, it conjures up images of valiant firefighters running into burning buildings. My role models for bravery include my childhood hero Amelia Earhart and the more modern inspiration Malala Yousafzai. They ignored the odds and overcame enormous obstacles to pursue their dreams. But I wouldn’t even begin to compare myself to them.

Over the years, I’ve done things that others have told me were brave.

Apparently when I was two, my four-year-old sister Sarah would send me into dark rooms to turn on the lights. I guess her philosophy was ‘Let the monsters eat my little sister first’. Of course, at that age, I wasn’t trying to be brave; I just didn’t want to play in the dark.

As an adult, people called me brave when I quit a steady-paycheck corporate job (with a great benefits package) to launch my own professional organizing business. I suspect that they actually thought I was crazy, or unnecessarily risk-prone, or that I just liked being poor. But thankfully, pursuing that dream turned out to be a fine idea.

When people who are afraid of heights see these pictures from 2009, they call me brave.

But I wasn’t afraid. In fact, while climbing the granite mountains of New Hampshire and hiking over the steep cliffs of Canyonlands National Park in Utah, I felt very safe and was actually having a ton of fun! (If you haven’t done this, add them to your bucket list.)

In 2010, I told my boss David that I had met several farmers online and was taking a week-long road trip to meet them in person. He used the word ‘brave’ (although maybe not entirely without sarcasm). That turned out to be quite an adventure (and a fun story for another time).

When I finally took my intentional detour in 2011 (leaving the corporate world, selling my house in Boston and moving to Minnesota to raise chickens, have babies, and bake pies), I was once again labeled as brave. But I still didn’t feel brave.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child that I actually felt brave.

Childbirth perfectly fits the definition of brave. “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing the ability to do something that frightens one” is absolutely spot on!

While I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I read several birthing books but still felt unsure about what it was really going to be like. This naturally led to anxiety about the whole exit-strategy situation. But whenever my doubts started to creep in, I reminded myself that billions of women over millions of years had done this exact same thing, and somehow, from instructions found deep down in my X chromosomes, my body would know what to do. After all, this incredible body had already figured out how to create an entirely new human being. Certainly getting it out of me was written in the plan somewhere, right?

Now, when people hear that I had two medication-free births in the comfort of our home instead of in a hospital, they call me brave. But the more I think about this, the more I believe that any woman who makes it through labor actually is brave (regardless of where it happens).

So here’s a big shout-out to all the BRAVE women who grew a whole person and then figured out a way to get it out! Hooray to moms everywhere!



When have you felt brave? Share your memories in the comments.

~ Phoebe DeCook

(P.S. If you missed previous Musings, you can binge-read from the beginning.)


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