Not Brave

I had planned to be out of town this weekend. My lovely sister in law and I had intended to immerse ourselves early in Christmas festivities and drive to the nearest excuse for a city for some shopping. As it happens, winter got the best of us, and despite chinook winds and serious melting, we’d heard the roads were treacherous and decided to stay home.

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I headed to town instead, loaded up on groceries and jaunted into our local coffee shop to grab a freshly baked pastry for the SIL’s birthday tomorrow. As I waited in line, I glanced around. Teddy bears everywhere. The place was packed. I saw a few familiar faces. Waved at a coworker, frowned at the lack of cinnamon buns.

Suddenly, my eyes came across a familiar face, that of a person I’ve only met online. A woman who has suffered two tragic losses in recent months. A woman who is much braver than I.

I remembered that today she had organized a Teddy Bear Picnic, an event to honor bereaved parents and collect teddy bears by donation with the intention to gift them to parents in need. There she sat, smiling brightly, bubbly and cheerfully chatting. I realized that this place, at this moment, was dedicated to women like me. Women who have suffered near insurmountable losses that have shattered our worlds, women who are here now, in hopes of helping the next hurting parents, to honor the lives of their lost little ones.

I admire this woman’s courage and willingness to speak aloud about a topic so often buried and ignored. I, too, have felt the pull to stand up for the little guy, for the wounded women, for the broken hearted parents.

But, instead, when the realization hit me that I had suddenly found myself, unprepared, in the midst of this wonderful event….I panicked. My eyes hit the floor. I waited impatiently for my carrot cake to go, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as my phone rang and I was granted a distraction. I essentially bolted.

I talk a big game online, bearing my soul, pouring out my feelings and screaming to the proverbial internet heavens of my pain and struggle. I shout from blog rooftops of the injustice of our silence, of the stigmas we must overcome, of the wounds I’ve bound with gauze and walked on in spite of.

But, in person, I am small and meek, and afraid.

Internet me would have walked up to this familiar face, introduced myself, and given her a hug, maybe even cried over our shared tragedies. I would’ve commended her on her admirable event and the way she’s standing up for others in spite of her own pain. I’d’ve sat down next to her, met other local parents who understand where I’ve been, and maybe reached out a hand to someone else who needed it.

But the real me bolted. The real me panicked, couldn’t face the thought of five minutes of unknown discomfort and awkwardness. The real me, afraid to cry in public, afraid to face myself, afraid to be exposed, kept her eyes on the floor, failed to embrace an opportunity. The real me waited for her carrot cake and refused to publicly face herself, as the mother of a child not born, of a child who ought to be a week old now.  In person, I refused to show my scars, to note my weaknesses, to speak up in honor of my lost baby.

When caught unaware, when I cannot prepare my words on a screen, when I cannot articulate smoothly and with the ability to delete, to compose, to insert a pretty highlight photo, I am not loud.

I am not strong.

I am not brave.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Anaïs Nin

Today, I shrunk my world a little bit, because I could not be brave.

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6 Responses to Not Brave

  1. Kate says:

    I hope you will go easy on yourself! We all do the best we can — sometimes we have strong moments, sometimes we just can’t handle it. It is all OK. Nobody hands you a manual when you go through this .You make it up as you go along. And that’s OK. You ARE brave, just for surviving. And I’m sure you will get your chance to prove it. Hugs to you. We all have our hard days when we just don’t have it in us to be strong. And that’s OK.

  2. fragilehaven says:

    It’s always the people who think they aren’t brave who really ARE, and vice versa.

  3. meandmissbee says:

    I think I know the woman you are talking about, let me give you some insight into that day: she was terrified and had a hard time getting it together that morning. But it was what she had to do, and she wanted to do it. You are not all “not brave”, this is a very hard thing and we all handle it differently. I waited a couple days to write to you because that day took more out of me than I knew it would 🙂 I admire you and it is okay, if ever you want to say hello, please do. But there is no pressure and you are wonderful. I have really appreciated knowing you online and all the support you have given. Do not beat yourself up! You are very brave for writing this and please, please feel good about yourself!

  4. My sweet friend, I run too. We spend our days thinking and hurting and venting and healing. We prepare ourselves to do this by our nature, we are writers and artists. We put reigns on the pain and try to harness it. But it doesn’t mean we are always ready to take that ride. Sometimes it creeps up on us outside of our comfort zone, outside of our element. I run too. It’s the best I can do for myself at the moment sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times it happens to me. It’s a part of the process, not a chink in your armor. Thank you for being you.

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