When fellow blogger Denyse Whelan invited me to be part of her Women of Courage series I was initially hesitant. You see, I don’t consider myself to be particularly courageous…not that I’d really thought about it much before. I have, however, thought about it a lot since.
I tend to take a “how hard can it be?” approach to many things, finding out later just how hard it really is. That, to me, isn’t courage, more a reflection of what does and doesn’t occur to me and an in-built faith that whatever happens will (probably) be all right in the long run.
So I thought about what courage means – to me…
Courage involves acknowledging fear and choosing to act regardless. It’s about continuing when all your strength is gone and stopping or hiding would be oh so easy. It’s about trying again tomorrow and it’s about knowing when to let go. It’s about understanding that the only thing you have any control over in a situation is your own actions and reactions and it’s about refusing to blame those circumstances.
Courage doesn’t need to be a triumph over adversity, but sometimes it is. It’s quiet rather than loud and brash and it’s usually only recognised as such in hindsight. Further, the last person to recognise it will be the person displaying it – they’re just getting on with things.
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Many of the things I’ve done that others might consider courageous didn’t feel scary at the time – in many cases, it was more a matter for standing up not necessarily for myself, but for what I felt to be right. There’s a stubbornness in me that tends to come out when I’m challenged that helps me see things through.
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I recall day 3 of the Milford Sound trek and picking my way slowly down the steep and slippery rocky path in the pouring rain absolutely terrified that I was going to fall. After hours of this, my knees felt as though they had knives in them and my toes throbbed from the pressure of the boots (I later lost 5 toenails). I wanted to stop and I wanted to cry, but neither of those actions would get me back to the lodge.
In that instance gritting my teeth through the pain and the fear and putting one foot (very slowly and very gingerly) in front of the other and singing badly was the only real action available to me.
On the upside, I used that feeling and that scene when I wrote Happy Ever After.
“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte
While the decision to move away from Sydney was made at a time of profound vulnerability, again it was stubbornness that got us through and gave us the courage to let go and move on. We couldn’t control what had happened, but because of the work we’d done in the past we did have a say over what happened next.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
― Ann Landers
Likewise, choosing to be an indie author – something that continues to scare me – came from a place where I refused to believe that something, in this case, my publishing dream, wasn’t possible. I knew that I’d done the work and I wasn’t prepared to wait until someone (ie a traditional publisher) told me that I was allowed to do it.
To be honest, I don’t know whether I’ve been courageous or just downright stubborn – perhaps it’s a little of both – but I do know that it was an honour to be asked by Denyse to talk about it. Check out what I had to say here.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill
While you’re there, check out Denyse’s other Women Of Courage…