Brave with Fear

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm afraid of heights. Deathly afraid. I cannot even climb a step ladder without getting anxious. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that heights are high. Or scary. Or I'm a just a "scurrdy" cat. Regardless, I'm mortified.

Two of the things that scare me most regarding heights are bridges and Ferris wheels. Why? Well bridges that are high and travel over a body of water is seriously dangerous. If the bridge collapses you die, right? And Ferris Wheels, seriously. Who and why do woman think it's romantic to take a ride on something that isn't sturdy and is dangerously high? If you fall, well that's likely the end of your romantic date.

These fears are blown up significantly in my mind. It's very unlikely that I will drive over a bridge and it will collapse. It's also very unlikely that I will die riding in a circle on a Ferris Wheel. But I've just never overcome these things. When I drive over bridges I have mini panic attacks if my head is not between legs. It's crazy, ridiculous but a coping mechanism. 

This vacation changed my perspective though on fear and bravery. You see I always thought in order to be "brave" I had to be fearless.  Even Websters dictionary defines fearless as "free from fear, very brave." So for sure in my mind I'm thinking, "I cannot have any fear in order to be brave." 
But bravery is not always with a lack of fear. And being brave is not always beauty, muscles, and swords. Bravery is messy. In fact, sometimes it's flat out ugly. People have died showing bravery. 

Websters describes bravery like this: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. 

Being brave doesn't mean you don't feel anything. Most people who are brave experience a lot of pain and they know what's coming. They know that what they are about to do is either scary, or they have fear, or simply just plain anxious. 

My family and I went to Navy Pier here in Chicago. Of course one of the greatest attractions there was this giant Ferris Wheel. And of course everyone wanted to go on it. In fact, Tony bought the tickets without even consulting me first. I had no choice but to ride. 

Sometimes, when fear creeps in we need someone to push us into our moment of bravery. If my kids were not present and Tony had not already spent the money I would have easily walked away. There would be nothing encouraging me to get on. 

We waited in line and my nerves were already shot. My kids where there though and I had to try and remain strong, brave for them. I didn't feel overly anxious or scared honestly. I just knew that I wasn't sure how I was going to react. I haven't been on a Ferris Wheel since I was a young child. This wasn't what I wanted to do. I didn't want to be brave. I didn't feel brave. I felt weak. 

But being brave isn't about being strong. It's showing enough courage to know that you might face pain, fear, or a tough situation but still moving forward. Being brave is about admitting that you are messy, that you cannot do it alone. That you need a push.

On we went. This 7.5 minute ride was going to be the LONGEST ride of my life. Within minutes I was gripping the sides of the ride like I was dying. The cage felt like it was getting smaller. I was a mess. I was crying and could barely breathe. I realized quickly and told Grace quickly that I was in a full blown panic attack. 

In this moment I realized I'm a mess. Make up stains on my face and I look stupid, immature and dumb to everyone around me. But these people are not in the same season as I. They don't know what it took for me to jump on to this cage. To get into this box. To face my fear. Yes, I may not be standing, viewing the city skyline. But I'm here...and I'm rising. And that's what bravery is about.

Bravery is about rising. And rising is not always good looking or great feeling. Bravery is having people in your corner who will laugh with you, (laugh at you), rub your knee, and tell you to breathe. Bravery is conquering your fear even if it means feeling fearful while you do it. 

Tonight my youngest reconfirmed how I felt about bravery. We went to the country and visited a carnival. At the very end of the night she had just enough tickets left to go into the fun house. It wasn't scary. It had lots of little neat things kids climbed, went through, etc to get to the end. She went in with Grace and when she came out she was crying and saying, "It was scary." I looked her in the eye and said, "You are so brave Sophia, you did it!" She replied, "I'm not brave. I'm sad mom." 

My heart. Oh my bursting heart. God knew exactly what I needed to say because before I could process I responded with, "Sophia, being brave has nothing to do with how we feel in that moment. You were in the fun house and even though you felt sad and scared, you finished it. You did it. You were brave." 

Sometimes being brave needs to trump our feelings. If it never did we would never do things that made us brave. Brave is a something we do, not something we feel.

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