This article was first published on Doing Life Together.
I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19.
I got my first learner’s permit when I was a senior in high school. My dad took me out driving several times in his huge Buick LeSabre. Our sessions usually ended with him red-faced and shouting at me, and me crying. At the time, I didn’t understand why Dad was so frustrated.
The day of my scheduled road test was also the day of the first blizzard of 1970. I had no experience driving in snow. Even though Dad promised the test course would be plowed by the time we got there, this was not the way I’d imagined it. I pictured myself driving us to the Motor Vehicles office on non-scary, dry roads. I didn’t want a last-minute lesson on driving on snow-covered roads. So I refused to go. Dad said I could call and reschedule, but I just…
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An oldy, but a goody. Un-smiley face graphic by Kaz Vorpal.
As I was readying to leave for work one day fifteen years ago, my daughter Erin, then fifteen years old and the last of our children to leave for school in the morning, breathlessly announced, “There’s a snake in my pants!”
Now, in some homes, a statement like that might be alarming. However, in our house, it was pretty typical.
Firstly, my kids tended to keep their clothes on the floor. Secondly, although we live in Arizona, we are surrounded on all sides by the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—unlikely a wild reptile wriggled in from the desert. It would probably be one of our resident serpents.
You see, my husband, Greg, an elementary school teacher, collected critters.
So my very logical response to Erin was “Who is it?”
“One of the black and white ones.”
Boy, was I ticked. I had recently flown to New Jersey to…
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In remembrance of those who lost their lives in the attacks fifteen years ago today. First published last year on Doing Life Together.
Inspired by the article 9/11–We Remember by Mary O’Connor, I am sharing the first entry in my personal journal after the attack, unedited. Please excuse the rambling and the incorrect information.
When I got out of the shower Tuesday morning (9/11) and turned on the TV, the World Trade Center was on fire. I called Greg at work, and he turned on the TV in his classroom. While we were watching, the second tower burst into flames, although the reason wasn’t readily ascertainable. I called Carly in Brooklyn. I was glad to know she was safe.
When I returned to the bedroom, Andy, who had been watching TV, told me a second airplane had hit the building. I couldn’t understand it. That building had been there for 33 years without any accidents. How could there be two in one day? They replayed the film footage of the…
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The 1998 film Saving Private Ryan opens with one of the most terrifying scenes in military and cinematic history: the Allied landing on Omaha Beach in World War II. What touches me most is the courage of the hundreds of young soldiers who, seeing their fellow teammates being mowed down by fire on all sides, nevertheless follow their training, obey their orders, and advance to the shore despite certain death.
We might think bravery means fearlessness, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Certainly, soldiers experience very real fear during combat.
Merriam-Webster.com says courage is “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous;” bravery is defined as “the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening.” In other words, courage and bravery mean taking action despite fear, not without fear.
How do warriors find the courage to fight in spite of grave danger? Perhaps bravery is inspired by a belief in a greater good, such as battling an oppressive regime to safeguard innocent populations.
Bravery is also required of ordinary people in their everyday lives, even though the perceived danger may be less fatal. A child on the first day of school, a teenager with a brand new driving learner’s permit, and a job-seeker filling out applications are all facing the unknown. Will their next step bring new adventure, or throw them up against a brick wall? They might cling to mommy at the classroom door, collapse in tears behind the steering wheel, or tear themselves to shreds while listing their weaknesses. Or they may fortify themselves by visualizing desirable outcomes: exploring the secrets of the universe, mastering a skill which brings freedom of movement, or contributing to society while earning a living. Growth requires ordinary, everyday courage.
The creative person faces fear as well. Trying something new carries with it the danger of failure. Maybe the idea won’t work, and the money spent on expensive materials will be wasted. Months and years devoted to a project might never reap a benefit. Audiences may be unimpressed with our talents. And many artists never earn even a few thousand dollars per year for their art, so they’re obligated to work a “paying” job as well. Who can thrive, or even exist, under those conditions?
But in the case of art, the compulsion of self-expression overcomes the inertia of uncertainty. The need to be who we are, creators, urges us to disregard the security of the status quo. We go forward regardless of unguaranteed end-result.
I am not saying that an artist’s bravery is equal to the courage of a firefighter who enters a burning building hoping to save lives, or of a police officer confronting someone up to no good. But I am saying that it takes a certain amount of selflessness to do something you’ve never done before (or something no one has ever done before).
Acknowledge the fear. Maybe no one will like our work. Maybe the critics will pan it. Maybe no one will buy it. Maybe people will laugh.
But maybe one other person will see it and be encouraged. Maybe our creation will impact someone’s life in a positive way. Or maybe it will affirm a segment of society who thought they were forgotten.
So, let us go forward bringing beauty to the world, relieving grief by exploring it in detail, extending hope by suggesting a better way. Let us expose evil, invent heroes, spawn universes. We’ve been called to create; let’s do so courageously.
Fear emoji by KAZ Vorpal, found on Flickr