I’ve been considering the concept of bravery for sometime now, mainly because people often tell me that I am brave. I do not feel brave.
I have just finished reading a book about someone who received a medal for bravery and the definition of bravery, in order to receive the medal, involved choice. Someone has to make a deliberate choice to put themselves in danger.
This changes how I see bravery.
My husband’s recent post about the movie ‘Brave’ made me consider the meaning of the word ‘brave’. He also made a comment about how I liked people to consider me brave.
Being brave was very important to me, once. I prided myself on my bravery and courage and thrived on people thinking that I was a brave person. Now, I think that it was simply risk-taking which is a very individual pursuit. There is nothing community minded about risk-taking.
I travelled alone through South America in the mid-1990s and could hardly speak a word of Spanish. I travelled alone through Peru during the time the Shining Path was holding up buses and shooting tourists. I went to Chiapas when the Zapatistas were in control of the region. I travelled through the mountains of Colombia under FARC control.
I climbed active volcanoes (in Chile and Guatemala). I even went to gaol for a day in Santa Elena, Guatemala, after having a gun aimed at my face. I stayed in Managua, Nicaragua, when it was not considered safe to travel there.
I lived on a kibbutz in Israel close to the Gaza Strip during ‘intifada’ when Baruch Goldstein shot people outside a mosque in Beersheba and where we played tennis as the gunships flew so close that we thought we could hit them with our tennis balls.
These are all instances of risk-taking not bravery.
Now, people tell me that I am brave because I live without Clea. But that is not a choice and therefore that is not brave. It is simply functioning. I could, I guess, choose to commit suicide and lock myself away for the rest of my life but that would not help Clea or my sons or my husband or, indeed, myself. I could be locked in the room for a long time and we all have a long death to look forward to.
We have even been told that we are ‘inspirational’! I’m not sure why losing your daughter is inspirational but maybe that is the subject for another post.
Clea was not always brave. She was not a risk-taker. She hated being left at childcare or even at school. She would cry and cling onto us. She once told me that when she began school or when she was left on her own, she would tell herself that ‘I must be brave, I must be brave’ over and over again.
I think of that now; that I must be brave or, at least, have courage but I really do not want to be brave. It is no longer important to me to be seen as a risk-taker. I must get out of bed. I must speak to people who care little for my tragedy. I must live for my sons even though I wish I was brave enough to choose to be with my daughter (but that would be individualistic as well – a risk, no doubt, definitely not bravery).
I do not want to be brave. And there are no more risks left to take.