“The courage to change the things I can”
– Serenity Prayer
Souldiergirl, whose “journey through the heart of grief” is both brave and inspirational, has tasked me to write about Bravery for today’s A-Z Challenge.
I have written about bravery before, in the form of my little sister and her struggles with Type 1 Diabetes. And the bravery of someone asking if I was OK. And even my own bravery in asking for help when I really needed it.
What is bravery? The definition is “courageous behaviour or character” but what is courage? “The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery” or “strength in the face of pain or grief”. I think a lot of people are brave without realising that they are. Day in, day out, people face the things that frighten and exhaust them. The ill, the dying, the healthy. People get up and they power through and they are tired and scared so they think they aren’t brave, when they are.
Am I brave? What frightens me? What pain or grief do I have to retain my strength in the face of?
It’s one of those tricky questions, isn’t it: what frightens you the most? A lot of people say failure, yet they get up every day and go about their lives knowing that at any point they might fail.
I used to be terrified of failure. I was scared of failure to the point where I refused to even try. I would rather not try, and fail deliberately, went my reasoning, than try hard and fail anyway and let myself down. It affected everything. My school or uni work, my relationships, my writing. I was so convinced I would fail, that I was hell-bent on failure, determined that if I was destined for failure I would take myself there. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Gradually, somewhere along the line, I learned to try. I learned that I might plunge face-first into failure but it doesn’t really matter. We have a tendency to measure success by the things we win at. The number of trophies on our mantle-pieces, the records, the numbers, the certificates. I am learning a new definition of success, one not necessarily based on the achievement itself. For me now, achievement has to include the process rather than simply the result. It’s like a maths exam: if the answer is wrong, you still get marks for the working. I am still terrified of not living up to my own expectations (see: half marathon). I still have times when I feel like a failure, because I don’t have a job, or I don’t run fast enough or I have only been published a couple of times. But bravery for me has come to mean the acknowledgement that things might not work out, coupled with the drive to do them anyway and hope for the best. I have plunged headlong into my writing, my relationship, my training… and I know I won’t fail, because I intend to try.
I don’t go to meetings any more but I still use the words to that prayer to help me through stressful times.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: a damaged ankle. Bipolar disorder. The past.
The courage to change the things I can: How I react to the bad ankle. How I cope with my bipolar disorder. How I let the past affect my present and future.
And the wisdom to know the difference.