What does it take to live? Asked simply, the simplest answer is breathing and food. I asked Todd this question this morning, as I sat here for the fourth time since December 31st unable to think this post through. This post, by the way, is the last in a four-part series. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and … Thyme. Good luck getting that song out of your head too. You’re welcome.
What does it take to live? What do we tell ourselves to get going out of bed, to drive to work, to smile, to
These two lines were all I had, after three cups of coffee, as he walked into today’s chosen writing space – the dining room looking out the bay window.
He was holding his own coffee and gazing out that same window with what I knew were the thoughts of a thousand men, condensed into one man who can never seem to turn off the lights and rest. Siiiiighhhh. It wasn’t lack of courage that made me silent, refusing to say, what? It was something else called staying married, and it’s a beautiful thing when those of us with irrational hormones decide it’s more prudent to keep our mouths shut. Now THAT takes courage.
Anyway, I elected to order him to get his coffee and join me at the table. That, too, did not require courage, because there is no fear in this life, nor in this house, of repercussions for just living. And, also, he knows where my heart is coming from. I demand you to sit down will nearly always be met with an arched eyebrow and a lifted corner of his lips, because he knows what I am playing. And when it’s not met with a response it’s because he didn’t hear me.
So … breathing and food. I said, okay, but what about beyond the basic human needs? He said, first you must determine how you want to live. Are you just surviving, or living beyond survival? He elaborated that beyond survival means eliminating what you don’t want in your life and filling up the gaps in time with things to do, aka, choosing to fill with things that drive joy.
My questions, gentle readers, are these:
Do you avoid conflict or invite it?
Do you step on the scale every day, or do you accept that it won’t change in a day?
Do you enjoy your drive to work or hate it? Do you enjoy the drive home, or hate it?
Do you reach out to your friends often, or allow yourself to be comfortably caught up in life apart from them?
Do you mourn your losses so much so that you forget to nurture the living? Do you shut the loss away in a box, never to be opened again if you can help it?
Do you suffer physical pain in silence or constant and loud complaint? Or, do you go to the doctor as soon as you can to find a remedy?
Do you read the news every day, several times a day to be informed of every development, or do you scan the summary once a day so you can keep up at the water cooler?
Do you have a healthy balance of positive and not-so-positive things in your life, or do you not know what healthy balance is, can’t or won’t, or enjoying wallowing in the pity party you give yourself?
Do you keep repeating the same mistakes expecting a different outcome (maybe this time will be different?) or do you take stock and resolve not to repeat what isn’t working?
There’s a certain element of courage in all those things. To living. It takes courage to live. There ya go! Give yourself a pat on the back for waking up on this side of the green today. But sometimes what seems simple to us is not so for someone else. Showering and cleaning up your house may be mindless routine for one person, but impossible agony to someone else. This is less about courage and (I think) more about depression and I’m not discussing that because that’s a whole mental department that I won’t touch because a) I’m not qualified, b) I’m no expert, and c) it sounds judgy and that is NOT what/who I am.
Okay so maybe this isn’t going the right way, which is what kept me from writing it in the first place. On one hand I say, this is courage and on the other, I debunk courage in living because – depression – and I don’t know if courage and depression are mutually exclusive or have only casually flirted with one another and decided they’re not compatible. I’m no Plato so maybe I’m in over my head with this one.
I don’t want to piss anyone off so I’m just going to say that courage sounds like a big word with a lot of expectations around it, and sometimes we have courage and sometimes we don’t. Or rather, sometimes we use it and sometimes we don’t. Either way is not necessarily bad, the same way that choosing your battles is essential. However, in the face of requiring courage, how important is it to your end goal to use it?
Merriam-Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” When was a time you used it? When was a time you didn’t? What were your reasons? How would a situation that called for courage turned out differently if you had chosen differently?
I will tell you that there have been times I ran from difficulty, rather than stare down the monster. Fear was easier to embrace and, subsequently, avoidance. Who among us has chosen avoidance rather than live through the stress – real or perceived – that was coming with it? I have. And what did I do next? – justified the choice to make it easier for me to live with it.
However, courage made me do things that lit my soul on fire – like transferring to NYU, leaving the family business to pursue a different life, calling an end to twelve years of disrespect, dishonor, and abuse, and daring to demand better, and allowing myself to trust the love of another man.Those epic choices would forever overshadow the small moments when I’d chosen to run the other way.
I’m writing this, rather badly and rambling I’m sorry to say, because I really want to say… Have Courage. Even a little bit.
If courage is a word you don’t associate with yourself, try one of these on for size instead: bravery, heroism, prowess, nerve, valor, daring, fearlessness, guts, moxie, intrepidity, dauntlessness, fortitude, guts, gumption, grit, tenacity, spunk, mettle, pluck, backbone, audacity, stamina, brazenness, gall. All good. Pick your word and embrace that motherfucker.
“I wish I didn’t have the courage that day to xyz,” said no one, ever. There can be no regrets in having courage, only affirmation and invigorating strength in self. It can change your life. Actually, either way – the presence or absence of – can change your life. Just don’t forget that you’re in the driver’s seat – don’t ever let anyone else drive that car.
I will leave you with this quote from I-don’t-know-where:
“Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.