a wandering woman writes

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The bravest thing I've ever done

In a Blog Carnival to be published today in honor of her birthday, Laura asks the question "What's the bravest thing you've ever done?"

Although I didn't plan to post a response, her question intrigued me. I decided to sit with it awhile.

Spanish friends routinely call me valiente. When I answer the "how'd you wind up in Spain?" question, their response is inevitably the same: "¡Qué valiente!" More than once, I've heard Nomadita explain my seeming inexplicable actions to puzzled Spaniards in 5 little words: "Es que es muy valiente".

I get emails in the wandering woman account calling me courageous.

Courageous? Really? I don't feel especially courageous. One of the things I ran across while thinking about Laura's question was the difference between English "courage" and Spanish "coraje", or "valor". The English definition, in a classic bow to the stiff upper lip I was born to, includes the notion of endurance - bravely enduring a difficult or uncomfortable challenge. By that definition, it would have taken a lot more courage to stay where I was 5 years ago. I wanted to stop enduring: quit my job, move to Spain, work for myself, play, create. I wanted to feel at home in my life. One day I just knew there could be no more enduring.

So if the bravest thing I've ever done wasn't quitting a secure job? Or selling the only house I've ever owned, and God forbid, that loaded (pun intended) American success symbol, the new blue Volvo?

Was it asking who I was without the CV? Letting myself be scared every single day? Learning to sit beside the fear and enjoy it, even smack it on the shoulder every once in a while, just for fun? Was it allowing myself not to know more than a few things? Looking hard at what was left of "me" after I'd shed the career, the native speaker communication skills and the perfectly developed 5 year plan?

There is something that scares me to death, and I face it every morning.

This morning, knees shaking, I realized I had answered Laura's question almost a year ago, in a post titled The Blank Page.

The bravest thing I've ever done is face the blank page. The blank page I've made of my life - no template, no contract, no assumptions, no concrete plan - and the blank notebook page that new life has led me to make a date with, daily.

The bravest thing I've ever done is to trust myself with a blank slate, with clean white pieces of paper, empty text boxes and freshly prepped balls of clay. The bravest thing I've ever done is make a new decision, every morning, to look at my day, my notebook and my life without considering the outcome. Without a clue as to what I am about to discover. Hmmmm....who might be back there, behind that pen, and what might she be capable of?

This hasn't been an easy year. Reading my old post today, I was struck by its optimism. I haven't heard myself sound that confident in a long time. I find it easy - soothing, in fact - to fall back into well worn templates and old assumptions. To miss my daily writing date. To let the work that's supposedly here only to finance my life become its sole proprietor.

The bravest thing I did today was take Laura's prompt and pick up a pen and paper. The bravest thing I ever do is throw out the plan book and the outline. And trust myself.

I hope you'll surf over and read my post from February. I'm happy with it. And I'm glad I reread it today!

So what's the bravest thing you've ever done?

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  • I'm with you.

    I'm pretty sure the bravest thing I've ever done is just breathe and then open myself up to the possibility of great joy...knowing that along with it comes the possibility of great pain.

    It has made the last year a wonderful, colorful collage. I hope I never lose the courage to wake up and do that every single day, ever again.

    People like you help me keep doing it.


    By Anonymous Kathleen, at 1:38 AM  

  • The bravest thing I ever did was walk into my editor's office and quit, without having a job or a savings account, and pack a bag and move to Europe. It was probably the stupidest thing, too, but can't say I regret it.

    By Blogger Patti McCracken, at 1:45 AM  

  • an interesting question and response. now I am thinking on it...

    By Anonymous AscenderRisesAbove, at 5:44 AM  

  • Hey, loved this ... surfing over to Feb :)

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 9:03 AM  

  • LOL, sometimes I think the bravest thing I do is hit "publish".....Thanks, all 4 of you for getting me...

    Know what, Kathleen, I'm thinking people like us help people like us keep doing it...

    Patti, I decided to replace "stupid" with "aventurous" on my own version, lol. I sleep better that way. I tried "reckless" for a while, but that didn't work either. ;)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:18 AM  

  • Hi all! Erin's submission was definitely one of my faves at the carnival. Not just because she's one of my favorite people, and not just because she's bringing me mebrillo in Jan.
    Loved reading these comments. You all have me intrigued with your own stories of courage and I do hope you write about them and let me pop them up in a future carnival because I don't think there is such a thing as too much inspiration or too many places to find it. It's purely selfish, I can assure you. I just love reading cool posts and your comments leave me yearning for more of the story. Please don't hold out on me. Do you know how much crap is in blogs? LOL. Next carnival is the 23rd if you are up for sharing more of your own brave and crazy moves.

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 3:23 PM  

  • Thanks :)

    By Anonymous Kate, at 8:10 PM  

  • As this world is going crazy I feel tha bravest thing I do (everyday) is to keep still alive the hope in the future. That's the second one! The first (really brave) is still for coming...

    Nice site.


    By Anonymous Nach, at 3:21 AM  

  • Meet my friend Laura, everyone...she will not rest until we dare to bleed -- just a wee bit-- in public. ;) Um...'cept about that membrillo, Laura....I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for how fabulous my membrillo is--it's a gel...it ain't making it on a plane to the US in hand luggage..and in the suitcase? Ick.

    Thanks Kate. Thanks for weighing in, Nach. I'm with you.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 9:33 AM  

  • the bravest things I have ever done is decide, when I was 19 that I will not allow any one else to decide for me. Born and bought up in quite a conservative family, I was married to a 'Suitable Boy' at 19 and I quit on that marraige 23 days later in a brand new country, where the only person I knew was that boy.

    from then on for the next few years I had no time to think about whether that was brave, or stupid or downright sucidal.... all I did was try and do something on a daily basis, make my ends meet as I refused to go back home and be hounded by a system that knew nothing of my battle.

    Since then I have had some time to reflect, to revisit some of those hardships from the comfort of my warm bed and I know that was brave.... because, with my worldly wisdom; today, I would dare not do such a thing.
    But I have to mention.... every now and then, there comes this urge in me to be that alive, hold my head up that high....

    By Blogger Engine Of Ingenuity, at 5:24 PM  

  • Thanks, Engine....sounds like an incredible story....I'm with Laura, eager to hear the rest.

    Amen to this:
    I know that was brave....because, with my worldly wisdom; today, I would dare not do such a thing.
    But I have to mention.... every now and then, there comes this urge in me to be that alive, hold my head up that high....

    Thank you so much for commenting. I'm headed over to your blog to see what happened next!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:12 PM  

  • Love your posts. I hop in every once in a while to get a hit of inspiration.

    The bravest thing I've ever done is to move across the country with my family to take an incredible job. And when that ended, we all moved across the country again to a new place where both my husband and I pursued our dream jobs. Two kids, few prospects, little savings. But here we are a year and a half later - and we're making it!

    All along the way, I keep prompting myself to stretch more. I have a favorite little article called "Stepping Forward " written in the late 70's that reminds me of what moves us all forward. Tell me what you think! http://kimckorinek.blogspot.com/2006/11/running-race.html

    By Blogger Kim, at 6:25 AM  

  • "The blogger box coaxes something out of me every time I show up" - Erin, I like that line and the way that this blog seems to be encouraging you to face the blank page. Whenever I pop in to check out your blog, it's interesting to see how you seem to be rushing headlong into this new world that you have chosen. I'm wondering in what way your life has changed for the better and how the writing of this blog is an important part of the process. I'm noticing how my own blogging is helping me to bravely explore issues that are important to me and how the scary (and fun) part is that I don't know where it will lead...

    By Blogger Mark K, at 8:19 AM  

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