Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The brave ones

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the maddening minutiae of everyday life, so consumed by petty frustrations and deep-seated dissatisfactions, I have to take a minute to reflect and laugh. I mean, come on. I lead a charmed life. I have a crazy, loving family, wonderful friends, the cutest dog that ever lived, a safe place to sleep at night, and enough money to live comfortably. I'm healthy and have all my limbs, my eyesight (thank you, contacts and glasses!), my hearing, my sense of smell. So what do I have to complain about?

It's a valuable lesson, each and every time I learn it. Make a conscious effort to be thankful for the gifts you've been given. Be present. Don't take things for granted. Enjoy the good, and let the bad wash away. It's not always easy, but it's essential.

Certain things help me gain perspective when I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. There are people like Jana, whose words are as beautiful as her spirit, despite the challenges life throws at her. There's Molly, who lost her sense of smell in a horrific accident and has written about her experiences and her gradual recovery with astonishing grace. There are stories of atrocities and triumphs that are beyond my comprehension. I'm overwhelmed by the immensity of the human experience and the minuscule part I play. It makes me feel insignificant, happily so.

Lately, I've been increasingly fascinated by how brave people can be. How that bravery takes shape in the most surprising ways; how fluid the concept of bravery is. It can be sharing your dreams and disappointments with strangers, even if you remain anonymous. It can be quitting your job; standing up for an injustice; just getting out of bed in the morning. Often, I wish I were bolder, braver. I wish I had the courage to take risks. I wish I could quit my job, move across the country, open my own business. But week after month after year, I smother my ambitions with fear and doubt. I wish I were brave. I wish I were more like El.

See, my best friend, El, is one of the bravest people I've ever met, in so many spectacular ways. I'm still in awe of her, ten years after we met (ten years!). Yesterday, she called me from Africa, where's she's on a solo (!!) five-week vacation, spanning several countries on that continent. She's gone on safari, seen elephants and lions and hyenas and zebras and wildebeests, gone bungee jumping, white water rafting, and quad biking, made friends with just about everyone she's met, and documented the whole thing via pictures and diary entries. She also got into a car accident the other day that fractured her skull. Now, if this were me, I'd get on the first flight home, then huddle in bed for a month feeling sorry for myself. Not El. She's already out of the hospital, upbeat, finalizing the details for the last leg of her trip. She refuses to let that experience derail her trip. Ever since I've known her, she's been fearless -- she faces challenges like she's already conquered them. I wish I were like that. I want to be brave.

But for now, I'll just focus on being grateful. It's enough.

1 comment:

Louisiana Belle said...

What a spectacular post! That El, she IS something. I don't know how she is able to accomplish all she does, but it happens and it's always on a grand scale, lol! I admire her, too. I can't believe she cracked her skull and kept going, though. Man!

You, my dear, with your sweetness and light, should not change a thing. People are drawn to your lovely disposition and calm outward approach to life. Everyone who knows you always comments to me how smart, sweet, and pretty you are. You do take chances, but it might take a little longer than, say, El to make your move. Impulsiveness is a wonderful quality, but it can also cause lots of problems. You're well balanced, and you're a lot stronger and more resilient than you think.