I'm writing this from the lovely town of Pacific Grove, CA. I just watched the runners at Big Sur Marathon cross the finish line. Wow. My 40 year old daughter was among the finishers. The courage and strength I witnessed as I watched people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and physical abilities do this amazing thing blew my mind. People are so brave! Where does courage come from? How do you find the courage to do the impossible?
To be honest, I wasn't terribly surprised when my eyes filled with hot tears and my heart began to race when I saw the first born of my heart and body appear on the race route nearing the finish line. I was simply in awe of her ability to dig deep and find the fortitude to do something like this. And here's the biggie: she chose this. On purpose. What a woman!
Courage to do something this hard is a quality that I admire more than any other. Where does courage come from? Which steps lead us to the point where we can do the seemingly impossible? What about those hard things that we don't choose and still we find the courage? Where does that strength come from? Where do we find the courage?
As the unofficial president of the equally unofficial fan club for mothers, I have a strongly held conviction that mothers are the bravest people on the planet. They find a way to push through, figure stuff out, move forward into a dark mist with eyes alert and brain ready to respond. Moms, you are so much stronger and more courageous than you realize. If no one in your life has said it to you, hear me clearly: You are brave. You find the strength. You exude courage. You are the mom, and I admire you.
Where do you find the courage? I have a few theories, and I hope that you will share in the comment section some of your, or your friends', greatest feats of strength so that we can encourage and cheer each other on. So often mothers are the unsung heroes of their own lives. Often we toil and, because this toil results in basic, normal life, it goes unpraised. Not from me...I see you and applaud you. I know what you do and how powerfully you do it.
Children, as is developmentally appropriate, do not express gratitude for your parenting. This is as it should be. They can be grateful for food or toys or specific helps that you give at one moment in time, but they have no way to understand the complexities of mothering as a whole. They don't see you juggling to make the schedules work, they don't know how you agonize over challenging decisions whose outcomes are utterly unknowable. They are children. You are the grownup. They will understand eventually, but don't rush them to express gratitude when they can't possibly comprehend the fullness of your role. Their brains can't do that yet. Be patient. These expressions will come.
Where do you find the courage?
1. You find courage when the outcome matters. Strong, courageous mothers know that child raising matters. They are aware that the atmosphere of encouragement and support make a way for their child to live through their own hard times with courage and conviction and strength. This is important generational work and a sacred act. Once you realize how vital your role is in the task of raising a new generation, you find the courage to fill that role. The outcome of motherhood matters more than any other task you will do. Courage is found when you know that you must do this work well.
2. You find courage when you have to figure the stuff out. My favorite type of courage is demonstrated when the way ahead is unclear or even unknown. When the only way to move forward is to do it in spite of fear and uncertainty. You figure it out as you go. Perhaps the first step is visible and maybe even the second but you know that you have to go that far and then figure it out. Mothers do this every day. You are an individual raising another individual. There has never been a mother or child like this before. You may have some general ideas about how parenting is done, but a big part of parenting is figuring it out. This is real courage and strength. Don't be paralyzed by the uncertainty. Figure it out, brave mother! You are strong!
3. You find courage when the emotional workload is overwhelming. Emotional work is the work you are doing when you appear to be maintaining a balanced emotional state when, in fact, you are falling apart on the inside. You are afraid of what the doctor is saying, but you stay brave to show your child that you have the ability to get them through this. You are devastated that your spouse has chosen to leave you and your child and you demonstrate strength that keeps your child's world as safe and normal as possible. You are exhausted and put on a cheerful face. You are sad and perk up. You are irritated and control the angry and profane words. This takes courage. Your child needs stability, and you find a way to provide. What courage! What strength! You can do this, brave mother.
4. It takes courage...It takes courage to be an at home mother. It takes courage to work outside the home while raising children. It takes courage to be a single mom and courage to maintain a marriage in the midst of the chaos. It takes courage to homeschool and it takes courage to trust the school system. It takes courage to let your child fail and then fail again. But you, the brave mom, make it look good. You were born to do this brave work.
I have never run a marathon. I have participated in several 5ks but never with any competitive drive. I actually stopped at a sidewalk sale in the middle of one. Don't judge me...I didn't buy anything. But my point is this: courage doesn't look the same on you as it does on others. Own your courageous self. Go forward in the confidence that you would have if you knew that success was inevitable. You can do it.