Facing fear and living with true courage.

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.

I disagree!  Strongly disagree in fact.

Not too long ago I had the privilege to deliver the eulogy at my Mum’s funeral service.  Thankfully my part was early in the service, so I only had to spend 10 minutes or so pushing through the fear and saying to myself “you can do this ‘Tina; this is for your Mum” before stepping up to the pulpit.  When there, I for the most part, fell into a rhythm as I shared my Mum’s strength, her courage, her calling as a teacher and her wicked sense of humour.

It was only when I shared the following words, that my voice broke, “One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my Mum, is how to love.”

I went on to talk about the special relationship she shared with her partner Leis for close to 43 years.  Thinking of their love, and the loss Leis was feeling, almost broke me… but I wasn’t sharing the story of my Mum’s life for me, I was sharing it to remind people of the person she had been before illness wracked her body and ate into her spirit.

When I returned to my seat, Mum’s favourite song, Helen Ready’s “I am Woman” started up, and photos of her fit and healthy in her younger days were shown. With one on each side, I held my Grandma’s and Leis’ hands… and then I sobbed.

All that I had been holding back flooded out, and I released all of the pressure I had been feeling (for days) coming up to reading my Mum’s life story. My Grandma turned quickly to look at me; you see, earlier in the day she had said to me “stiff upper lip my dear”.  She’s remarkably healthy for a 98 year old, and this way of thinking is perhaps a sign of the times in which she grew up.  I am not judging her, just being reflective.

Personally, I’m not sure that keeping our fears and our emotions to ourselves is courageous at all. 

One of Mum’s doodles

I can’t help thinking of an above ground pool that is filling with water and it fills and it fills and it fills.  The retaining walls hold the litres of water for a long time, but with time, the concrete fatigues and a hairline crack appears.  It’s not even visible to the naked eye, it’s just there.  Slowly though, the water weaves its way into that miniscule fracture and pushes it apart.  It’s found the pool’s weakest area and is seeping into it.

The concrete walls are big and strong, so to start with they take the load and compensate for the growing crack, but the pressure eventually takes its toll.  The fissure grows and grows.  It becomes visible to anyone who cares to investigate and many do, but the fault has become too large to fix.  Stop gap measures are put in place to hold the pool walls together, but even they cannot handle the increasing pressure.

Bang!  The walls collapse.  Water cascades through the yard, gallons and gallons of it that find its ways into various parts of the backyard. The water can’t be contained; it’s too late.  It’s done its damage and escaped.

For the walls that were holding everything together, it at first seems like they have failed.  They had one job to do – hold in all that water, and they just couldn’t quite manage to do it.  They feel broken and in disarray.

In time though, builders pick up the rubble and grind down the concrete to make aggregate for a new batch of cement.  The walls have a new purpose.

Having a ‘stiff upper lip’ serves those who are embarrassed and uncomfortable seeing us hurting.  I have no doubt at all that most people would be expecting me to be saddened at my Mum’s passing and to shed a tear at her funeral.

Yes, our actions should always consider others, but in the right moment, admitting we are hurting is our strength. As we relieve the internal pressure, we make way for healing, growth and a new purpose.

Sorry, Robert Louis Stevenson, I disagree with your quote; would you indulge me with repurposing your words…

“Admit your fears to yourself; share with those you trust so you can be an example of true courage.”

Let’s chat further.  I’d love to hear how you are going about when you have had the courage to create the life you want.  Feel free to comment below, or connect with me offline at connect@tinamurray.com.


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