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Thoughts on heroism - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Thoughts on heroism
My fiance/roommate/bestfriend died very suddenly, three years ago. It was the most traumatic life event I've experienced thus far. I remember in the days, weeks, even months afterwards, as I was pulling my life back together, people would tell me I was "brave", or "strong". I wanted to tell them, "It's not courage; it's tenacity." I didn't know what I was doing, or how to do it. I wasn't doing anything particularly special. I was just getting by, surviving. Doing what had to be done. Because I had no other choice.

There was a really good line in the movie Bounce that has always stuck with me. The girl is describing something from her past, and the guy says something about her courage. She says, "Courageous, I was terrified!" And he says, "It's not courage if you're not scared."

Somebody on my friends list is going through some horribly difficult family struggles right now, handling them to the best of her ability. Surviving. At one point, after something she wrote describing her experiences, I saw somebody comment to her, calling her an "angel". Several people, actually, were lavishly praising her that way. I remember being startled by that comment, that they were holding her in such high esteem. Not that I didn't admire her for how she was handling what she and her family were going through, but the praise struck me as excessive. Not long afterward, she posted something very wise, "I am not a saint. ... I'm not doing anything you wouldn't do yourself if there was no one else to do it."

Interestingly enough, just recently she wrote about how much she admires her sister for all she is doing and surviving during the family's crisis (which affects the sister much more intimately). She referred to her sister as a hero. And I must say that I agreed with what she wrote...I cannot imagine being in her sister's situation. It is more day-to-day struggle than I can conceive of with my current life-experiences.

I remember, not long before S died, there was a woman at my office who suddenly lost her husband in a car accident. My heart was torn up by the idea of her loss. I couldn't even imagine what it must be like. I couldn't imagine how one would survive, after such an experience. How could you sleep in that empty bed, get up, go to work, interact with people, go on living, when the most important person in the world to you had been ripped so tragically and completely from you? When your whole life so dramatically changed?

After I lost S, I thought often of her, my coworker. There was a little voice in my head which basically said, "Oh, that's how." You just do, without knowing how, because there is no other option. And I learned something: the human spirit is a great and powerful thing, far far stronger than we generally think it is. Its resilience is amazing.

I think it is our tendency as human beings, to canonize somebody going through a struggle which we ourselves cannot conceive of enduring. We read in books, in papers, of terrible tragedies that people have survived, incredible acts of heroism and kindness and bravery that others commit, and we are in awe....we think of the people involved as somehow superhuman, so much more than we. Yet they are people, just like us. People in extraordinary situations, doing what makes the most sense, managing them the best they can. There are those who buckle under such situations, yes. But very often, ordinary people are pretty damn amazing. Capable of far more than they realize, when put to the test.
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radiantsoul From: radiantsoul Date: September 26th, 2002 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Really great post.
fls From: fls Date: September 26th, 2002 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been thinking about this, too, in a fashion - but I wasn't willing or able to expose those thoughts. Thank you for actually doing so.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 1st, 2002 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
For me, one of the attractions of LJ is that it is a glimpse into Real Life, in all its detail. Life is good, bad, beautiful, ugly, funny, tedious, painful, wonderful...often all at once, when it's not edited for Hollywood.

So I'm really sorry to hear about your father, and I won't be deleting you.
certainly From: certainly Date: September 28th, 2002 10:38 am (UTC) (Link)
that was beautiful..
From: entropygirl Date: October 2nd, 2002 07:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Funny, nothing about struggling, surviving, handling difficult experiences simply because one has to...seemed out of the ordinary to me. I mean, isn't that just life? Maybe I've just had more than my share...to the point where that only seems normal. Hmmm.

Anyway, Pema Chodron, in her book "Heart Advice for Difficult Times" mentions in the prologue how she's such a scaredy cat. Yet someone close to her told Pema that she's the bravest person they knew. Why? Because she's scared to death yet goes ahead with it all anyway.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: October 2nd, 2002 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that is life, I agree. But I find....well, just that hardships I haven't experienced sound much more challenging than those I have, if that makes sense, and often other people react similarly.

Sounds like a potentially interesting book...do you recommend it?
From: entropygirl Date: October 2nd, 2002 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)


The book is really good, written by an American Buddhist nun. She's an interesting person, and you get some idea of what her spiritual path is like, too. Written for the layperson yet rich in meaning. She's a very honest and thoughtful woman.
peenksaturn77 From: peenksaturn77 Date: November 1st, 2002 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can I post this in my LJ, I will credit you, of course!
renniekins From: renniekins Date: November 4th, 2002 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)


Sure, so long as you credit me, I'd be flattered!! (:
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