Posts Tagged ‘courage’

On  my run today, while thinking on the discussions about gender bias and expectations, I heard this by Ani Difranco (from 32 Flavors).

And God help you if you are an ugly girl
Course too pretty is also your doom
Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
For the prettiest girl in the room
And God help you if you are a phoenix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying past

Ani Difranco is quite an inspiring woman. She turned her back on the big record labels because they wouldn’t give her creative control, and founded her own record company, Righteous Records (now Righteous Babe Records) with just $50. I admire her for the way she believed in herself, and for her courage in living a life of her own choosing, critics be damned.

Those particular lyrics speak to me, because they’re about the way women in particular are judged, often by other women. It’s bad to be ugly, but it’s just as bad to be “too” pretty (or for that matter, too opinionated, too smart, too successful, even too “perfect”). Only somewhere in the middle are we safe, because that way we’re no threat. Can’t be calling attention to ourselves now, can we?

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The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of it’s earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”.

~ from I Thought It Was Just Me: Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power by Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

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Any closet Oprah magazine readers out there?

I had an “Aha!” moment today.

I was out for lunch with my parents, and conversation turned to my current situation. I said that in conflicts my overwhelming desire is always to opt out. That it always seems like less of a hassle to give in, forget about whatever it was, and concentrate on moving forward. I had my reasoning all sorted out, and even felt a measure of pride in my ability to transcend the pettiness of meaningless squabbles that ultimately wouldn’t matter to me when I was dead.

My mother said that she thought of me as a person who sticks up for what she believes in. You’ve always been pretty stubborn, she said.

I said, no, I’m actually a bit of a waffler.

She said, well maybe you waffle for a day or so, but you’ve always been so determined, so strong, such a fighter. You know what you believe in, and you stand your ground.

I thought, huh. Maybe when I was a kid. Which made me think back to myself as a pre-teen, and now that think about it, I remember that I was pretty scrappy. I was a loud mouth at the dinner table, I hogged all of the air time during group conversations, I held very strong opinions (sometimes based on not much more than blind conviction), and I never hesitated to stick up for kids being bullied. As a skinny ten-year old I threw rocks at a gang of older boys who were taunting another boy, and so frightened them with my flailing arms and red-faced, hoarse-voiced over-the-top shrieking that they turned and ran. That same year I was so frustrated with the relentless teasing of a different boy, who in retrospect I think simply admired me, that I punched him in the face. I also remember being so angry at someone once because of the way he was mocking my friend that I broke a bone in my hand by smashing my fist into his back.

Not the actions of an even-tempered, peace loving, let-bygones-be-bygones kind of kid. If one of my children punched someone else in the face,  I would make an immediate appointment with a well-trained child psychologist. I would be horrified by such an out of control reaction, because it’s pretty darn extreme.

And yet, here I am, 30 years later, thinking of myself as a peace at all costs kind of person.

Why is that?

Here’s the AHA! realization. Not really earth shattering to anyone else, but to me, in connection with myself, it’s a profound shift in my thinking.

I have internalized a feeling of shame about speaking out, about making my voice heard. Somehow, over the years since puberty, I’ve disowned the part of my identity that was willing to take an unpopular stand. Somewhere along the way I internalized the cultural messages that have effectively silenced women throughout time. I had no desire to be seen as pushy or as a loudmouth or as unfeminine or as a bitch or an emasculator or a ballbreaker so I sat down and shut up. Without realizing that I was doing it. To make things worse, I’ve managed to justify my actions, or lack of them, to myself all of these years. So much so that I am now in a situation in which every single person I talk to is basically telling me to GET A BACKBONE! and I am whiffling and waffling and on the verge of sweet-talking myself out of taking the stand that is very, very clearly the stand that I need to take.

I know what I have to do. I have to reclaim that lost bit of self. Go back and rescue that brave and foolhardy girl who knew what she believed in. I have to recognize the ongoing temptation to fold in on myself and when I feel myself going in that mental direction, realize that it’s just a sign that I need to do the opposite.

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Trite But True

A few months ago, my parents took us all out for Chinese food. The Littles loved their fortunes, so they sticky taped them near the Messy Counter in the kitchen, where they were promptly forgotten, but I found them this morning during one of my random bursts of cleaning energy, and I decided that I love them too, so now they’re sticky taped to my computer desk. They’re my new motivational mantras.

Nothing in the world is accomplished without passion.


Your determination will bring you much success.

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There is never a resting place in the struggle for personal and political integrity. When anxiety is high, and resources appear scarce, some individuals and groups will always operate at the expense of others. But we can long for and work toward that unrealized world where the dignity and integrity of all women, all human beings, all life, are honored and respected. More to the point, we can live today according to the values that we wish would govern the world in the hypothetical future we are working for. To honor diversity, complexity, inclusiveness, and connection in our lives now is to widen the path for truth-telling for everyone.

~Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D (from The Dance of Deception)

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Training For Life

DSCN1474Miss L has a diving competition this weekend. It’s an annual event put on by the diving club in this city, a national qualifying event, with about 200 divers from all across Canada competing. It’s run by parent volunteers (of course), so I’ll be there for all three days, soaking in the chloriney smells, and exulting in the jostling, squealing exuberance of the athletes. I know enough from previous years to prepare in advance by taking an extra-strength Tylenol with my hearty breakfast, and taking care to stay hydrated during the day, but I’m fully expecting an extra-strength headache to firmly lodge itself behind my eyes by about hour three.

That being said, L’s excitement is contagious, and I’m looking forward to watching her compete. She’s been diving since she was 6, when she saw the divers do their thing at the pool and begged to take a class. By the time she was 8 or so she was diving competitively, and she’s been training 12 hours a week since then. She’s been to Edmonton, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Montreal, Regina, and Orlando with the club, has competed in age-group nationals, and last summer got a chance to dive in the Western Canada Summer Games.

I’m so proud of her. I’ve seen her overcome tremendous fear and make it through some pretty harrowing incidents on the board. Last year she was learning a new dive off the 3M springboard, a reverse double back somersault with a half twist or some such thing, and for some reason, the thought of doing this particular dive gave her the heebie jeebies. For weeks leading up to it she worried about it, and on the drive home from practice every day I heard her say how scared she was to do it. When the fateful day finally arrived, I happened to be in the stands, and I saw her first attempt. She stood at the end of the board for what seemed like forever, clenching and unclenching her fists. A couple of times she made as if to go, and then hesitated. She looked on the verge of tears, and I felt sick at the sight of fear on her face. I almost stood up and told her not to do it, that it wasn’t such a big deal, but I didn’t. I just sat there, internally cringing. Her decision, I thought. Gotta stay out of it.

The hemming and hawing went on interminably, the coach looking up, coaxing, the other divers beginning to pay attention, the stands growing silent. More fist clenching, more brow furrowing, and a few more false starts. Then a look of determination passed across her face, I saw her whisper something to herself, she took two slow, deliberate breaths, threw back her shoulders……. and did it.

Eruptions of applause from the rest of the divers, and a huge beaming smile when she surfaced. I was absolutely overcome with pride. She had been SO scared, and she had done it. She’d been all alone on that board, faced that fear all by herself, talked herself past what must have been the overwhelming desire to say she couldn’t do it, and done it. This kid will be able to do anything now I thought. Nothing in her life will seem insurmountable after repeated experiences like this one. What a kid.

She had scary dives before, and she’s had them since, but this one stuck out in my head. I still get goosebumply when I remember it.

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pink.jpgI’d like to think that I would have done the same when I was in highschool, but I doubt it.

Travis Price and David Shepard, two grade 12 students who live in rural Nova Scotia, organized a school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a grade 9 boy who was being bullied.

The boy being targeted was new to the school, and had worn a pink polo shirt on his first day there, prompting a group of bullies to taunt him, call him “fag”, and threaten to beat him up. So Mr. Sheperd and Mr. Price headed off to a local discount store, bought 50 pink tank tops, and stood in the foyer of their school, handing out the shirts. The bullied boy walked in, and according to Mr. Price, “his face spoke volumes. It looked as if a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders.”

The bullies were never heard from again.

A small gesture, perhaps, but a truly courageous one, and I’m sure it made an enormous difference in the emotional life of the targeted student. Seeing two of their fellow students stand up for a victim, and witnessing the results were probably the most important lessons any of the students at that school learned this year.


(from the Globe and Mail)

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