SUITCASES FILLED WITH COURAGE

dragon-final

I don’t often put words to it – maybe none of us do – but living takes courage. Since writing about not always being able to face our problems with a ROAR below, I’ve been thinking about my friends and the Dragons all of us face each and every day of our lives. The more I think of the terribly painful details they’ve entrusted me with, the more I feel overwhelmed with the pride for their courage.

I have a dear friend whose husband may be showing the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Or perhaps its something else. The doctors can’t say for sure. If the worst happens, the economy, her age and her own precarious health would make it all but impossible for her to support them both. She seldom lets on just how much the future worries her but I know its there, in the back of her mind, like a spider building its web.

Another friend whose own health problems are piled high on top of the problems of her children. She recently told me, in such a heartbreakingly off-hand way, that she feared for her own future. She said what we all eventually say – that as she ages, she wants to be able to be as independent as she now and go on living in her own home. If she became unable to care for herself, they would care for her if they could but its unlikely they could.

I’ve actually heard people say they had children so there would be someone to take care of them in their so-called golden years but the temptation to make some bad joke about tarnished gold is almost more than I can resist. It doesn’t matter how you raise your children. I have no doubt that she would lay down her life for her kids but there comes comes a day when all of us, parents and kids alike, are on our own.

I’ve recently talked with my friend, a dear man whose beloved wife has grown cold over the years and who, finally, in utter and complete desperation, took a lover. Its his own wife he wants but she is indifferent to his needs. Too many years of sleeping alone next to her have finally driven him to the unthinkable and he is angry and bitter. I know a woman who, after fifteen years of forced celibacy, took a lover. She once told me she used to believe that one of the reasons for marriage was to marry one’s lover. She too had become angry and bitter at all the years of being pushed away.

And the woman I spoke of in an earlier post … raised by a very abusive mother and then inexplicably stayed married to an abusive man for 25 years. One day, she looked in the mirror and knew she had to get out. She saved her money and bided her time and then, one weekend when she overheard him tell a friend he would be away, she made a run for it. As I mentioned below, she has since married a man who loves her and keeps her safe, and yet she still has nightmares that her ex-husband will suddenly appear and beat her senseless.

The most courageous man I’ve ever known cared for his wife through nine years of a losing battle with cancer. He made sure that no one, not even his family or close friends ever knew just how exhausted he was or much he was hurting. When he reads this, he will surely scuff his toe in the dirt and say, “You do what you have to do”. I admire his strength and courage but his pain is palpable when he talks about the mental and emotional cost is of ‘doing what you have to’. And, of course, the financial result of a catastrophic illness is nothing short of devastating and it is very likely he will never recover.

A good friend whose job is wearing her down to a bruised shadow of the passionate and happy woman she is underneath. There’s nothing she can do. She dares not resign but going to her job every day is slowly killing her.

Another friend, bright and so much younger than her calendar says she is. She struggles every day to hold on to what she has and to make new opportunities for herself. Though she is far too proud and stubborn to admit it, she too worries about what her future holds for her .

So many of the people I know have lost some part of their hard-earned money. Some in the form of falling real estate values, some are watching their investments dwindle and some have even lost their jobs. Do any of us believe that our president of only three months can magically fix the damage of so many years of greed and dishonest wheeling and dealing we now know went on behind the closed doors of the Oval Office? No … I’m very afraid we’re in for a long hard time of it as are our children and their children. That is the legacy of the last eight years.

There’s an old story about people meeting on a street corner with all their troubles packed in suitcases. As the story goes, they all exchange their suitcases for those of others, and each opens and examines the contents and, without exception choose to take back their own suitcases.

Some days we’re able to stand up to our dragons and some days we keep our head down and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some days we can barely stand to read the news for fear of yet another family being wiped out by one of their own or another innocent child disappearing or more signs of our own planet’s eventual death at our hands. But, in spite of heartbreak and fear and watching our hard-earned financial futures seem to melt away, we can still hear the birds sing and, corny as it may sound, we still stop for a moment to listen when a child laughs. In the face of all of that and more, we all keep going because, finally, what else can we do?.

For the friends mentioned here and for those I have not described, I wish all of us the strength and courage to look their dragons in the eye and know we can Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway!

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