Friday, May 5, 2017

What is Courage?

As the founder of the organization I am often asked what is courage?  Some would input some form of quote that it is the absence of fear or that it is doing it afraid.  I would agree, and I would also add that it is second chances.  Courage is your story.  Everyone at some point in their life is going to experience loss, tragedy, heartache, and courage is what makes us get up the next day, put our feet on the floor and stand up.  And if that is all you accomplish that day, then you are courageous!  As a survivor of tragedy I often ask others about their experiences and what it took for them to overcome.  I have listened to lectures and speeches on overcoming hardship.  I have learned to share my experiences openly in an effort to help others.  So here it is, the raw and uncut hurts of my life and what courage was to me during those times.  I am a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  My experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and my recovery are the foundation of the organization Tails of Courage.  But what happens when you recover?  Well, I would later feel the loss of the passing of my Father suddenly, and was notified of his death the same day my daughter was released from the NICU after being born 7 weeks early.  A year and a half later my husband walked out on my infant daughter and myself.  Suddenly I was divorced, and a single mother.  Following September 11th, I had the luxury of staying in bed depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  Fast forward to 2012 and my daughter needed me, so there was no option to stay in bed sad.  So courage in each of these times in my life became redefined, but each time it required me to start over on myself.

I once listened to a lecture by John C. Maxwell, a leadership expert, and he explained that there will always be a crisis, a hardship, a bad day.  But that doesn't mean we have to let it overwhelm us.  It is how we handle the crisis that marks who we are as leaders.  He said that one way he learned to handle a crisis is to "make the problems line up".  This simple piece of advice was so pointed to me because so many times I know I let the problems come at me all at once, never organizing them, and then feeling totally overwhelmed to the point I just want to ignore them rather than face them.  For me, making the problems line up means making a list.  Define the problem then write it down.  Then, below that, write the solution and what it will take to reach the solution.

Eat the frog.  What?!  That's disgusting!  Yes, and that is the point.  Now your problems are defined, they are lined up in a row and they are all out of order and how do you know which to tackle first?  Excellent question courageous one.  My husband (I am now remarried to the most wonderful amazing handsome man) always says to tackle the worst most disgusting problem or project first.  He calls it eating the frog.  That which we loathe to do first and would rather put on the back burner in the hopes it will wither and go away and we never have to see it again.  Well, rather than let it linger in the background like a giant slimy frog, we eat it first.  No offense to frogs anywhere as they are generally adorable creatures and I would never wish to eat one, but it is an easy way to remember how to organize your problems.

So now we have our crisis defined, our problems in line, but what about the fear that remains, the emotions attached and the fact that I can't stop crying long enough to eat?  Courage.  The day my ex walked out the door, I sat on the floor crying for what seemed like forever.  I didn't know what to do, until the good Lord quietly said, "stand up".  So I stood, and when I had stood and cried for a while I stood and stopped crying.  Then I took a step.  Courage is taking a step, standing up, breathing, stop crying.  Today an attorney I only had the privilege of knowing a few months suddenly passed away.  She seemed to be an extraordinary woman.  She had 5 children and a partner who were suddenly without her light and love for life.  From the extreme of death to the simplicity of paperwork problems, all require courage to face the tough stuff.  So today, my Tail of Courage is that you get a second, third and however many chances to keep going.  Keep breathing.  You have Courage.