I always admit when I’ve screwed up. It’s better that way than having other people find out and tell me about it. Yesterday I published an interview with my friend Di Horsfield and I gave it a title that I thought suitable. A lot of people agreed with me but Di wanted to reply. So here it is:
Bravery or Not?
I’ve been doing a bit of pondering recently. An invitation arrived in my email box from the wonderful author, blogger, teddy bear rescuer, and Otter, Ailsa Abraham. She asked me to be interviewed for her blog. After much deliberation,( I’m not interesting enough, not done anything noteworthy enough to literally, write home about) and the gentle (mostly gentle anyway) prodding by Ailsa, I agreed and thoroughly enjoyed my morning at Bingerbread Cottage, scoffing Ailsa’s home mad jam tarts (they were delicious) and draining her coffee pot. Titch, a misnomer if ever I heard one, kept my feet and calves warm, occasionally wafting unsavoury aromas around the room with his very waggy tail.
When Ailsa showed me the transcript, I was a little surprised that she had, in the title Di Hard (and brave) used the adjective brave. We had a short discussion as to whether this was an appropriate word to use because I do not in any way, shape or form, consider myself to be brave. Ailsa won by stating that it was her blog, her opinion and therefore if she considered me brave, brave I am. If you ever have to argue with Ailsa, a word of wisdom, don’t. I should have listened to her twin brother Cameron Lawton. He warned me to never argue with his sister.
Once we’d sorted out the title, Ailsa twisted my arm up my back, threatened to withdraw the jam tarts (have I mentioned how delicious they were?) until I agreed to find a half decent photo of myself to go with the interview. Within half an hour, Ailsa had the interview on her blog.
I have honestly been taken aback by the response from friends, family and people whom I’ve never even said hi to on Facebook. The comments directly on the blog and private messages, on my Facebook timeline, text messages and emails brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Every single one was supportive, positive, humbling and heart-warming. I hope I have thanked everyone personally. How does one thank people who are saying one is brave, courageous, and inspirational?
Ok so I have Multiple Sclerosis, but so have many of my friends. I have friends with far more painful, distressing illnesses than me. Most of them work full time, have families, hobbies and carry on not quite regardless, but never giving in. I don’t. I am lucky enough to be able to do as I want, when I want. I don’t have to answer to anyone and I’m not responsible for anyone. I sleep when I’m tired, eat when I’m hungry and drink (probably far too much) black coffee when I’m thirsty. I am a very lucky woman.
I was chatting to two very dear friends about Ailsa’s blog and told them I felt a little uncomfortable being thought of as brave. I have never run into a burning building to rescue a neighbour; I’ve never jumped into an icy lake to rescue a dog; I’ve never climbed up or down mountains or cliffs to rescue hikers, skiers, climbers. I was given MS. I didn’t choose it. I can’t get up one morning and decide I’m bored of its tantrums and vagaries and take it to the neurologist and say ‘thank you I’ve tried it and don’t like it. You can take it back now.’
The people who risk their lives to rescue others CHOOSE to do it. They weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether it’s worth their trouble and do it. Mountain rescue, the people who drop everything instantly to jump in a boat and set out in rough seas and storm force gales with Royal National Lifeboat Institution and many others risk their lives voluntarily. They can never be accused of doing ‘it’ for the money. I’m not neglecting all those in the public, private and voluntary sectors who face danger s daily in more ways than most of us could ever imagine, and they don’t do it for the money either, but the chances are there’ll be a Risk Assessment somewhere and it is probably somewhere in their job description and contract that they will face a risk of some definition.
My point is that all these people CHOOSE to do what they do. These are the TRULY brave people. I stand by my statement I’m not brave. I do the best I can, when I can. I can stay in bed all day if I choose. If I’m feeling sorry for myself, I have the choice of shaking myself or thinking sod it, I’m going to be miserable today. My friends who work and volunteer and have kids at home don’t have the choice of curling up in a ball and sticking two fingers up at the world. The RNLI and mountain and cave rescue volunteers turn out in weather we’d not even turn a dog out in, regardless of their snotty nose, aching feet or pounding head. The people in the private, public and voluntary sectors can’t decide to have a day sitting in front of the telly, wearing pyjamas, eating chocolates rather than go to work. They battle on because people depend on them. Parents can’t decide to stay in bed for another hour instead of wrangling four kids, two dogs, and a stressed partner, while finding PE kits, lunch boxes and lost keys/phones/reports/coats.
I can. I don’t have to fight the urge to snuggle back under the duvet. I don’t have to DO anything. I am not brave. My friends agreed. (I think I might have bored them into acquiescence) They don’t see themselves as brave despite battling MS, full time jobs and adult children.
(Don’t ever let anyone tell you it gets easier as the kids grow up. It doesn’t. It just gets different. My dad says the first 50 years of parenting are the hardest which I think is a bit cheeky as I’m not 50 yet and I’m the older than my brother)
So I guess that bravery is a subjective adjective. Everybody has a different idea of how bravery should be assessed. We all have demons to fight. Some days will be easier than others. We might not win every battle, but we DO win the war.
Do what you can when you can and never feel guilty when you can’t.