Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ah, the Beauty of Courage

I believe that courage is the sum of strength and wisdom. You take away wisdom from the equation - courage may turn to rage.


As I was reading the chapter on 'The Beauty of Courage' in "Soul Sisters", and the author asked us to look over our own lives and list the times in our life that we were courageous. Moving to a new city, away from everyone I know, with only $200 in my pocket has to be up there at the head of the list.  Also on the list was my decision to leave my job, go back to school, and change my life direction and career at the age of 50. That was definitely a biggie.  But, when I really think about it, I realize that, indeed, the biggest fear of my life that took the most courage was overcoming my shyness. Without that, I wouldn't be where I am today.

I have lived a whole lifetime of shyness. School was actually torture for me, especially when we had a report that was to be read to the class. There was even one time that I coughed myself hoarse so I wouldn't have to sing at a Christmas show. It wasn't even a solo, but I felt that someone in the group might hear me. I was the child who never raised their hand...even when they knew the answer. It actually became a vicious cycle for me. Because of my shyness, the other children began teasing me, and the more they teased, the shyer I became.  Sometimes I sit back and wonder where it came from because I don't remember always being that way.

Was it my dad's alcoholism that caused it?  Or was it my cousin, the mean things he said and did?  I hadn't thought of Gary* in a long time, but then, after reading Aine's blog the other day, thoughts of family members long forgotten came to the forefront.   He was one of those family members it was easy to let go of.  From what I recall, I was a happy child who enjoyed school and playing with my friends.  One day I heard my mom and dad talking, and it seemed my dad's younger brother was moving to the neighborhood.  I didn't know much about my dad's family, so the thought of having a cousin my age thrilled me.  After all, I was an only child, and to me, Gary signified the brother I never had.  So, despite my mom's trepidations, I found myself looking forward  to meeting my new family. Little did I know that my dad and his twin had been handed over to my great grandmother when they were just lads while the younger brother stayed with their mom.  Lots of animosity there. 

So, each day I eagerly went to see how much progress had been made on their house. Finally, the house was completed, and I heard they were moving in within the week. Oh, I was dancing for joy.  But, Gary was not what I expected him to be. In fact, he was the epitome of evil.  From Day 1 he did not accept me.  In fact, he did everything he could to make me the laughing stock of the entire school.  He spread stories about my dad, my mom, and poked fun of me every chance he got.  He made fun of my clothes, my hair, called me names...and kids being kids, soon the entire class was teasing me.  School became a nightmare.

By the time I got to high school I was so withdrawn that I avoided others. I had no friends, never even had a boyfriend.  I hated school and skipped every chance I got. My life was on a downward spiral, and I couldn't find any way out.  I missed both my Junior and Senior proms, never went on a date, never knew what it was like to pal around with my girlfriends.  I had none.  I was a loner. I isolated myself in order to protect myself.

Perhaps the hope for something more was what spurned me on to move to the city.  I looked forward to a new start, and although it was never easy, I survived.  For many years I missed out on so many opportunities to advance in life due to my shyness.  I found it hard to carry on a conversation with others, always afraid that I would say the wrong thing. I remember clearly the first time hubby took me to visit his sister, and I sat on a log, barely speaking even when someone spoke to me.  It would be many years before I could accept myself and feel worthy/

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

According to Peay in her book, the best way to gain strength and courage is to look your fear in its face and act on it.  And so that was what I had to do the first day that my boss sent me in to run a group. Oh my gosh, I will never forget that day when I walked into the room and 15 pairs of eyes were set on me, waiting for me to take control.  My palms were sweaty, my heart racing, but I knew that this was an intricate part of my new job, and if I didn't do this, I might as well kiss the job good bye.  So, despite the fact that my body was trembling, I introduced myself and spoke about what was expected from the group.

Well, needless to say, that was 12 years ago, and today I run three, sometimes more, groups a week.  It has become second nature for me. But, if I said I was cured, I would be lying.  I'm still pretty bad when it comes to social situations, so I tend to stay pretty much on my own.  But, I am happy that way, and I guess, when you look at it, happiness is what counts.

*(A short note: This is something strange that is off topic here, but nonetheless something I have to share.  As previously stated, I hadn't thought about Gary in a good many years. Ironically, after writing this post I decided to check him out on Google to see where he was today.  The first item that popped up was his father's obituary.  It seems that he died yesterday. Were my thoughts guided to Gary?  I wonder.)


  1. Seems like someone was speaking to you for sure!

    Mary we ARE so alike - our lives so similar. I too lived the life you lived - the bullying caused me to become even more timid than I was. I couldn't wait for school to end, and I felt the strongest need to get away from what I knew to be home, hence the early marriage.

  2. Bullying has terrible effects on kids' lives. I'm glad you were able to overcome its effect on yours.

  3. Synchrinosity...

    But here comes some 'tough love' advice. Do NOT get feeling like you have to reach out to this childhood CREEP. Because his father died. And you get to feeling "I Should Take The High Road." Etc. Etc.

    Bahhhh-humbug on that.

    I so hope AINE will weigh-in on my advice though... If she agreed, I'd feel much better.


  4. Mary, I was very shy too in fact when I was to do a presentation, my chin dropped open and my eyes bulged right out of head.

    Luckily the class had to mark it out of 10. They were all laughing at me and decided to give me the mark 10/10, and my English teacher was very pissed off for sure.

    That was the first time I realized how to make people laugh. That came in handy later on in my life and carried me through many times.

    Many times I a drawn to someone whom I have not had any contact with in years.

    You were drawn to Gary for a reason that only you know what it is. Perhaps you need to forgive him to put all that behind you.

    It seems like someone elses story triggered your memory of him, however unpleasant. You may have blocked this from your mind for years.

    This was a very interesting read Mary.

    hugs and love

    happy I popped in today.

  5. I was/is such a shy person that I could totally related to the pain of being shy and not being accepted by others. I think that's why I've turned to animals more than people because I know I'll be loved unconditionally. Like you, my shyness has lessened but walking into a room full of people I don't know is one of my greatest anxieties. Good for you that you've come so far, Mary!

  6. So sorry to read about the torment of your childhood. Bullies make life hell in so many ways. I know you must be proud of yourself for overcoming the obstacles and making yourself into a fine leader.
    Strange coincidence about the obituary and your post? I think not. But I would think long and hard if you are contemplating making contact. Would it be healing for you, or just re-opening old wounds? Do what feels right for Mary.

  7. I am not shy at all in the conventional sense! I was always very lucky on that department, especially when it had to do with talking to strangers and speaking to people. But i am a classical singer and after 10 years of studies i still have n't conquered my fear of public apperance. Every time i have to perform i feel like i am going to die. I get to face that fear over and over and it has gottn better but not yet to the point i get to enjoy doing the thing i love. Hopefully i will get there!
    You are an inspiration !!! You were so shy and now you run 3 groups a day!

  8. Mary you are such an inspiration, I too am an only child and suffered greatly from shyness, my family pushed me into doing things in their way of "helping" to this day I will still keep my mouth shut instead of saying the "wrong thing" a very interesting post and another great book suggestion.

  9. Extremely thought provoking post! I applaud you for overcoming shyness, never an easy thing. But look at you now! Well done I say!