Tag Archives: bravery

Home of the Brave

If you were to have an in-depth conversation with the average person about what they might like to aspire towards in their own development as human beings, I would bet some part of their response would include being a bit more brave or courageous.  Those exact words may not be used as part of the conversation, but my hunch is those notions would be interwoven in the dialogue.  Maybe something more along the lines of “There’s so much more I wish I would do…” with the unstated piece being that they don’t do it out of some reticence or fear.

I alluded to all of this a bit on my post a few weeks back on regret, but I find that most people regret more what they didn’t do or try versus what they did.  In the end, I think we all want to be a little more brave, a little more bold and a little more committed doing more cool stuff.  I know I am.

All of this began to percolate in my head like some fresh-brewed java when I got this photo from my Dad through my uncle:

Kuzia-Grandparents

See, this handsome (albeit serious-looking) couple is my great-grandparents on my father’s father’s side.  I always knew them as Dzia Dzia and Babci, which is Polish for grandfather and grandmother, respectively.  We Kuzia’s are a very creative bunch, as you can easily see.  Always pushing those boundaries.

The reason I marvel at my Dzia Dzia and Babci so much is for something incredibly simple they did and so many others did in the early 1900’s – they hopped on a boat from Poland, traveled across the Atlantic and landed in the United States with very little in their pockets and no ability to speak English.  OK, that’s not entirely true… they had 2 phrases: one for ordering a sandwich and the other of “Which way E-J?” which meant Endicott-Johnson shoe company so they could go and get a job there.

I know these days we sort of take that early surge of immigration to the U.S. for granted as an “Oh, yeah… that happened…” kind of thing with nary a second thought… but damn it, let’s give it that second or even third thought for a moment.

Imagine yourself trying that today – leaving behind the place you grew up, the only life you have ever known and all the people you’ve ever known and traveling to a complete alien part of the world, where the native tongue is one you know nothing of.  And THAT is going to be your new life… just for a shot that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have it better than you did.  Not a guarantee.  Not a promise.  Just for the potential and only through hard manual labor in a shoe factory.

Damn.  Suddenly feeling nervous about doing Tough Mudder looks utterly silly by comparison.

In the end, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, my friends, and they are pictured above.  Without their brave act, these words are never typed for you to read and the amazing experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have never occur.  It’s humbling in the best possible way.

In The Grind

I’ve known a few different people in my life who have been stuck in health situations you wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Situations that would make even the most stouthearted people you’ve known droop their heads in despair.  There is nothing pretty, glamorous or glitzy to be found for someone pushing through those kinds of life moments – not surprising, of course.  They don’t do jazzy MTV reality shows about people battling leukemia.

But when I’ve looked at the way they’ve braved their way through those situations, I’ve always come away with a mixed bag of feelings that take me some time to sort out.  There is the inevitable sadness and questioning of why something so awful could possibly happen to someone so good.  There is the fleeting feelings of “Will they get better? Will they pull through?”  I feel really thankful that any of these notions (at least for me) were, in fact, fleeting and quickly replaced with a determined answer of “Damn straight they’ll get better.”

The most profound feeling I tend to have is a blended sense of pride in the dignity with which they carried themselves, admiration for their bravery and a very dedicated notion that I have absolutely nothing to complain about in my own life.  I mean, how could I?  Even the worst moments of my day are so thin and pale compared to even some of the best parts of their day.  The worst day you could possibly have in the office will simply melt in the face of the best day of someone with chemo.  It makes you get your mind right… and quickly.

Now here is what I find amazing about those in that fight: the people outside of the fight will see their courage, bravery and utter determination to fight through someone awful.  There is incredible heroism in it all.  But you know what?  Anyone going through that fight never sees it that way until maybe much, much later, when they have pulled through and the dust has settled… and probably not even then.

2011-05-12_18-12-44_443

When they are in the grind, there is nothing heroic to feel in that moment.  Just a push to get better.  A push to not feel like everything is crashing down.  A push for the next moment to feel better than the last one.  How heroic would you feel if you were stuck in a moment like that?  Not very.

It is only to those who stand outside and watch with terror and awe that it can be that way.

But this is why it’s so important to understand this feeling of pushing through those dark moments: When we have our own difficult journeys or life challenges, most of us will never feel as if there is some noble purpose to it all.  We are hyper-fixated on the fact that the moments sucks, we hate it and we just want to be through with it as fast as possible.  However, if we can have just a flash of inspiration in those dark times, a point of self-realization that our moment is actually an opportunity for us to show our mettle… then we have something good and real, even when stuck in the muck.

It reminds me of something I read recently where we shouldn’t pray for help, but should pray for challenges with which to prove ourselves.  Clearly no one is going to pray for a grave disease or the loss of a job or something like that.  Let’s not turn this into some kind of insane gauntlet of masochistic self-discovery.  But the perseverance of those who have gone through REAL hardships and have come through with grace and class have shown me that as bad as I may feel in the grind, there is always, always, always potential meaning to it for me.

The part that requires strength is accepting that fact, even when I am on my knees, broken and wishing it would all end.  That’s why the inspiration of those I’ve seen push through it before drive me.  And fight on, I will.