Courage

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

from Anne Sexton The Awful Rowing Toward God
Because courage comes in so many forms we often fail to recognize it when we see. Most of us, though, have felt the hot coal of courage as we swallow in anticipation, though mine seems more like a watermelon right now, and most of us have “picked the scabs off” our heart as we relive all the mistakes we have made in a relationship gone bad.

Luckily, though, it doesn’t take too much courage to face what life throws at us because most of the time we have no choice but to face it. Walk or be left behind forever. Endure the bullets and bombs or die. Face the despair of divorce or live the rest of your life unloving and unloved.

So we get up and face life, do the best we can, and hopefully appear brave enough to to those who most love us.

Hopefully when I get old I will be ready to put on my slippers and stride out the back door into forever, though I somehow doubt it. Until then, I expect each spring to seem just a little more beautiful than the ones before. I may even be able to love those around me just a little more, though I’m sure Gavin, like my daughter once did, will say, “Patah, please don’t yell my name like that during the game.” or “Patah, you’re hugging me too tight.”


P.S. Thanks to Ted at the Evil Empire I have been able to work mainly in OS X for the last two days. I almost believe that my writing has gotten a little better with the new version of Office X.

What do you think?