On being brave

Every saturday the Starbucks lady calls me brave whenever she sees me walk in half awake, same ratty ball cap on my head, same worn flannel, same basic white girl coffee order.

I’m brave, apparently, because I hike or trail run alone.

Now I could get into my irritation at the gender hypocrisy as my husband and male friends have never once been told they were brave for hiking alone but dismantling gender norms is for another post.

The thing is, mountains are straightforward. I can see what I’m getting into. There is no hiding the difficulty-I know it’s going to suck and that I’m going to want to quit at some point. I know there are inherent risks involved. And if it goes south, I know it isn’t personal. If mother nature were a triage nurse, the spiderwebs I clear with my face have a higher priority than I would. They can do some good out there where as I am a human, and therefore have a natural bent towards destruction.

This complete lack of concern for my continued existence is a comfort in a way. It is what it is and you either shoulder your pack and get on with it or you don’t.

Life though. All of it so unclear, all of us so unsure, with no signs to point you up the trail. We are all getting up every day and navigating the murky waters of work stress and decisions about kids or parents or money or boundaries without directions or a map. Then the coworker whose wife lost the baby at 16 weeks. The friend bravely speaking up about her struggles with bipolar disorder. 

Physical vulnerability can be mitigated or at least significantly lessened with gear, training and practice. The vulnerability of being human though, seems to remains raw and terrifying no matter how many years I accumulate on this planet.

So I don’t bother to correct my Starbucks lady as I realize her intention is complimentary. I just know that when I’m brave, it’s not for any mountain I climb. 

And I would tell anyone that has a dream they are afraid to pursue, the bravery to do so already lives within you.

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