Friday, November 18, 2011


Recently a friend of ours said he thought we were courageous.  He seemed to include both Dennis AND me, so I was a little taken aback.  Actually, I was stunned.  I recall sitting there with my usual vacant, saucer-eyed noncomprehending stare that so often makes me appear slightly genetically challenged.  It’s my “Duuuhhhh!” face.  Perhaps he didn’t notice. Perhaps my application of excessive mascara was a distraction.  Perhaps my appearance was deceiving.

But his comment prompted me to think about courage.  It is such a noble trait, a characteristic of grace and dignity, a virtue to be acquired and assumed.

 I have never thought of myself as brave.  Episodes of paranoid excess due to an accumulation of unknowns expose my “Barney Fife on steroids” underbelly.

I am more the burrowing nocturnal marsupial in camouflage fatigues and pith helmet whose primal instinct is to run through the neighborhood shrieking, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid,” with the irrational conviction of a Harold Camping.

I confess I don’t understand exactly what courage is.  As much as I’ve studied Shakespeare, I don’t really know just what it means to “Screw your courage to the sticking place.”

I am much better acquainted with the attributes of fear, which include paranoia, alarm, dread, anxiety, doom and gloom. 

Fear is bile green with tentacles that strangle and suffocate.  It is base, a mongrel that prompts one to carry talismans as big as the Hindenburg to ward off the emotional brown-outs that tend to suffuse one’s subcutaneous.

On the hierarchy of emotion, fear can trump even the most righteous attributes.  Fear generates revulsion, especially to those possessed by it. 

In fact, on a whim, Dennis and I went to see Ballet West’s production of “Dracula.”  Talk about VAMPIRES IN TIGHTS!  Their fangs were uncomfortably apparent.  The scenes in the crypt were so well performed that it actually gave me the wubbah wubbahs.  Absolutely nobody gets the gruesomes at the ballet.  (I being the notable exception.)

But then I began to examine the facets of courage, and the people I most admire who  seem to own it.  I decided there is an integral psychic after-burn associated with this gift – a sense of sun on their faces – an empowerment, an enlightenment, an elegance.

They persevere… simply putting one foot in front of the other.  They are patient and positive. 

I have concluded above all, that courage is not the absence of fear.  Quite the contrary.  Perhaps Admiral Rickenbacker said it best:  “Courage is doing what you are afraid of doing.”  OK.  I get that.

Monday Dennis had  an eyes to thighs PET scan.  It revealed that only one of his nodules seems active right now.  It’s “hot.”The others are apparently comatose.  We are jubilant.  Now, how to eradicate the obscenity.  We are entertaining suggestions.  But at the moment, the three most rational options are:
  1. ablate
  2. radiate
  3. operate
We recognize the miracle of having one option, let alone three.  Each one, however, comes with its own set of possible risks, side effects, and scary terrors, which send us into cold sweats and drives us to willful misconduct.

Sometimes the thoughts are disturbing.  But less disturbing than thinking about ballet dancers doing pirouettes in tights.  Now that takes courage!

But there is no room for doubt or fear.  We will do what we are afraid to do.  And we will put the “ablate” in “celablate!”   

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