“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and, in the long run, it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight, just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes, seeing it’s not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
In the dark hours of early vision loss, fear that my next step would pitch me off the end of the world was a metaphor for my belief that blindness was, in itself, the end of the world. Over time, as my next steps landed on solid ground, I have become less fearful. From this process, I learn that it’s easier to act courageously than to think myself courageous. In effect, I act my way into right thinking. I have yet to reach the end of the world, physically or emotionally.
My cognitive leap from fear to courage comes about through no virtue on my part. Rather, it is more a product of comparative side effects. Fear is prickly and adversarial. Courage is inclusive and engaging. I prefer to feel good about myself and others and I try to make this feeling habitual.
Fear has a purpose: to protect me from harm. I detour around the snarling dog to save my butt. The dog is real and so is the fear. But imagined fear, fear that somewhere out there is a snarling dog, is distorted thinking. It leads me to isolate physically and withdraw emotionally.
Eleanor Roosevelt employed the words courage, fear and hero. Most days, I feel neither courageous nor heroic. I do what I do, keeping it simple and leaving the spin to others. For this story, I’ll leave the last word to a very wise girl I ran into lately in the pages of a fine book:
“When I lost my sight, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” – character Marie-Laure, in Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See