78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

What Your Brave Is
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There are generally two types of courage. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Which tarot card represents courage?  Strength, of course.  Strength illustrates both inner and outer fortitude, strength, and bravery often emerging from the most unlikeliest of sources. It is a fairly obvious depiction and one that we associate easily with Courage.

But have you thought about others?  Courage is displayed throughout the deck.  The 7 of Wands displays a kind of crazy, madman courage in the face of overwhelming odds and besides, he's not ready. He didn't have time to put on proper footwear.  The 5 of Pentacles shows the inner strength to persevere when one is at the rope's frayed end but to keep going despite hardships and challenges.  The 8 of Cups shows the courage to strike out on one's own, leaving behind what once was cherished. 

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”    

The 8 of Pentacles is about the everyday courage it takes to do what has to be done, again and again.  The 7 of Swords shows someone taking a lot of risk into one's own hands, for better or worse.  The 6 of Swords sets out to unknown shores in the hope of something better. All of these actions take courage in varying degrees and measures.  

Stories.  We all have our stories, our moments, however brief, of striking courage that surprised ourselves most of all.  We look back and wonder at our own bravery, or foolish recklessness, because sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  Sometimes we don't even recognize it as bravery.  We were just doing what had to be done and didn't feel any special commission that stated, "This is bravery, right here."  It was just necessary and we did it.

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.”  

Bravery isn't usually on display.  It rarely is and that's why we have such high standards for it and don't recognize it in ourselves.  We have a Hollywood expectation of bravery.  We think that once we do something rash exhibit courage that it should be a game changer, that all will be set right because we finally did what we were afraid to do.  That's bullshit. There are times in life when we must find the courage to keep going every single day.  That's no better or worse than any other kind of bravery.  It's made of the same stuff.

We need to understand that we're not going to understand someone else's brave.  What may come easy to one is a daunting struggle to another.  My experience of a similar or even the same event is not your experience.   I come from a family of introverts, of which I am one just less so, who thought I was brave to dance in front of an audience, speak to large crowds, and tell off a judge (and gained his favor in doing so).  These things come easy to me so I don't see the bravery.  Sometimes I can look back and see it, but never in the moment.  Some of the most courageous things I've ever done were done where no one could see, and even had they seen they probably would not call what I did courageous.  Dragging myself off the sofa to take a walk in the midst of a debilitating depression was brave.  Leaving one life behind for another while everyone, even I, disapproved was brave.  Someone else's brave may be leaving the house determined not to re-check that the stove is off.

My sister was recently diagnosed with leukemia.  The chemo made her feel much worse than the disease and she had to go through four agonizing rounds that made her guts raw, her body weak, and took away her beautiful long hair.  There were times she said she had frightening thoughts of dying, but overall she tried to remain positive.  She told me, "It's just a ride.  A crazy ride, but we'll get through it."  I don't understand this brave.  Were it me, I'd have my funeral planned, written long letters to my loved ones, taken videos to leave them, and cried and cried in mournful self-pity.  I once had a biopsy (benign, of course) and did all these things.  My sister is now in remission and cancer-free.  Brave, not just to face the disease but also to take control of her wellness.  She might say no, it was not brave, just something that had to be done.  But that's what courage is made of: doing what needs to be done.

 “To try to be brave is to be brave.”
~ George MacDonald