Tuesday, 1 June 2010

On bravery

I spent this lunchtime eating small vegetable tarts and thinking about bravery. Not big, heroic, lifesaving bravery. Tiny daily acts of daring invisible to the external observer. Verily, I am the Alain de Botton of suburban Brussels, but with even less hair. No. I was reading my Watching the English book. Yes, still. I have lost the ability to read, from my normal, 3 books a week default setting. It's been months and I have been too ashamed to talk about it. Partly I am trying to write, and I tend to absorb the style of what I am reading and spit it out in fully formed parody. Not good. But more realistically, I think my brain is as shallow and diseased as the Uccle duck pond in high summer, a scummy pool of cannibalistic slime.

Anyway. I was reading a section on the apparently modest and responsible aspirations of young English people. Apparently, a high - very high - percentage of English youth express their aspirations for the future in terms of financial stability, family, steady employment. Whilst these are evidently all good, valid aspirations, the author suggests they are also indicative of a pervasive anxiety, a fear of the future that prevents the more exciting or outlandish ambitions you might expect to see in people in their late teens and early twenties.

I definitely behaved in a way dictated by fear, and anxiety, in my 20s. Not that I aspired to stability, particularly - I didn't. I longed for adventures. But I was scared, shy, embarrassed. I held myself back with my own assumptions. I was bald and must be unlovable. I was rubbish in social situations - noone would want to spend time with me. Everyone wants to be a writer, don't they? How presumptuous. Don't even bother trying. I lived a hemmed in life entirely of my own making, with the growing conviction that somewhere along the line I had fucked up, big time. I want to be very clear here - this is nothing to do with the CFO, or our relationship. He would have supported me had I wanted to become a contortionist in a Romanian travelling circus, as long as it made me happy. Probably.

Starting this blog two years ago was a first shaky step towards trying to live with a little more daring. Some spark of - what? Survival instinct? Bravery? Desperation? Finally kicked in and I wrote about being bored, bald, bulimic, in Belgium. About being lost and lonely. I did in writing what I could never do in person - exposed my weakness and insecurity and mad, defective, weirdnesses. Was vulnerable. And when I look at everything it has brought me - extraordinary friendships, adventures, the joy of people who 'get' you, and make life better, brighter, funnier - I partly want to kick myself in the shins for leaving it so long, and I'm partly massively grateful that I did it at all. It confirmed for me definitively that a bit of daring can pay off in huge, unexpected ways.

So, things are better. I do more, talk more, see more people. I don't regret a single one of my minor acts of bravery over the last two years (I had a little think about that as I typed it. Hmm. No, I stand by that statement. However peculiar the consequences, I don't regret the actions that brought me to them). Even so, there are other, massive failings of courage that I need to remedy and I barely know where, or how, to start. More generally, I still think of myself as being hidebound by my own fears. I wish I could just pick up the phone, start a conversation, reach out in the way people have reached out to me. These are the people I admire - the brave ones; people with a bit of daring. They enhance your life.

I might never get that far. I will probably always be a bit cowardly and dither on the sidelines, admiring, a little regretful. But every tiny step is better than none at all.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Emma - you are far braver than you give yourself credit for and far more significant than you allow. But you are also a lot more like *everyone* else, I think: there are days when it is just too scary, even to pick up the phone. But they pass. They always do. Love your writing and really love your honesty.

The Divorcee said...

Would that I had your bravery and understanding. What a fantastic post, truly.

Wafflebebe said...

Ukkels answer to Miranda July.

Marvelleux xx

Bryony said...

you tell it as it is - nothing braver than that. Your writing is exceptional Bx

katyboo1 said...

Your bravery helps make other people braver. Me, for example. And anonymous is right. There are days when all of us feel that fear, and often in the most mundane of circumstances. That is what duvets were invented for.x

Anonymous said...

Perhaps bravery is really something that you develop as you get older? Youthful recklessness is just the blind leap in the dark, but you have weighed up all the alternatives, spent lots of time agonising over the consequences, and then made the choice to do something different - that's really brave.

WrathofDawn said...

Blessed are the ditherers for they shall look before they leap. Or something.

Writing so honestly and (oh lord, I want to say baldly - mental thesaurus, don't fail me now) um... frankly about your life, including your foibles and failures is very, very brave. I have great difficulty showing the world what a great, big, nitwit I am. Know that there are lots of us out here, living similar lives, and that reading your blog gives us great comfort. Nitwits, unite!

Um... not that YOU'RE a nitwit...

the polish chick said...

picking up the phone, waffle, is the ultimate act of bravery, one i rarely manage to do. it's almost as bad as the vacuum, and you've braved and conquered that foul beast.

cheers, oh brave waffle!

Jessica said...

:) No regrets about what you are doing is a good way to be. It serves as proof that you have every reason to trust yourself.

GingerB said...

I can only see you as so witty and entertaining that I can't see you as lacking in bravery to engage. It just doesn't fit. You can't possibly suck the way I do . . .

Sara said...

the bravest thing any of us can do ever is to keep trying. Picking ourselves back up and keep on going. The rest is minor details.

i've been reading your blog for a while and you have given me the courage to sort out my own life out. and i have never been happier.

Roos said...

What a tremendous post (again!)! This is what life is all about - and life is for the brave.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Love,

The Universe

3limes said...

You are so brave and honest and I guess that is why I keep coming back to read. I am not as brave as you, preferring to show my brave face on 3limes rather than showing how hard it really is. I fear the boredom and disappointment of my readers while you are not bothered by such things, and your writing is more honest for it.

Caroline, No. said...

I've been learning the same lesson, recently. When you open yourself up to the universe, it really does open up back to you. What was holding me back was laziness though, really. Plus a bit of fear as well. But I think everyone is a scared really, some just hide it better than others.

I absolutely love your writing and your honesty.

Alison Cross said...

I wasn't even brave enough to step up to be the first person to write a comment on this blog. I wandered off, confident that other people would say nicer things in a better way than I could.

And I was right!

I have actually printed out some of your postings so that I've got them to hand when I feel blue.

You're unique, Emma :-)

Ali x

magpie said...

I hate picking up the phone - it terrifies me every time - but I am a journalist and it is sort of essential to my job. This is one of the many reasons why I am dissatissfied with my life and trying to be a bit braver about it.
This post of yours, written in the wonderful way that you tend to write which I slightly hate you for, is making alarm bells ring loudly in my head. There are so many things I want to do while I'm still young enough to get away with it, but I'm scared of not being able to pay the rent and losing my boyfriend. F*ck it.

Spinster of this parish said...

Bravery comes in many forms. Expressing yourself like this is one of them. Many of us feel daunted by the world but we're too scared to admit it.

I feel slightly less alone today. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You totally rock. There are two blogs, and only two, that I check religiously every day - yours and Dooce's. Both definitely add something to my tiny little life, so thank you so much.

Lisa-Marie said...

Writing this id brave. writing honestly about bad days is too. You are a very brave person Emma, you shouldn't doubt yourself!

Kathy said...

You are so spot-on. My kids are grown and after years of ignoring my dreams, I've decided to write that novel I've always wanted to write. Perhaps I'm wasting my time, perhaps my pages won't ever see print... but just putting one's self out there is an amazing act of bravery that can lead to amazing things. Keep waffling!

Mrs Jones said...

Not brave? How can you possibly say that when you look so FIERCE over at Non-Working Monkey's place? Work it, girlfriend.....

Margaret said...

How are you not brave? You taste beauty products so we won't have to! And you make some of us anxiety-ridden freaks think maybe we can do brave things and maybe some of us start therapy and awkwardly yell things at our husbands that we ordinarily would hold in. And neither thing causes us to die, which is something you have taught us.

sue said...

A wonderful post. Forgive me for quoting, but I thought your words illustrated beautifully something I read recently: "It's so wrong to think that spectacular courage is the best bravery. The noblest bravery is battling against these dreadful daily assaults, often very minor, on one's spirit." (Joanna Trollope in "The Rector's Wife")

Well done.

Sue

Sweet said...

love this post. love your writing. love the aluminum cone.

Anonymous said...

You write brilliantly! Thank you for sharing your unique voice through your ups and downs with all of us. This is written anonymously, so you know for a fact it's not flattery.

sarah said...

You are wonderfully brave and a brilliant writer. With your honesty you inspire others to be brave as well, which has got to get you some karma points or at least some creme de la mer.

Johnners said...

What a spirit lifter! Thank you, again, for writing things so clearly and honestly. They are always touching, funny and wonderful...

Only connect.

J. x

Anonymous said...

You are fucking marvellous, I adore your blog - funny, honest - your writing makes me laugh, and really has almost made me cry at times. You are brave and great & can I write like you when I'm a grown up (I'm 29)?

Keep on posting, it's a daily treat to come here.