I tend to think of myself as being on the shy and timid side, especially in person. I’m not unfriendly, but I don’t often make the first move. I’m also a conflict avoider with known passive-aggressive tendencies. And as I’ve mentioned here before, I’m an introvert. I seem to be much less of one in writing and online, but the computer provides a “screen” in more ways than one, and while it may help me be more comfortable expressing myself, it doesn’t change my basic nature or personality.
But for some reason, I’ve been told more than once that I have a lot of guts or courage, and it always takes me by surprise, like this comment I got last week:
…this might be completely presumptuous of me to say, but you have a ton of guts – your career choices, your blog, the great articles you’ve written for the site! We’re lucky to have you. Really, very lucky. Thank you!
One of my old friends back at the zoo gave me a sweet gift when I left there to move cross-country, along with a card wishing me well and telling me that she “admired my courage.” This was a woman I thought was pretty courageous herself – she left an abusive short-lived marriage, and pursued her master’s degree while coping with a full-time job and chronic fatigue syndrome (and eventually, a new relationship), so that meant a lot coming from her, but I didn’t think I was being especially brave. In fact, in some ways I felt like I was running away, but I sincerely believed that my post-divorce adjustment would go a little smoother if I were somewhere that I had family, and wasn’t likely to run into my ex (and future Wife 2.0) at the grocery store. But realistically, I guess that moving 1800 miles to a place you’ve never lived before, without a job waiting, and being on your own for the first time at age 38 could be considered a pretty gutsy move.
But I feel that maybe it was a gutsy reaction to having been gutless for a long time. I’d known that my marriage hadn’t “felt” right for some time, and that I didn’t feel fully myself within it, but I was trying to downplay it and live with what I had until First Husband started the major boat-rocking that led to our eventual divorce. And even during that process, it wasn’t something that I wanted, and I kept quiet about a lot. Even later, when I’d been away for awhile and was starting to see how I was changing, and coming to accept that maybe he and I hadn’t been the best match for each other, I was still struggling, and learning to live with a low-grade depression.
Yes, learning to “live with it,” and at times actively resisting doing anything about it – especially since I was pretty sure it would have been even worse if I hadn’t left Memphis. An article by a personal coach that I read recently talked about accepting yourself before you can change yourself, and in a perverse way, I may have felt that “living with” these feelings was a way of “accepting” my life. Change can be a big scary thing, and I’d been through some HUGE change in a few short years – but much of that was in the circumstances of my life, and not so much in me. The “normal” I’d come to live with might not have been the greatest, but at least I knew how it worked – or more accurately, didn’t want to know how it didn’t work. Ironically, it was First Husband who rocked the boat again, this time with his announcement that he was getting married again, which was what finally pushed me far enough to call a therapist – which even I have to acknowledge was a brave thing to do. The work we did was eye-opening, even in the early stages of CBT, and I made pretty fast progress, especially with the support of my sister and a dear friend who’s like a brother (a very gay brother, and a guy who warrants a post all his own some day). I got some excellent tools that I’m still using, and about six months later I was ready for another brave step – into the dating pool. But since I’m less introverted online, I made that step from behind the computer screen…and the communication with my “match” went so well in that setting that when we met in person, we felt like old friends already. We’re now two months shy of our first wedding anniversary.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought of blogging as being a particularly brave thing – at least not my version of it, which began as a place to keep a record of my reading. It’s clearly expanded from there, and I think it is evolving into a personal blog that truly does reflect me, but I don’t consider it nearly as “personal” – by which I guess I mean “revealing” of life details – as many of the other blogs I read. There are things I don’t talk about, and people I won’t mention by name, and I generally don’t court controversy. Even so, I guess there is quite a bit of my life out there – including my perceptions and opinions, which are plenty revealing in their own way – so I suppose I should give myself more credit for taking a chance on this.
One tricky thing about self-image is that you can find yourself holding on to a picture that doesn’t square very well with your present reality – not letting yourself get confused by the facts, so to speak. That can be an obvious factor in matters like body-image issues – seeing yourself as fat when you’re really not, for example – but it comes into play in less physical “images” too. And despite being able to point to a few examples of courageous actions during the last few years of my life, I still tend to see those times as anomalies that are out of character, rather than characteristic of the person I’ve grown to be. Maybe they’re not anomalies, though – these actions are prompted by thoughts and impulses which can only come from me, so I have to wonder if I’m really a “gutless wonder” after all.