People are always saying I’m courageous because I’ve survived a lot of illness. I tell them surviving is not courage. It’s instinct. That is the kind of “courage” you can find in any living thing — including an earthworm or a slug.

Flames from the Valley Fire cover a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, California September 13, 2015. The swiftly spreading wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to flee as it roared unchecked through the northern California village of Middletown and nearby communities, REUTERS/Noah Berger

Every living thing does its best to stay alive. To survive and continue to exist. Sometimes that’s hard, but it isn’t courageous. It may show tenacity, grit, intelligence, and luck, but courage is something else.

Courage is when — at your own personal peril — you run into the fire from which everyone else is fleeing to try to save those who are trapped.

Courage is going back to the fight because your patrol is trapped and they need your help.

Courage is going against your natural instinct to flee the danger and get to safety to save the lives of others — human or animal.

Courage is counter-instinctive. It isn’t “natural” and I am pretty sure you will never find an earthworm with genuine valor.

I’m not brave. I’m gritty, determined, persistent, and sometimes, clever. I also have been lucky. Luck is the single thing common for survivors and the truly courageous. You wish for it, but you can’t count on it.

The lucky get to hear their praises sung — hopefully. The unlucky may get a really nice funeral and a posthumous medal.

Categories: Anecdote

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26 replies

  1. For us Northern Californians It takes courage just to look at images of fire right now as we face more drought. Thank you Global warming. Opps I’m ranting. Good post Marilyn


  2. You know, I did that when I was younger–threw aside my crutches and ran through a burning dorm since the alarms had been interfered with and sabotaged so no one thought it was real–and everyone got out safely, but these days I might no longer have what it takes. I am glad that some younger people do. Maybe that is what suceeding generations of people are for, so that when one ‘layer’ of us gets older or damaged, the next waves can come forward and do what needs to be done.


    • That you did it at ALL is wonderful and kind of amazing. I once put out a friend who was on fire, but I think everyone else was too stunned to figure out that standing there watching the flames was probably not a great choice.

      Not everyone is good in an emergency. Many people — even otherwise smart people — just stand there and gawk. YOU had the brains to deal with it. Hopefully there are younger bodies who can deal with it now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope folks do it now and I believe they often do. It’s great that were able to help that friend. I think sometimes we just do what needs to be done, and then sometimes there are things that get in the way of that, usually fears or body failures-of-health. Best wishes to all–


  3. Well said thank you for such thought provoking post.


  4. So true Marilyn, let’s hope we are never put to the test.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That luck thing is so important in our world and yet people will dispute it. Trump (for example) was truly lucky to have won that election. A bizarre conspiracy of events let to that outcome. Low voter turnout, Russian interference, a dubious Democratic candidate etc. (we all know too well). He really did not “win” — he lucked out.

    Courage — I agree. I’ve done so many things that other people wouldn’t have done (like move to an unknown town in the back of beyond) and which people regard as “brave” but I really had to find a place to live that I could afford. It wasn’t courage. I came where I knew I could live and where I at least had some friends in driving (3 hours) distance. That it turned out to be Heaven was pure luck. My first hip surgery? My office mate said I was brave. I wasn’t brave. I registered 10 on the line up of pain faces. I could barely move — one thing holding me back now is that I’m pretty OK most of the time, and I’ve lived with pretty OK WAY too much in my life not to regard it as a viable “choice.”

    Like you, I’m a survivor. I’m glad because now I get to learn some new, scary shit. That’s a good thing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry is still trying to decide if he wants “hearing” enough to do the surgery. What if he can’t retrain his brain enough to “hear” with all that apparatus? Will I be mad at him if he doesn’t. No, I wouldn’t and I can’t imagine he would think I would be … but we do need to develop some kind of sign language so we CAN communicate. I think he doesn’t really want the surgery. I think HE thinks he SHOULD want it.

      Maybe that’s what you are looking at too.

      I asked him how much greatly improved hearing would impact his life — really — since 95% of his life is with me, here. We aren’t very sociable nor are we likely to be.

      For my heart, I had only the choice of life or death. That made it simple. Ditto the cancer. These are do it or die surgeries. But anything else? I would also be wondering exactly HOW much the improvement via surgery would ACTUALLY impact my real life. Not my theoretical life.

      Do you think continuing to work on strengthening that hip and leg would change you enough to not need surgery? Garry actually brushed his gums enough to not need surgery on it which was considered impossible … but of course a hip is a rather bigger deal than ones gums. Still … We all have to figure out if this is what we really want or something we are supposed to want and there’s a damned thin line on that.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t want the surgery. Part of what I’m investigating (subconsciously?) is whether it’s the best option even though I know deep inside that someday it will no longer be a choice.

        I DO know I don’t want to walk with a cane and I DO want to be able to walk up a hill and I DO want to be able to walk to “my tree” when I’m in Colorado Springs. I believe I can X-country ski without the surgery, but there hasn’t been enough snow to test it.

        What I tried to convey in what was probably a pretty self-indulgent post is that I’m good with death BUT I’d be very angry if I were to die on the operating table while they’re working on my hip. And, as the first thing they ask at the doc’s is “Do you. have an advanced directive?” it’s kind of, you know, WTF?

        I don’t know if these things affect other people the same way — yes or no, no idea. But I will do it as soon as I find the right doctor. I think this delay in making any progress isn’t helping.

        So Garry and I have similar dilemmas. Things are pretty OK as they are. But could they be better? Yes. The choice to make them better involves risks and as we’re not kids, that looks different to me, anyway, than it might have even ten years ago.

        The benefit I’m looking for in working strengthening my hip and leg now is for after surgery. Surgery is you know, you just lie there and people do stuff to you and you don’t (god willing) even know about it. Then you come to sometime later and it’s over and then your job starts. That’s the part I am hoping to improve by what I’m doing now. My body has already made the decision. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Garry turns 76 in April so his “not a kid” reminds me that he looks good, but he is older than he seems to me. I see him as young. I think we see each other as we were when we were 16 and 21. I don’t know how much the surgery WILL help him at this point. It isn’t as life-threatening as your hip, at least I don’t think it is. It does involve cutting a hole in his head and removing all the human ear elements and replacing them with technology — which is pretty scary all by itself.

          Most of the people giving him advice are a LOT younger than he is. As in 30 years younger. I think if her were even 10 years younger, he’d be looking at this differently. I do know he is scared to death and Garry is never scared by anything. He’s the most fearless guy I have ever known, but this surgery is freaking him out.

          IF you know you are eventually going to need to do it regardless, you obvious know younger is better than older. You are not going to be happier about it in 10 years.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I AM waffling on the cochlear implant surgery. Probably surprises many who know about my life long hearing handicap and its impact on quality of life. Early on, I thought I’d jump at the opportunity when it seemed like a long shot.

        Now that I am officially a candidate for the surgery, I am waffling. I am unsure about the surgery itself (we laugh about what they’ll find in my head) and unsure about the lengthy rehab-relearning process. It’s unchartered territory for me. So, yes, I’m scared. I am hoping the time gained, by resceduling the next consult to May, will allow me to clear my head.


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