One morning, I woke up to find a beautifully wrapped package next to my bed. Attached to it was a note: “Open me, if you dare.”

What’s inside the box? Should I open it?

When I looked closely, under the wrapping paper and ribbons, I could see who sent it or at least, from where it originated.

“Hall of Records,” says the label.

I’ve been searching for this package since many years ago I had a dream in which I am climbing an endless ladder in a tall building until finally, I get to a steel door. Which is locked. On the door is a sign that says “Hall of Records.”

In all these years, I’ve never been able to go into that room. I’ve never been able to see the information in the room. Now, here is the box and it’s right next to my bed. Does it contain all the records? The lost memories? The suppressed memories? The experiences that are too painful to remember? All the buried stuff … and maybe it’s in that box.

I look at the box, pick it up and give it a good shake. It’s heavy and solidly packed. No rattling, nothing loose inside. It must be crammed to its limits.

I’ve made my decision.

I carry it to the attic, pull down the creaky old stairs. Up to the attic I haul that heavy box, grunting with the strain of it. I have lived this long without knowing all the details of the worst days of my life. I think I can slide through the remaining years equally — and happily — in ignorance.

TUESDAY’S ORCHIDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – February 26 – Orchid

Today the third of my orchids went into full bloom. There are three more big buds on the two stalks and I think they will bloom within the next week or maybe 10 days.

Bright orchids

My orchids make me smile. Every time I walk past my flowers, I feel better about at least this little part of my life. I have no control over what the government, the Democrats, the Coronavirus or anything else does, but at least I have a little bit of control over feeding my birds and growing flowers.

The orchids with a heart
Three full orchids

These days, we need to feel good about small things because the big things are much too big for puny little me.

Three in bloom


We were watching a rerun of NCIS, an episode from a few years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others and her country’s secrets.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.

Osprey (sea eagles) nest on the jetty

Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived cancer and heart problems and a lot of other life-threatening ailments. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all of that and have a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s always a trip to an amusement park where you can get a huge dose of adrenaline without being in actual danger — and it (usually) doesn’t require years of recovery and rehab.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship still alive but hardly deserving a medal. You don’t get medals for staying alive. Survival isn’t bravery or valor. A mosquito will do its best to survive. So will a slug.

LAKE TABOURIE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 04: Residents look on as flames burn through bush on January 04, 2020 in Lake Tabourie, Australia. A state of emergency has been declared across NSW with dangerous fire conditions forecast for Saturday, as more than 140 bushfires continue to burn. There have been eight confirmed deaths in NSW since Monday 30 December. 1365 homes have been lost, while 3.6 million hectares have been burnt this fire season. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Saving your own life (and occasionally, dragging others with you to safety) is natural. Staying alive is hard-wired into life’s DNA. Otherwise, life on earth would have long since vanished. It may yet.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing, conscious choice to put yourself in peril for the sake of others. There must be a choice involved. Taking risks for fun, to make money, to get your adrenaline rushing through your blood vessels, or because you’re going to die anyway isn’t courage. It’s survival. Some of us are better survivors than others, but that doesn’t change anything.

Medal of honor from Obama

If you do it for fun, it’s entertainment. If you’re doing it for profit, it’s shrewd business practice.  If it’s choosing to live rather than die? It’s survival.

I have never done anything I would define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining, and fascinating stuff. I’ve gotten myself into tight corners — almost always by accident — and lived to tell the tale. I’ve occasionally put others ahead of me to help when I could. But never have I put me in harm’s way to save another’s life.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it was not the easiest choice. I won’t get a medal for that, either.