I don’t want to die a coward: How to be brave when you’ve lived your whole life in fear.
Two years old.
Everyone around me is sad and crying. And they’re all standing and looking into this white, long shiny box. I want to see what’s in the box. So I go closer. I’m a lot smaller than the people around me and the long box is high up. But I want to see.
I. want. to. see.
I’m walking towards the box. The people move over to let me to the front – but they moved slowly… in an unsure way.
I’m close to the box now. So close, I can touch it. But now, I don’t want to touch it. Because now. I can see what’s in the box. Well – I see who is in the box.
I’m stone. I don’t know what feelings are. Or do I? I don’t know what I am feeling, but I don’t want my mom to be in that box. Why is mom in a box? Why isn’t she moving? I’m two. I don’t know how to ask these questions and if anyone tried to explain it to me… I didn’t understand.
That is my second earliest memory. Being at my mom’s wake. It’s funny how the brain works. I remember so much detail about that day – and at such a young age. I Guess it’s true. The stronger your emotions are aroused – the greater effect on your memory. Either way, the clearest picture I have of my mom is of her in her casket. I remember her red lipstick and white dress. The curves of her face. The white lace gloves.
Can you imagine reliving that memory every time you think of your mother?
One day, I asked my grandmother how I was as a toddler… right after that experience. She said I would cry a lot and ask for my mom. I’d just cry and cry because I wanted my moma.
Then, my grandma became my Ma. She loved me without fail. She became my closest companion and confidant. And she’d give THE BEST HUGS. Have you ever been hugged and squeezed so tight that you KNOW they mean it?
Her hugs were like sunshine and all of God’s love wrapped into one. It’s like all the pain, or sorrow you’ve ever experienced is vanished. It was unconditional. It was Infinity.
July 18, 2014. 27 years old.
My oldest sister just called. What do you mean? I just saw her last weekend when I was home. NO! Ma just passed away. I can’t breathe. I can’t get off the floor. I can’t speak. I can’t move. I. just. can’t.
I was sitting at her funeral and I couldn’t keep quiet. I had nothing left. These people around me can’t understand what I lost. They don’t know that my world is crashing. Right here. Right now.
It’s deja’vu. Again. Twenty-five years later. And I’d just cry and cry because I wanted my Ma.
Sometimes I still cry. I’ve experienced so much loss throughout my life. Along the way, I lost an aunt, close cousin, boyfriend, and a best friend. These are only ones that hit really close to home.
My behavior toward family, friends, everyone – has changed drastically since my grandma passed away. I keep people at a distance. Subconsciously, maybe? My poor attempt to reduce the chances of experiencing loss again.
I mean – What would you do if you constantly lost people you loved dearly? LOVED DEEPLY?!
I was lost. Lost in a grocery store. Maybe six years old. For about 30 seconds – my eyes couldn’t find my grandmother. She was just right there? Where is she? My eyes scanned and scanned. I was standing in that store aisle completely alone. Lost. Afraid. In only thirty seconds – panic rose in my throat. I fell to my knees and screamed. I screamed as hard as I could. Then I heard her yell for me. Girl! Sudden relief. Now, I see her coming towards me. There she is! Ma! I can’t lose you. She was only one aisle over. But in that little time I had a panic attack. From that moment on – I stayed close. Really close. Until I couldn’t.
My life of experiencing loss morphed into fear. I became a coward. Shrinking and avoiding danger and pain. I didn’t want to open up. I didn’t want people to really get to know me. I didn’t want to make new friends. I didn’t want to fall in love. I didn’t want to love anyone ANYMORE. I don’t think my heart could have handled another loss. And not just from death. Loss from friends moving away or relationships ending… I think I even stayed in toxic relationships longer to avoid loss.
I have nothing left.
Ten years old. I was lost again. Only this time I wasn’t alone. We’d just moved into a new house only a couple of days earlier. Grandma dropped my sister and me off at school that morning. She told us which bus would take us home. After school – just as instructed – we loaded the bus. We were on right bus. Only problem – we didn’t know where we lived. We were in the right neighborhood but we didn’t know our address, street name, landmarks – nothing. The bus driver was so nice but I didn’t know what to tell him. We were the last kids on the bus now. He drove us around for nearly an hour. And I didn’t think we’d ever get home. I considered tears. I considered giving up and crying. But this time I was determined. This time I wasn’t going to fall. I was not going to scream. I. will. not. panic. Nor will I be defeated. I have to get me and my sister home. So I searched. I searched for anything with the slightest resemblance. I looked and looked as hard as I could to find our house. I described anything and everything I could remember. I let him help me. And Eventually, we found our way home.
I learned a lesson that day. And since, I’ve never been completely lost. I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I really look at what I’m seeing along the way. And if I do get confused – panic is not my first option. I can at least go back the way I came. I can go back to the beginning and start over. I will find my way.
The lost little girl in the grocery store was nothing like the lost girl on the school bus. On the bus I wasn’t alone and I let someone help me. I need to get back to the strength I had I ten. Because If I keep pushing people away, if I keep being a coward – I’ll always be alone.
Sure, fear could shield us from experiencing some pain and loss. But living in fear will also keeps us from experiencing love, joy, and happiness. Being afraid will guarantee that we will always be alone and always lost.
I can choose to be defeated – panic, cry, and scream. OR I can be brave and determined to find my way. Or at least be willing to start over.
Life is a hot mess. Fear will never go away completely, but don’t let it consume you. Be brave and fight through it. I don’t want to live in fear of losing people, fear of never being enough, or afraid of my voice. I will no longer be a coward.
I will fight. I will let myself be seen, deeply seen, and vulnerably seen. I am going to love with my whole heart – even though there’s no guarantee I’ll get the love back in return. I will be courageous. I am going to be f*cking brave.
Take back your life. You owe yourself at least that.