You Gotta Have Heart

I’m fortunate that both of my professions–attorney and author–put me in company with people I enjoy. Attorneys tend to be good analytical thinkers, confident, and curious. Writers might be quieter, but they’re no less astute or mentally active. Of the two, I prefer the writers, because they are also more likely to be divergent thinkers.

Writers come up with the insightful questions and creative theories, the off-the-wall wisecracks, and turn-it-on-its-head solutions. They probably score higher than average for the personality trait known as openness, though they can also be very shy.

So there I was at a writer’s conference, and because the workshop sessions taxed the imagination sorely, the presenters allowed us frequent breaks. I was hanging out waiting my turn at the tea fixings, when I struck up a conversation with another guy in the class who’d introduced himself as “homeless when in the United States.”

He’s civilian military working overseas, but came all the way, all the way, all the way back to the States to attend this conference. He was debating whether to sign up for more work in a war zone, or fold up that tent, and come back here to write full time. Note to self: I have it pretty stinkin’ easy.

I told him I was at a much humbler crossroad, winding up my law practice, and deciding where I wanted my next exciting adventure to happen.

“That takes courage,” he said. “Making changes, shifting directions. It’s always a little scary.”

I gather he spoke from experience, but he didn’t launch into Back-When-I-Was, so I dribbled the conversational ball a little farther down the court.

“Or do I stay where I’ve been for the past twenty-five years, fix up that house, and reconcile myself to spending the next twenty-five years there?”

My writin’ buddy smiled. “That takes courage too.”

Two thoughts: How compassionate, that a man who’s working in a war zone, could see the choice faced by a relatively secure civilian with lots of good options as requiring courage, but also, he’s RIGHT. Just getting out of bed, slogging through the day, pulling our share of the load can be a heroic undertaking.

Anybody’s life can be scary, whether that person is parenting for the first time, or parenting their first special needs kid. Whether the boss is being a pill, or the marriage is feeling shaky. Whether that old left hip is acting up, or the retirement fund is drifting down.

We’re all heroes and heroines, when viewed with sufficient compassion. To one of my fellow heroines (and heroes), I’ll send a signed ARC of Too Scot to Handle.

Tell us something you did that was brave. I’ll go first: I drove from Maryland to Oregon, all by my little lonesome. Yeah, it was tons of fun, but that’s also a long, long way to road trip when a lot of the route was still sporting snow.

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15 comments on “You Gotta Have Heart

  1. 1

    In 1994 my husband and I were to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and all the family wanted to fund a big celebration for us.We were not happy,my husband was moody and angry and could change from being a nice man to a nasty man I wanted him to seek help.The kids had grown up and had their own lives and it seemed to me this was a critical time of our marriage.He said he did not have any need to see anyone and that was that.He ranted and he raged and became violent.Our marriage was over and I went to a solicitor and began the ending of a marriage.It was one of the most difficult things,I had broken my vows that I took 25 years ago in church in front of our families .Those same families we had to tell that the celebrations would not be happening.Twenty three years on and I am a contented fulfilled woman My ex also on his own and still not seeking help which has pushed and torn his family apart.No regrets decision made and life still to be lived in all its glory.for all of us we have to decide the way forward and be brave and this takes courage.

  2. 2
    Susan Gorman says:

    My husband was laid off from his job of 28 year nine years ago. He was let go the week before Thanksgivng and was given a great severance package. He opted to take the package in January. So, it was a long 9 weeks plus the time for the check to clear the banks holding period. We had plans for a Thanksgiving but, Christmas was grim. We were in good health and my daughter was old enough to understand.

    It was painful at times..I had a a choice and chose to make it work I have worked two jobs, haven’t had a vacation in at least 10 years but my daughter graduated from college and is in law school. Sometimes staying together as a family is harder than it looks. But, worth it.

    Thanks for writing your stories….Nicholas, Gayle and Mathew have kept me company!

  3. 3
    Make Kay says:

    I do some public speaking, sometimes for charities, even though I go I’m so scared of speaking that I about pass out before opening my mouth. It’s for a good cause, right?

  4. 4
    Rebecca says:

    I moved to a city where I knew 1 person, and without a full time job, at age 28. It’s working well now, 2.5 years later ;).

  5. 5
    Beth says:

    After selling a house that was paid for, but cost more to run than my income, I sold half of everything I owned, sold it and moved to a tiny tourist town south of me, to a house that was supposed to be much cheaper to run and surrounded by artsy people and walking distance to the beach.

    Two floods and a load of drunk neighbors later, I told myself, “You have made a horrible mistake.” I sold another half of everything I owned (I’m now down to 1/4 of what I originally had if you’re math challenged), packed everything while waiting for the idiotic capital gains tax period to expire as my flood repairs had inflated the market value and sold yet again.

    My current house is not paid for, but the minuscule mortgage is doable on my income, I could finally afford to replace an aging car that was highly expensive to maintain, and my cost of living is well within bounds of my income. Best of all, I have a larger house than I began with, the water view I craved and thought I couldn’t afford, and a lovely, QUIET neighborhood full of people who understand that creating things is work.

    Was I terrified the entire time? Yes. Was I terrified until I settled into this place? Yes. But that very impetus to find something more suited to the current me and the willingness to admit I hosed up on my first attempt, led me to something far beyond what I dreamed was possible. And there was progression along the way if I knew where to look. Electric bills went from $385 to $185 to $75, the taxes stayed the same, despite moving to newer houses each time (mystical are the ways of county governance) and I now have space for dedicated offices and part time employment to supplement my main income. Life is good!

  6. 6
    Teenie Marie says:

    I *retired* from a job that sucked my soul when I 49. I spent the next year contemplating what I wanted to do, did research on how to do it, then did it. I’ve touched many people’s lives in ways I never thought I would and, for the most, part I am happy with my decision eleven years later.

    I could change directions because I put my husband through med school and residency, taking jobs that were not only beneath me but insulting. I was incredibly crabby one Advent and Christmas season ( I was a professional church musician) and hubby looked at me one morning and said I didn’t have to do it any longer, we didn’t need the money. I resigned after Easter and left the end of the choir year. I could have just resigned, in fact, it would have been better for my mental health. I thought if I ever needed a reference I didn’t want those years to be ruined because I couldn’t suck it up for two months.

    Having children is brave and takes courage; it isn’t until we are parents that we understand that! πŸ™‚

  7. 7
    Kathy Bunbury says:

    I think the bravest (and subsequently most rewarding) thing I did was marry my husband after only 30 days. I was at a huge crossroad in my life and was contemplating moving out of the country with my children when I meet him. Two days later he left the country for a 2-week trip asking me not to make a decision until he returned. when he came back he introduced me to his children and the following week he called me and told me he had decided we were getting married that weekend. Surprisingly I went along with it and 20 years later we’re still very happy.

  8. 8
    Colleen Perry says:

    Didn’t know where to leave something brave I did. Not a big deal for most, very big for. At about 60 years old. Hadn’t driven for years, and never left home alone, except to drive short way to work, before retired, let alone go shopping by myself. But I started to do this quite often, now 80 don’t drive or shop alone. Suffer from severe depression and fear of everything, I am bypollor. Have written to you several times. Want to say again I love your books and admire you so much. I try to do things as you do. I have read of your past and you are incredible what you have overcome. Sorry for another long message.

  9. 9
    Joana says:

    Something brave… Well, I’m 23years old and I just moved from Portugal to the UK to work and live in a completely different country, with a completely different culture, for 6 months. I didn’t knew anyone. I’ve been here since the beginning of March. And I think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve done – because I did it for myself and alone. I know that might sound selfish but the thing is…I always did things for others. I put my family, my friends, first, always. And that’s how it should be, but I don’t think I should have neglected myself on the way. So, when this opportunity showed up I didn’t hesitate. I’m an introvert and I like books better than people…I’m horrible at meeting people (and talking to them – besides my family, I only have one friend) so this has been a huge challenge for me. I usually get too attached too quickly and after having people break my heart so many times, it’s hard for me to keep trying to make friends. But I’m trying! And I like to think it’s a brave thing. All of it. What do you think?

    Wish me luck for my time here!

  10. 10
    Hilary says:

    Over the past few months, I have felt compelled to become quite vocal about my political views, which is difficult when I’ve always been an introvert and a people pleaser. I’ve attended marches, rallies, town halls, and organizing events. This has upset several people in my family, who have made it clear that they do NOT approve of my involvement. Luckily, I have finally reached a point where I care more about the causes I’m fighting for than the approval of these individuals, but, still, the idea of knowingly displeasing someone is often tough for me.

    Also, I began the process of applying for law school which scares me speechless. But, I’m going ahead with it anyway.

  11. 11
    Pamela Duarte says:

    We’re in the same situation you are – move or stay. I’m sure we’ll end up moving, simply because that’s what we do.

    Two years after we got married in 1971, we moved from the LA area to the Bay Area so my husband could go back to school. I didn’t have a job, had given up my tenured teaching job and wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

    When he graduated 3 years later, we packed up and moved to his hometown – Honolulu: no jobs, just the house his mother and aunts lived in. One year later, back to the Bay area, then Honolulu again (the aunts and his mother had all passed away, I was pregnant and we at least had a house and a small nest egg). After 4 years and two sons, back to the Bay Area, then Sacramento.

    After my husband was laid off six times in eight years and I had worked in several dead-end jobs so I could take time to be involved with the boys education, we packed up once again and headed for Chicago. At least this time he had a job.

    Twenty-three years later, five lays offs for him and two for me, I’m ready to retire. He retired 3 years ago.

    So where to?I have no idea at this point, but somewhere warmer and less expensive. Am I a hero? Considering how paranoid I am about money, not sure if I’m brave or just crazy. So far it’w worked out for the best every time, so we’ll throw caution to the wind and go for it.

  12. 12
    Glenda says:

    The last really brave thing I did was drive in heavy snow from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, Co with my daughter. We were doing collage visits her senior year in high school and missed the coldest day in Fort Collins history by one day. Almost 2 feet of snow fell during our tour of the Colorado State campus and we still had to drive back down to the Denver airport in the dark. It might not seem like much to people who are used to driving in the snow, but I’ve lived in the southern half of the US my entire life – different places but always in areas where snow is an extremely rare event. You Don’t Drive In the Snow where I come from. I’m not sure my daughter has any clue how terrified I was since I didn’t want to worry her – especially since she woke us that morning with altitude sickness.

    Compared to those drives that day, moving halfway across the country for a temporary job was nothing on the courage factor. πŸ˜‰

  13. 13
    anne egger says:

    I guess the scariest thing I’ve ever done was drive from North Carolina to Virginia with a car full of teenagers.

  14. 14
    Mary Peed says:

    I once let a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach crawl all over my hand at the zoo so it didn’t scare my kids and the nieces and nephews… When what I really wanted to do was to brush it of my hand screaming EW EW EW! And then stomp it into cockroach slime.

    When something seems scary, my husband reminds me… “it’s not like it’s a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach”

  15. 15
    catslady says:

    Going back to work at 65 after not working (other than part-time in my daughter’s shop that didn’t make it) for 32 years!! It’s just part-time and not in my field but it was very hard to get back in the work force.