Fear’s nemesis, Courage

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin

My world has become noticeably larger in this past year, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call myself or actions courageous, I know that courage is how you conquer fear.

For years, I was of afraid of being caught. I wasn’t telling blatant lies. I was living one. I was afraid to admit marital problems that alcoholism hardly sugar-coated.  Over the last two years, I feel like a grizzly bear that slowly, sometimes brashly, other times hesitantly, but always knowingly wiggled out of hibernation. I had some good people in the den. I pulled the wool over their eyes, though as I pretended that maybe when spring arrived everything would be ok.

In the Spring of 2016, I finally admitted that marriage doesn’t work if both spouses are not in it together. My life was like a broken record with a 16 year-skip. I was having the same epiphany, only the second time around there was a child involved, so extricating myself from the marriage would not involve moving in with my Grandma. Plus my Grandma died years, ago, so that wasn’t even an option. It was a good six months before I slowly came clean about what was happening. Fortunately, since then my den mates, many friends I closed off from entirely, and new friends have been supportive during this post-hibernation period.

My opening quote struck a chord with me this morning because when I read it I didn’t think of myself at first, I thought of two women who I shared the evening with last night. I think they are both courageous.

The first, Marianne, I met at the Galvanize Chicago event last summer, that was sponsored by the United State of Women. I took the Running for Office track and Marianne took the Leadership track. Her remarks during the general session led me to introduce myself and offer support with the problem about which she spoke. We exchanged cards and have since met a few times, talking on the phone periodically about divorce, dating, motherhood, careers, and more.

In the short time, I have known Marianne she’s accomplished a lot. The most impressive to me is having her first book published. When she was working on it last fall, she told me she was writing 1,000 words a day, of which I made a mental note. When I told myself I didn’t have the time write this blog, I remembered Marianne. I thank her for her example, without which I don’t know that I’d be typing away at this moment.

The other woman, Julia Sweeney, doesn’t know me. I was in her audience at Second City last night. If you ever watched Saturday Night Light, you’ll remember Pat.  Julia’s monologue last night is a work in progress. It was encouraging to see a comic run through her schtick, laughing when something was raw, off, or not funny. Julia told a story about how she responded recently to her daughter’s question about #metoo. Her daughter was convinced that her mother had to have been sexually harassed at some point since she spent 25 years in “the business”. The way Julia told the story was funny,  but specifically, the exchange between her daughter and her. The subject of the story wasn’t. It was horrific. It was sad. And just awful. I didn’t laugh, even when she laughed at herself.

This morning I realized I am guilty, I did what women do way too often to other women, and we probably do it to the other gender, too, but when faced with something uncomfortable, untoward, uncouth, we judge and look down, kind of waving our finger as if we were a school teacher telling that person, no, that’s not ok. I regret that I felt that way because Julia had more balls than the man who was the subject of her horrific story, she had super-star like courage to talk about #metoo before complete strangers.


Julia Sweeney, Older and Wider, at Second City
Julia Sweeney, Older and Wider, at Second City


Can you imagine taking the stage for an hour, with the sole task of making the audience laugh? How brave is that? And then during that time to engage the audience in timely and meaningful topics? She touched on gaining weight, on religion, Big Pharma, foreign relations, shitholes, serial rapists, motherhood, working women, marriage, and yes, Pat, and Matt Lauer! It was a pretty remarkable hour. I am inspired by her courage, candor, comedic ability, graciousness, and forgiveness.A year ago I didn’t know Marianne. A year ago I spent every weekend that Bridget was with her father, cleaning the house, going to yoga, walking the dogs, and licking my wounds. A year ago I would not have driven downtown in Friday night traffic to see a friend and go to Second City. But that was a year ago.


Today, on this Saturday, January 13, I am grateful that I came out of hibernation in 2016. If courage is what got me here, then I’ll thank God for it.  I’m grateful for the friends who have nudged me along, the family who have prevented me from going back into the den, and everyone who keeps me busy laughing, loving, and staying in the present. I don’t want this world to shrink again.

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