I wasn't a brave kid. Take me someplace new and I did not stray far from my mother's side. I was shy. Afraid to open my mouth. Never knowing what to say. Terrified I might be made fun of.
I remember how it felt to be like that. When fear would consume my core and render me immobile. Unable to take a step much less even explain what I was feeling.
To know me today, this might sound hard to believe. But it's true. Just ask my mother. She'll illustrate with the story of what happened when we first moved to Glen Oaks.
The neighborhood, which sits on the outskirts of Queens, was an idyllic place to raise a family in the sixties. The apartments surrounded big grass courtyards lined with benches and filled with baby boomer kids allowed to play outside without having to schedule a date to do so. The neighbors watched out for each other. It was a safe place.
Apparently I was not convinced.
One of those first days in the new apartment I was outside. My mother heard me screaming at the top of my lungs and raced to my side to find me standing in the middle of a circle of kids, tears streaming down my face, tiny fists clutched tight to my doll carriage.
I was too busy crying to say a word so she asked the kids what happened. They told her they didn't know. They told her they were just trying to be my friend.
That's how not brave a kid I was.
I've struggled with being courageous and with speaking my mind for most of my life. I know what's it like when my body reacts, my mouth goes bone dry or my legs feel like they might give way underneath me.
Sometimes I've been clumsy in how I've gone about overcoming my insecurities. Somedays I still am. Somedays that inner child, the little insecure girl afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing wants to come out and play.
I've learned how to deal with her now. But she has also made me acutely aware of what it takes to be really brave. She knows that even if it looks easy, it never is. And she still reminds me to pause and take note when someone else is stretching into their own courageous acts.
When I see a young woman like Christina Huffington on the Today show talking openly about how her addiction to cocaine almost killed her, I am in awe. When I read her articles on The Huffington Post and her story in Glamour, I am struck by her ability to be that articulate and honest about something that -- given the option, which she had -- most would hide from the public. She chose to be brave. She chose to demonstrate courage. She doesn't need the notoriety. She was born into it. Her mother is Arianna Huffington. She chose brave so that she might help others with her story.
I don't know what it's like to have that kind of substance addiction to anything but chocolate or coffee. But I do know what it's like to push past what might otherwise limit us. I know how appealing the choice to run and hide and not say a word can be. I know the risk that comes from putting yourself out there as fair game in a digital world in which there is no topic we will all ever agree on and something called Twitter that invites open discussion, which too often includes spewing not-so-nice comments.
I still struggle with being brave every day. Each time I hit submit on this blog and expose a little more of who I am and how I think I get a little braver. But I never stop being scared.
This post originally appeared on www.joannetombrakos.com.
Note: The doodle is an original -- created on a very cool new social site called Doodle.lyhttp://http://doodle.ly/doodles/5203f3174cfb45bf76000011?set=1
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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