Becoming brave


Stevie Nicks was right. Time really does make you bolder.

Folks who know me now have a hard time comprehending that there was a time when I wouldn’t stand up for myself. Because these days you pretty much know where you stand with me. But it was not always the case.

It may be hard to believe that there was a time in my life when the mere thought of standing up for myself made me tremble in paralyzing fear. But there was. This fear permeated all aspects of my life: school, relationships, jobs. I did not express myself. I did not challenge. I did not speak up. I was the most non-confrontational person on the planet.

Growing up, I was the good girl. The one who complied with all instructions, usually with a smile. I sought validation from others in everything I did, as if the approval of others was the only way I could be happy. My parents didn’t push me, it was just the way I was wired. A perfectionist from birth.

The thought of speaking up to a stranger in a grocery store would have me abandoning my shopping cart and digging for my car keys. The notion of defending myself in the workplace made me want to quit my job.  I was a pushover.

Beginning my adult life as an Officer’s Wife didn’t help. As a matter of fact, upon arrival at his duty station two days after we were married, I was handed a copy of a book called Mrs. Lieutenant, a social guide to being an Army officer’s wife. More etiquette and expectations. I did exactly what that book said I was supposed to. I dressed the way it suggested. I learned the proper greetings and attended the social events. I served my husband, the community, and the Army with a smile.

When my children were born, the pattern continued. Every teacher knew she could count on me, because I never said “no.” Even when I should have.

I seemed to disappear behind this person who couldn’t speak up.

But somewhere along the way the need to serve myself surfaced. And I found my voice.

I learned that speaking up for myself wasn’t a selfish act. I learned that disagreeing wasn’t a sign of disrespect. The change began.

Then I got a cancer diagnosis. And I cared a little less about pleasing others.

Then Hurricane Katrina shook my world. And standing up for myself became necessary for survival.

Then my mother died. And I learned that our legacy outlives us.

Then my husband spent a year in Iraq. And being strong was all I had left.

Then I learned to be brave.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Becoming brave

  1. What great words of hope and inspiration you’ve shared with your readers! Finding our voices, and finding a balance in using it is one of life’s greatest gifts! Such a freeing and healing experience!

  2. I am reading this right now because I have to tell my boss that my work schedule HAS to change because of a childcare situation I can’t control. I am terrified. I won’t be working less, just different days, and I am petrified. I love your post because it’s giving me hope.

    • Oh, outlawmama, find your brave. You’ll never regret doing so when it comes to your kids. I’ve reinvented myself several times for them, and each time we have become a stronger family for having done so. I’ll be anxious to hear how it goes. :-)

  3. Sometimes it does seem like the most challenging times serve to make ourselves stronger. I’ve never had quite the combination of challenges that you have, but I have had months (or years) when things didn’t seem to go as planned, and part of me wanted to cry out, “Why me??” Ultimately, it’s hard to regret how much we learn from life’s difficulties.

    • My father taught me a beautiful lesson when I was a young woman. After his cancer diagnosis, he told me he just couldn’t ask “Why?”. Because when blessings were being heaped upon him he never asked. So it was unfair of him to ask when things were dark. My blessings certainly exceed my worthiness, so when the challenges come, I’ve learned to face them with resolve. Thanks for visiting, School of Smock.

  4. Without a doubt, you have found inner strength I could only hope to have!

    • Dyanne, if I can find it, you can, too. I’ve been thinking about a message lately. We all know what we need to do, but the trick is hearing the message when we’re ready to do it. Or when we have no choice. Hmmm. You may have just inspired a new essay. :-)

  5. I’m grateful for the journey to bravery, and that some of us actually reach the destination! There are others out there who never do, who never learn that it’s okay not to be everything to everybody and perfectly so all the time. Some people never learn that it’s okay to say “no” or even “no way!”. I have had the same journey, and it took my daughter spiraling out of control in the world of anxiety to completely make me halt and focus harder than ever before keeping things simple. I think you are awesome, Lisha, and once again, I appreciate all of your sincere honesty! XOXO-Kasey

    • Kasey, your kind words always make my heart smile. Without a doubt, the source of greatest strength has been learning to advocate for my kids. I look at the single working moms of the world and say what folks here are saying to me: How do you do it?? :-)

  6. Wow! What an incredible journey to bravery!

  7. It sounds like you’ve had a challenging journey – I’m so glad you found your voice. I hope all is well with your health.

    Sending good thoughts.

    Karen

  8. Glad you have changed and can now speak up for yourself. I’m sorry for what you had to go through to get to that point, though.

    • Those are the things that life is made of. I just happened to have them happen in a short period of time, so the effects were probably intensified. And if I hadn’t been on that path, I wouldn’t be at this destination. So for it, I’m grateful, because I’m in a really good place!

  9. The more you say ‘yes’, the harder it becomes to say ‘no’, until you’re taken for granted. It might take something cataclysmic to shake us out of that, but it’s *not* selfishness to think of yourself – it makes you stronger in the end!

    Inspirational post!

  10. I felt like I was right in step with you the whole way- right down to hiding behind another person because I can’t voice exactly what I’m feeling. Good for you for being able to slog through the hard times and meet it all with self-determination.

    • Thank you, Brie! There are a lot of us in this little club. It still doesn’t come easy, and I’m fairly anxious still, but I’m speaking up more and more every day.

      And I’m glad your interview went well. Thank goodness for cell phones that let you call and announce your late arrival. :-)

  11. I’m sorry that it took those things, but I’m glad you’re brave!!

    • From a song in my favorite musical, “‘Cause each step’s indispensable, When you’re on the right track.”

      Those are the things that lead me here, so I’m not sorry for them at all. Because here is a pretty good place, and you’re here and our paths would never had crossed.

  12. You must be strong to endure so much, and I suspect your strength gave you confidence to speak your mind. Your post put a lot of things in perspective for me. Thanks.

    • Aaah. Perspective. Perhaps my favorite word in the English language. It really is all about perspective, isn’t it? I could go on and on… or you could read a couple of my posts. They’re full of lessons about perspective. Thanks for visiting, dorothyadele.

  13. This really does show that when life throws everything it’s got at you, you either fight back or roll over. I’m so glad you chose to stand up and fight. Good job!

  14. Anonymous

    That is so encouraging – I can totally relate. That was me, too. I still get paralyzed at times, but the turning point for me was having my son educationally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – I knew that I could no longer avoid confrontations if I knew he needed something. As I learned to advocate for him, I then learned to advocate for myself, too. And hearing your story gives me hope that I can keep on getting better. Thanks so much!

    • Well, I left out the part about “Then my son was diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities, and I had to be advocate for him.” That happened after all the other stuff, and my voice was fairly present already. But being the voice for someone who can’t speak for themselves is enough on its own to make one find their strength. You will keep growing stronger, both for him and for yourself.

      I’d love to hear more about your journey with your son. Feel free to share!

  15. Then, you became a writer and inspired me to become a better woman.

  16. Glad you have found your voice. Here’s to bravery!

  17. mamarific

    Wow, I had no idea they give army wives a handbook on how to behave! I like hearing the evolution of how you found your voice. You sound like a strong lady to me :)

    • Yes! What Mamarific said! I had no idea there was such a thing as “Mrs. Lieutenant” the book. That’s fascinating! And I’m so glad you embraced your strength. Hang in there!

      • The book is part of a series written as “unofficial” etiquette guides for military spouses. There was Mrs. NCO, Mrs. Lieutenant, and Mrs. Field Grade. And although “unofficial,” it was the battalion commander’s wife who gave it to me. Fortunately for today’s Army Wives, the book is now out of print. :-)

        Thanks for stopping by

    • Mamarific, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think I could bench press a Toyota these days. :-)

  18. Inspirational post. Gave me chills.

  19. Lisha you are a wonderful lady and always has been in my book.

  20. You amaze me. With every new post. I feel like I’ve watched you through some of your journey, but I e always known you to be strong and able, an advocate for yourself and those you love.

    Pssst… When you get a moment hyperlink those bolded sections to other posts you’ve authored. I’ll bet people would love to read about each topic. Smooches!

    • It feels like a lifetime ago, when I wasn’t strong and capable. But Brave Lisha was always in there, just waiting to find her way out. And I think the journey brought us here, to this WordPress world where our paths would cross so we could become real life friends. Aaah. The serendipity!

      And guess what? I’m sipping Ginger Ale right now. ;-)

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