I try to go to the gym several times a week. I have time after I drop the kids at school and before I have to be at work and my gym isn't that far out of the way, so I just don't have much of an excuse not to go. (Not for lack of trying to come up with one- trust me.) So I go and I try to use the time to let my mind wander a bit. This morning as I was huffing and puffing on the elliptical, I realized that I had a great view of the women coming in. So I started my own version of that "guess the secret" game I play to entertain myself on airplanes. Instead of secrets, though, I tried to imagine the brave thing that each woman had done in the hours, days or weeks leading up to her walk through that door.
In some cases it was easy- the older mom with the newborn was a single-mom-by-choice who'd taken on parenthood alone. The very heavy woman in the purple sweatsuit was taking her life back by making that first step towards a healthy body. The young woman with the scar on her knee was a former athlete coming back from surgery. Others were harder, though. They looked like me- average, middle-class, middle-aged women doing their best to stay in the same sized jeans they'd worn for years. What brave things had we done, I wondered?
I get on airplanes and drive thousands of miles every year, believing that I will return safely to my family. A friend made a terrifying call to get test results that, while ultimately benign, could have proved disastrous. A colleague insisted that her child get help, in spite of his insistence that nothing was wrong. A neighbor stood in her town meeting and said "No. Not here," to those who would challenge the right of others to marry.
From the mom who turns and walks away, leaving a crying child in daycare and trusting that they'll both be okay to the woman who holds the people she loves to the high standards of their best selves, our brave moments small and large need to be acknowledged- even if only by us. They call us to draw on some hidden resource, buried in some small corner of ourselves, and to do that thing we thought we could not do. We may not have invisible jets or snazzy, bullet-deflecting golden bracelets, but we are superheroes.
So tell me, how were you brave today?