My dog Abbott had surgery to remove a mass on his toe last week. Because of COVID-19 precautions, we couldn’t go into the vet with him. We waited in the car until a staff member could attend to him; when his time came, my boy would not get out of the car.
Abbott was shaking and shedding a blanket of white hair on the cinnamon interior of my car. The petite tech ended up carrying him in, all 55 pounds of hound dog, while other owners watching from their cars commented fondly about our “big baby”.
When we picked him up, there was a folder with his go home instructions. Under the hefty invoice was a certificate of bravery recognizing his great courage during his hospital stay. The paper had a raised border with blue and silver foil, as official as any diploma ready for framing.
I chuckled as I recalled the image of him being carried into the vet. They surely give a certificate to every dog, like a participation trophy? But Abbott was brave—he allowed himself to be carried into a scary place and didn’t hold a grudge when it was time to go home.
You can be brave without realizing it.
There are many times in life where we are brave and don’t acknowledge the moment because we felt scared or distracted. We view bravery as something we plan, like a grand gesture, but bravery is often a simple act that has meaning for others.
I gave a brief presentation to the medical staff at the local hospital where I referenced an article I had written on the art of medicine. The last paragraph refers to my mindfulness practice, so I closed with “namaste”.
Namaste has several translations, but I prefer, “the light in me sees the light in you”. Namaste is a greeting but is often said at the end of yoga sessions as more of a thank you. A dear colleague told me I was brave to namaste a room full of doctors.
It never occurred to me that namaste was brave! That one word invited others interested in wellness to come forward. We formed an informal group and I was able to secure funding for a series of yoga programs.
Considering your own needs is brave.
Moving forward, even when you aren’t sure if you are on the right path, is brave. At a dinner program for local physicians, I discussed my decision to leave my group practice. There was no conflict, I loved much of my work, but I wanted to find the headspace to write a book. I was making some big changes in my career and a colleague asked what my book was about. “I don’t know yet!” was not the answer she was expecting.
After the dinner, a female physician who overheard the conversation thanked me and told me I was brave. “I know women who are unhappy and feel stuck. Good for you!” Funny, I didn’t feel brave. My choices were disappointing to staff, my patients, my partners, and on some level my family as I was taking a significant pay cut. In that moment it all felt horrible.
Thanks to mindfulness practice I was able to breathe through the distress and recognize that the sadness and worry did not mean I was making the wrong decision. Prior to a meditation practice, I would not have tolerated the unknowns and would have retreated, blaming myself for causing distress for others.
Showing up is brave.
I love the meme of a bunch of dogs sitting around a boardroom table for a meeting on feline healthcare. The photo is a commentary on the need for more women in leadership positions, as men are drafting legislation that impacts female reproductive rights. Any cat that shows up to such a meeting, even a scaredy cat, is brave.
If you are in a room and you realize you are the only one of your kind, feeling scared or uncomfortable is not a weakness. Being aware of your surroundings and showing up, even when you feel out of place, like a cat among dogs, is brave.
My patients are particularly hard on themselves during this pandemic, apologizing for complaining or “not doing enough”. Completing day to day tasks right now is brave. Creating a family routine, working from home, going to the store—brave, brave, brave. Practicing mindfulness will help you own those moments!
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