strength vs fear


When I was growing up, my mom often took on responsibility for two of her brothers who suffered from mental illness. My first trip to New York City was to visit one of those uncles on Staten Island in the hospital. I remember riding the subway in the city, taking cabs for the first time, and skimming across a blue-green New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry with my mother at my side. It was all a grand adventure as far as I was concerned and it never occurred to me that my mom was under any stress; wondering what kind of shape she would find her beloved big brother in, being forced to talk to strange doctors and make arrangements to get him back to Michigan. My grandmother always turned to her youngest daughter for help when the shit hit the fan because Carol was the “strong” one, the one who could get things done. I was surprised while talking with my mom in later years when she mentioned going to the doctor to get a prescription for Valium before she had to go to court to commit her other ill brother to a mental hospital. I suppose that was one of those eye opening moments when I really looked at my mother as a person, not as an all-powerful and all-knowing parent.

One of the characters in my latest book makes the following statement while talking to a friend, “…and the thing about strength is, nobody faces a potential heartache and thinks, Hey bring it on, I’m ready. It just doesn’t work like that Susie. We do what we have to do when the people we love need us and it’s damn hard sometimes. I don’t really buy into that idea some people have more strength than others.” So I’m wondering if you agree with her, are there people who are by nature stronger than others, or are some people simply more willing to act despite their fear? And do we pay a price by acting when we are afraid, or do we gain strength?

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