Mt. Everest and courage

Last week we held a testing.  We had a great group of adults, including several women that were beginner students.

We were a little ahead of schedule, so on the spur of the moment I had the white and yellow belts get up and spar with the Black Belt instructors.  The beginners didn’t have any warning, and had never sparred before.  I wish I had a picture of the look on their faces when I told them to line up.

I received the following email from JS.   She is a nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  She is also a mom, and had the courage to step out onto the mat and participate in class with her son.  She was testing for Senior Yellow Belt, and her eyes were big as saucers when she got into her ready position to spar for the very first time.

Don’t we all feel like the last one picked for the team sometimes?  I guess there are people that were always popular and smart and athletic that never felt the self conscious uncertainty that I still feel so often.  The uncertaintly that JS expressed so well.

This is what she wrote:

By the way… thank you for everything. My skeletons are coming out of the closet sooner than expected. I am terrified to spar. Funny, I know I function in the flight mode when it comes to physical contact. It is very hard to imagine myself striking right now much less being good at it. Seeing the strength and confidence of the others brought me back to elementary school. I confess Friday I felt like the kid that was the last one picked on the kickball team again, trying to hide (major performance anxiety) I used to get so upset on field day I wanted to throw up….. do you have any suggestions on how to get me past this hurdle? Knowing your challenges is one thing… overcoming them can sometimes be overwhelming… of course this is why I am at your school..working on improving myself. Its hard to tell children to do something they are scared of if you cannot do it yourself… I say this because I talk a lot about your class to my patients… I tell them I am in class with much younger people than myself…I am the least trained of the grownups, scared, sometimes embarrassed..etc. to demonstrate that everything they are feeling is OK. Perhaps I can learn the art of how to say the right thing to someone facing huge fears. I know one  cannot master something unless they practice. And every time I actively choose to deal with conflict it does get easier. Except this sparring thing. I laugh at myself because logically speaking it does not make sense for me to be scared.

I think of my heart transplant patients going to surgery, not sure if they will survive. The night before my testing with you I hugged my patient before she went to surgery (a 16 year old going for her 2nd heart.. she was rejecting the 1st) I can’t explain why but I was compelled to be with her. I put on booties and a cap to peek though our OR window. The surgeon motioned for me to put on a mask and go to the bedside. At that moment they had taken out her heart and I saw this person I had hugged with an empty chest. I had walked in at the exact moment the new heart was arriving to be placed in her. It was one of the most beautiful events I had ever witnessed. She trusted her life to these people…wow….. and I freak out because I can’t throw a punch. She humbled me. My mountain is more like a mole hill in comparison.. but it feels like Mount Everest.

But do you see what happened during the course of her writing down her feelings and her fears?  She started off asking for some guidance, and ended up giving wisdom to me as well as herself.  Just reinforces to me how important writing in a journal or blog can be.

Of course there are times when there is a big event that requires big courage. Diving into an icy river to save a drowning person, running into a burning house.  Most of us don’t ever experience those big moments.

Many choose not to test their courage in the small ways.  They choose to live their life in comfort and safety.  We all have our little safety boxes that we like to live in.  I know I do.

Sparring might seem like Mt. Everest to JS.  But she is already half way up the mountain, she just doesn’t realize it.  She had the courage to step out on the mats for the first time  so that she could share the experience with her son.

2 thoughts on “Mt. Everest and courage

  1. This reinforces the thought that we all will be involved in a life or death situation one day that we will lose – our own mortality.

    The practice of medically sanitary death gives a good chance that we may be in denial and under morphine when our death comes but at some level, no matter how safe we play it, we live each day with the certainty of death.

    To turn and face one’s own mortality is to engage in conflict with an invincible and implacable foe, an ongoing process and one in which you are always subject to losing your nerve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s