Off the Mat: Bravery is Being Scared But Acting Anyway

Dad’s Dreams, Mom’s Heart

What’s an anxious Mama to do when presented with a last minute chance to travel to Alaska with her Dad? I remind myself what I teach my son: Bravery doesn’t mean not being scared. Bravery is being scared but acting anyway.

Date night, Pioneer Valley. Scrunched down in my seat at the Academy of Music, tears roll down my cheeks. And I let them, which is unusual for me. On stage, Heather Maloney sings,

I am made of
All the same stuff
That makes the seasons what they are.
I am made of
Dirt and stardust
My daddy’s dreams
My mother’s heart.

What do I know of my dad’s dreams? What did he hope to be when he was six? A country boy with a frog in his pocket, he knew the answers but rarely raised his hand because of his lisp. I know he was often the kid picked last. I know he preferred Gene Autry to John Wayne. Were there dreams in between being a cowboy and a retired chemical engineer? Had to be. An outdoorsman turned corporate traveler, I learned last summer that he’s made it to all but six U.S. states. Next week, he and I check Alaska off that list. The Get-Dad-to-Alaska task was supposed to be my sister’s adventure while my guys and I spent time with Mom. Four days ago, life intervened. It often does. Now my sis can’t go. While I travel with Dad, my hubby (god bless him!) and son will stay with my mom.

I am far more familiar with my mother’s heart. My mother’s heart is filled with fear. She calls it worry and taught by example. Nature or nurture, anxiety is wired into me. Worry’s “what if” track plays over and over in my head. Money. Safety. Health. Social situations. Work. School. Heck, you name it, I can worry about it! And now, top of my worry list: two weeks away from my boy. Fear of him drowning in my parent’s pool. Fear that heading 3,000 miles away creates danger for him or for me. Truth be told, I was in more danger turning left across traffic onto Route 9 in Hadley this morning!

Rewiring my worry tracks is what brought me to yoga. Through yoga, I’ve studied the mind-body connection. Neuroscience shows how human evolution has selected for anxiety. Constant vigilance kept our ancestors a step ahead of predators and on the lookout for resources. But there aren’t saber tooth tigers in Amherst.

My fear response is there – but I don’t have to engage with it. Like a two-year-old’s tantrum, I can confirm there’s no real danger, then disengage. Put my energy elsewhere. I can redirect toward connection, interdependence, passion.

Lately, I’ve been using the mindful presence yoga provides to help me look underneath the worry of my mom’s heart and find the love that motivates her worry. That’s easier to do now that I am a mama. As Alaska plans unfolded and morphed again and again over the past four days, my chest seized at the possibility of being away from my son for two weeks. I tried to get my hubby to go instead. He needs the break more. I’ll hold down the fort. The blueberries are almost ripe, after all. But there’s the little detail of him being the one with the full time job with benefits.

Using my breath to soothe the worry, I realized that staying home would let fear close me in to this Valley. This square of land. This elephant gray house. This nuclear family. This only child. Staying home would let my heart connection with my child get in the way of reconnecting with my father. So I remind myself what I teach my son: Bravery doesn’t mean not being scared. Bravery is being scared but acting anyway.

Tuesday, I board a plane to help Dad’s dream come true.

[Credit: Lyrics from Dirt & Stardust by Heather Maloney, used with permission]


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

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