Losing Your Courage

I read in a family history book recently that my paternal great grandmother was described by her sisters late in her life as having “lost her courage”. The book doesn’t go into detail of what her sisters meant, or what losing her courage looked like. This, after raising twelve children to adulthood and operating a large, successful farm after losing her husband years before. She died in the 1930’s after a long life.

I wrote this Tuesday sitting in the waiting area of the hospital where my best friend was having surgery. We drove here early in the morning from a smaller town about 30 miles away. On the drive to the hospital all the warning and hazard lights on my van dashboard came on, the low battery charge came on, the van lights automatically turned off, and the radio wouldn’t work. We barely had enough power to get to the hospital. I got my friend checked in, and the van and I limped to a nearby car dealership. My courage level was about as low as my battery charge. I got a call about an hour later saying it was the alternator, and they would replace it by the end of the day.

I am strangely anxious about any sort of travel these days. COVID and its isolation, the political climate, war, all seem to have sucked all the courage out of me. I am brave at home, but not so much in unfamiliar territory. I realize I have little to really complain about, and I know I will find the courage to solve what are quite minor problems in the grand scheme of things. Why can’t things just go smoothly?!!

Is courage just a decision we make? How is your courage level these days? Any automotive repair stories to share?

41 thoughts on “Losing Your Courage”

  1. Courage is more than just a decision, but it requires one. It also requires confidence in the resources we have available to us. To put it into an automotive situation, it is like when the “low fuel” light begins to shine. If we are remotely familiar with the amount of fuel that remains in the tank when the light comes on, and with the gas mileage that the car “gets”, we can calculate how far we might go before totally running out, not zip into the nearest station to remedy the problem (which is a real situation).

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    1. So would you say that the opposite of courage is cautiousness? I would say it’s timidity and that boldness and courage are often conflated. You can be courageous without being bold and you can be cautious without being timid. Boldness can also be perceived as recklessness.

      To borrow your example, you can know that when your car’s low fuel light goes on that you still have a margin, although I’m not sure how you know exactly how much fuel that entails. You are also trusting the accuracy of an approximate indicator and, presumably, you don’t know when the next opportunity to fill up will come along. Since gas prices are essentially the same, why not solve the “problem” when the solution is at hand and not prolong it? I see that as cautious but I don’t see how courage would enter into it.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I am relieved to say that the van works fine now, except the audio system. That doesn’t work at all, as it seems I have to enter a code to get it all set up, so I will drive back to ND in silence unless I live stream music on my phone. It is a Honda, and I had the alternator replaced at a Dodge dealership, and they didn’t check the audio system.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. You could try calling a Honda dealership with your VIN (vehicle identification number) to get your code. The manual, if you have it in your car, will take you through the resetting process. Otherwise the dealership may be willing to help you with that.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That was my next step, actually. I have lots of time in the next several days to call my local dealership about it. The pace here is pretty slow right now.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. This. Every time the battery comes out of my Honda -often since my husband uses it for a tractor (why?!) – I have to put in the stereo code. If you still have the manual it might be a sticker on that? I hope it’s way to find. Can someone please convince my husband just to buy a battery for the tractor LOL

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  4. There is a book from the 90s called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, which I never read, but the title sums up my personal definition of courage. Yes, requires a decision, sometimes again and again.

    I am sometimes amazed at the number of instances where I can say “Oh what the hell” and go ahead with something frightening. I think of it as “trusting the universe”, but there is no logical reason at this point that I should trust the universe. But I seem to have this belief that It will work itself out somehow.

    We recently had our 2008 Prius refuse to turn off, so had to get it to the Toyota shop and have a new $700 part put in. First time I can recall having it in the shop, but it does make me hesitant to take it on a road trip (if that were to become possible)…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am sort of glad this happened here, instead of in May when Husband and I are driving to Oklahoma. At least there are more repair shops here than in the middle of nowhere in Kansas or Nebraska.

      Liked by 7 people

  5. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
    ― Winston S. Churchill

    I”m not so sure you’re lacking courage, Renee. Sounds more like mental exhaustion that so many of us have these days because the problems keep coming at us in waves. So even the tiniest thing like car trouble, which we may have thought of as a minor inconvenience three years ago, now seems like “piling on,” if you know what I mean.

    I link courage with integrity myself. It takes at least some level of bravery to display integrity in a tough situation. And I think courage is always a decision unless there is no other option in a situation than to do the courageous thing. The people of Ukraine come to mind. When their city is destroyed and staying is not an option because it means certain death, they don’t decide to travel west to a safer place, they just go because that’s the only (sane) option.

    I honestly don’t think about my courage level much. I doubt I’d ever win a courage medal in a battlefield situation, and I’m not the type of person to stand up to a bully (in the broadest sense of the word) in public. But I suppose I’m courageous in small ways–like paddling into the Boundary Waters by myself for a week, or writing a book, putting my name on it, and sending it into the world for people to judge me based solely on my writing. And I’m certainly not foolishly courageous–plunging blindly into situations I don’t fully understand just for a cheap thrill.

    Good question today. 🙂

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Lucinda Matlock
    BY EDGAR LEE MASTERS
    I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
    And played snap-out at Winchester.
    One time we changed partners,
    Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
    And then I found Davis.
    We were married and lived together for seventy years,
    Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
    Eight of whom we lost
    Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
    I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
    I made the garden, and for holiday
    Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
    And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
    And many a flower and medicinal weed —
    Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
    At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
    And passed to a sweet repose.
    What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
    Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
    Degenerate sons and daughters,
    Life is too strong for you —
    It takes life to love Life.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. I have heard courage described as being afraid, and doing it (whatever “it” is) anyway. But like the description above about the gas tank, it does require some inner resources. I would also say some perseverance is also helpful in the mix. In the last 18 months I don’t know that I have always felt courageous – some days there has been nothing in the tank, so the “doing it anyway” part has not happened (or has looked more like pulling over and lying on the couch with the dogs). Some days perseverance has been enough (or had to be enough), courage or no. And when all else fails, a reward of tasty baked goods or the promise of DoorDash helps the inner resources rally…

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hi, I came here to say something similar. For myself anyway, I don’t think about courage at all, I just think of grit. Like you, some days, I don’t have the courage to just make it because I just can’t. But even if I’m in bed all day, I sure have grit. For others who are courageous…I also think Grit. But, maybe I’m conflating the two.

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  8. Please ignore any notification you just got about tomorrow’s post. I am being courageous and posting from my phone. I am going to the Howard Lake library this afternoon to use my laptop with their wifi, as my friend has no computer or wifi.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Sometimes I like to live dangerously and I don’t wear my seat belt for that 2 mile drive home from the townhall. Is is stupid? Yes. It’s weighing the risks and deciding what’s worth it. Often I’m the only car on the road. I wouldn’t do that on 494 or I90.

    The weight of those risks varies. I remind myself daily not to take chances with power tools or farm machinery. I supposed every time I climb a ladder is a risk.
    Absolutely none of that is courage to me.
    I agree with Anna’s remark that being afraid and doing it anyway is a good definition.

    I got one tractor that’s being difficult. Cars are OK for now.
    I had a 1978 Buick Skyhawk; that was a pretty cool car. Two door, fast back, manual… it was slick. Might have been a chick-magnet!
    I learned a lot working on that car. Pulled the transmission out, replaced the clutch. I met Kelly just before I traded it off. I’m not sure the car was the magnet… but whatever.

    Liked by 7 people

  10. I agree that a decision to be courageous must be made. At the same time, a decision is also being made about how much courage is needed and where the line is between courage and recklessness. Some people are more risk tolerant than others. I was foolish and reckless in my younger, wilder days. Those days are gone. I’ve become much more cautious these days. I have an awareness that life is a gift and there is only one. I’ve spent mine working and I’m ready for some adventures.

    I’ve been feeling discouraged lately. I need some good news – good news for the world and for my own little place in it. The weather isn’t helping. Usually I can shake these feelings of defeat. It’s been harder lately. It seems like the problems caused by covid should be easier to address than they have been. I also had a lot of optimism after the 2020 election but that was gone by early 2021.

    I really admire the people of Ukraine. Their courage serves as an example for us all. They’re defending democracy and it is something that we need to watch very closely here in what Margaret Atwood described as “that erstwhile beacon of democracy.” We may need to summon that level of courage. Gulp.

    I’m not giving up. This summer will bring change and some really good things. I’m looking forward to it!

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Great questions today, Renee. Courage is really a complex concept, isn’t it?

    I see fear as inextricably intertwined with courage; if you don’t have to overcome fear to do something, where is the courage? Or perhaps fear is too strong a word? I’d assert that you certainly have to at least recognize the peril of whatever you’re up against. Of course, that’s not the same thing as taking foolhardy risks merely for the thrill or profit of it. Jumping headfirst off the end of a dock into waters you’re not familiar with isn’t brave, it’s stupid. Ask me how I know. When I think of courage I don’t think of Evil Knievel. I think of people like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr.

    As I see it, the older you get, the more courage it takes to tackle the obstacles in front of you. Not necessarily because the obstacles are more daunting, though they sometimes are, but because you’re no longer clueless as to what you’re up against.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I often think to myself both “A little bit of knowledge goes a long way: and also, “I was too dumb to know it wouldn’t work”.

      And today I learned that’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. 🙂 (sort of)

      Liked by 5 people

  12. I like all of these definitions but I’m not sure if they are broad enough. I see going to China and adopting as a single parent as the single most courageous thing I’ve done in my life. But I wasn’t afraid and did it anyway. And I didn’t feel beat down about it to the point where I had to just put in one more day at a time. I’m not sure how to put my experience into a definition? Or maybe it wasn’t really courage and I just did some thing I really wanted to do.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Different people find different things terrifying. Some people regard getting married as terrifying. I didn’t, but that’s not the point. Having a child, however that happens, is courageous in the sense that you can’t know where it will lead but you do it anyway for the richness and meaning it offers. Courage, perhaps, is the resolve that wherever your path leads, you’ll see that through.

      Liked by 4 people

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