Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show makes me cry. It’s become the #1 source for television-induced tears in my life. I TiVo it every day, and although I don’t watch every episode, if a topic catches my eye, I’ll hit the “play” button. Chances are that I’ll well up before the hour is over. It was an episode of Anderson that helped prompt me to write the most difficult post I’ve shared to date, and since then, there have been at least two or three episodes that have kick-started the waterworks. Yesterday’s episode was one of them.
I wasn’t even at home when I saw this episode. I was at the gym, midway through a tough workout on an Arc Trainer. I was listening to my iPod and watching Anderson on the TV on the wall. It was muted, but I could read the closed captioning. Anderson’s guest was Tracey Gold, the child star (Growing Pains) who very publicly suffered from anorexia as a teenager and is launching a new show on Lifetime called Starving Secrets, where she helps other women with eating disorders.
Anderson surprised Tracey with a video message from Joanna Kerns, who played Tracey’s TV mom on Growing Pains, and Joanna recalled talking to Tracey, who, at the time, had begun treatment and was scared to publicly acknowledge her eating disorder. Joanna said:
“I just tried to convince her that if she stood up and walked into the fire, someone would throw water and she would come out of it stronger and better.”
As soon as I read those closed-captioned words, my brain surged, this flurry of synapses firing at top speed, and before the words disappeared off the screen, tears were mixing with sweat and rolling down my face.
The connection wasn’t with Tracey’s story (mainly because I was already familiar with it). What I connected with was Joanna’s message to rely on the people that love you. Fires are scary and dangerous, but there is someone that will have your back, douse those flames, and pull you through to safety.
I struggle with courage. More often that not, I tend to think that I don’t have much of it, but I’ve been trying lately to change that. I’ve been working hard to recognize that most of the decisions I make reflect a desire to improve and lengthen my future and better myself – and demanding more than the status quo takes guts. I remind myself that I spent too many years looking in the mirror and hating what I saw, and that I stood up to that self-loathing and did something about it – and that takes balls. My readers continually remind me that this very blog represents a fountain of bravery, and I’m thankful for that, because I don’t see it that way a lot of the time.
Nearly every day, though, there’s a fire – somewhere, somehow. There’s a fire in every temptation, in every minute that I feel like vegging on the couch instead of exercising, in every little voice that pops up and tries to insist that my happiness isn’t important or that I don’t deserve to feel good about myself or my life. Sometimes these fires are little, and can be blown out like birthday cake candles, and sometimes they’re forest fires, creeping closer, crackling and hissing, taking down everything in their path. I’ve had days where I’ve felt backed into a corner by fires, with no recourse except to shield my head with my hands and hope that they burn themselves out.
What I need to do more is just walk into the fire. The list of people in my life that love me and will help me is long and growing, and I need to trust that they will be there, with one hand reaching out for me and the other holding a hose. Being brave doesn’t mean facing your fears and obstacles alone. Bravery is putting yourself out there and letting people help when you can’t handle the fire yourself. Bravery is walking into the fire.
I stuck a new post-it on my mirror today, as a reminder to not cower or hide with a fire starts burning out of control. Now I have two post-its to look at every single day:
For the story behind the “Courage. Determination. Momentum.” post-it, click here.
Just walk into the fire, David. Walk into the fire.
My workout on the arc trainer, by the way, was fantastic. 975 calories burned in 46 minutes!
Keep it up, David!