What is Strong?
Or what is strength?
Typically when you think of being strong, you first think of physical strength. How much can you lift? How fast can you run? How much can you bench?
What about being mentally strong? That one is much harder to measure…you can’t put a number to it. And it makes it even harder when looking at yourself and trying to determine if you’re strong or not. The people you surround yourself with often have an easier time of seeing this strength. They listen to the stories you tell and watch how you handle yourself – perhaps they see the pain on your face when you struggle and the triumph on your face when you succeed. You can’t possibly see those things.
“A warrior is the woman who gets up despite the enemy trying to destroy her. A woman who declares her victory before seeing it. A woman who believes she will receive her miracle because she knows the Lord she serves is alive and by her side.”
“Do not speak ill of yourself as the warrior within hears your words and is lessened by them.”
“Fate whispers to the warrior ‘you cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”
Warrior quotes have always spoken to me…the image of a woman warrior getting up to fight her next battle, never giving up, learning not to speak ill of herself. A warrior is a very strong person. A woman who will receive her miracle…
I don’t consider myself a warrior by any means. I simply survive all the crap that life has thrown at me. I don’t always survive it in the most graceful way, but I manage to survive and get by. Sometimes I look back years later and beat myself up over a choice that I made. Sometimes I take a deep breath and am thankful I don’t have to live through it again.
I stumbled upon a quote recently about how we don’t thank ourselves enough – for getting this far, for remaining this soft, for being this loving.
I remember the utter fear in my voice as I told Allison I was scared I would treat my kids the way I had been treated. And I remember her reassurance that she had seen me with her kids and I was nothing like that. One of the first times I ever truly let my guard down.
So let’s take a moment because I need to thank myself for everything I’ve survived.
⁃ Thank you for surviving your dad’s death.
⁃ Thank you for taking time to be honest with your feelings about it.
⁃ Thank you for trying so many times with your family.
⁃ Thank you for realizing that it’s okay to put yourself first.
⁃ Thank you for making promises to yourself that you won’t break.
⁃ Thank you for fighting back.
⁃ Thank you for learning from the mistakes of the past.
⁃ Thank you for realizing that the fights that occurred when you were little were not your fault.
⁃ Thank you for understanding that it was not your fault when you were hit or kicked or your head was slammed against the door.
⁃ And as much as I hate to admit it – thank you for fighting back in that moment.
⁃ Thank you for understanding that you are not any of those terrible names you’ve been called – that is not who you are.
⁃ Thank you for growing past all that – that is not who you are today.
⁃ Thank you for realizing you are a completely different person today than you were back then – past actions don’t define your present self.
⁃ Thank you for learning not to speak in anger.
⁃ Thank you for giving to others and treating them the way you want to be treated.
⁃ Thank you for spending the last seven years trying to fix yourself.
⁃ Thank you for going back to church.
⁃ Thank you for slowly learning to love people.
⁃ Thank you for holding onto to Ginger & Lucy.
⁃ Thank you for accepting help when it’s hard.
⁃ Thank you for realizing there’s only so much you can do.
⁃ Thank you for working on being honest with yourself.
⁃ Thank you for always giving people a second chance and thank you for realizing that maybe a second chance is all some people deserve.
⁃ Thank you for your stubbornness and for starting to understand the difference between “good stubborn” and “dragging your feet.”
-Thank you for going to therapy. You always “joked” that you would end up there someday and it was exactly what you needed. Thank you for listening and learning that “no” is an acceptable answer. Thank for drawing your lines in the sand and understanding that it’s not a bad thing. Thank you for remembering “you don’t need anyone to save you, you can save yourself, but one day, it might be nice” – you have and are saving yourself – believe that – and you’re not ready for “one day” yet and it’s not a bad thing to admit to yourself – thank you for realizing that and for aiming to get to your “one day” because you will get there – you just have to hold on.
– Thank you for forgiving yourself.
– Thank you for loving yourself.
⁃ Thank you for believing.
⁃ Thank you for surviving.
There’s another list that needs to be made…
⁃ Take time for yourself and to reflect when you start feeling overwhelmed – you’re very in tune with your feelings and emotions – sometimes you just need time to sort through them all.
⁃ When someone tells you “thank you,” it’s okay to acknowledge it – you did something they feel the need to thank you for and while you consider it part of life, maybe it wasn’t for them.
⁃ If someone compliments you, that’s a good thing. They’ve seen your character and know they can rely on you – that is never a bad thing. If they tell you they like your haircut or your outfit or your nail polish or literally anything else, a thank you is all that’s needed – not an explanation. Perhaps you went so long without hearing it that now it seems weird. It’s not weird – good people compliment others.
⁃ Love is hard. That’s why you fight the tears when someone tells you that they love you. You love Ginger & Lucy and have told them daily and those puggies show that they love you daily. The look of joy on Lucy’s face when she spots you in the parking lot, the way Ginger is always the first one to comfort you when needed, the way Lucy won’t let you out of her sight, the way Ginger sits guard in front of you, the way Lucy needs to be above your head or right beside you when you’re sleeping, the way Ginger must always know where you are, and the way they both are always up for any walk or car ride or playtime that comes their way – that’s dog love. However, you’re still discovering human love and it makes you emotional. Your dad told you that he loved you and you believed him just like you believed yourself when you told him you loved him. However, for others, it just became something you were supposed to say. Remember when Allison first told you that she loved you? Or when Jan did? Or when Jody did? They told you and you believed them just like you believed yourself when you told them that you loved them. Because they do love you and you do love them. Despite everything that’s ever happened, none of them have ever held anything against you – just like your dad didn’t. That’s what love is. That’s what family is.
⁃ Be gentle with yourself. You judge yourself much harsher than anyone else does. You are doing fine.
I’m not there yet. I’m no where near where I want to be. But I’ll get there.
Do all the things listed above make me strong? Do the things not included on the list make me strong? Is it hard for me to see my own strength in the moment?
I didn’t consider moving in with Allison a strong thing to do, but looking back, it was. Nor did I consider moving and starting over strong, but it was. Being able to survive childhood and my dad’s death didn’t seem strong at the time, but looking back, I did all that as a child.
Setting my boundaries with my brothers is extremely scary and emotional but know what else it is? It’s strong. So very strong. It takes a strong person to admit to themselves that they have to come first. That they do not deserve to be treated they way that they’re being treated. To be willing to walk away with their head held high. Tears may fall from my face as I question if I should have kept trying or tried something else – prayed harder, never moved out, ignored the way they acted – but none of that it healthy. It takes a strong person to walk away from a bad situation. And even when tears fall from my eyes – I’m strong.
I made the decision to take care of myself – and I’m not going to apologize for it because that’s a strong thing to do. It’s a healthy thing to do. It’s a positive thing to do.
Maybe I’ve never taken nearly enough time to reflect on my life. Sure I’ve told the stories but I’ve never considered how they truly affected me – other than emotionally.
I’m not good at giving myself compliments and admitting I’m strong feels like bragging. Just like it’s hard telling yourself thank you. And it’s hard to tell yourself that you love yourself. Maybe I need to hear myself say it more…maybe it needs to be my reminder for life. Because I do love myself and I am thankful and I am strong.
Perhaps I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. What I see as surviving is really strength. Maybe it’s that strength I need as I face my toughest battle yet.