Strong Enough

I’ve written 22 blog posts so far, and received many comments, either directly to my site, or on Facebook.  A comment that is repeated the most is how strong I am.  I appreciate this comment but honestly, I almost laugh, and say, “If you only knew.”

If you only knew how often it appears that I’m okay, but I’m really in the “fake it to make it” mode.  If you only knew how hard it is when you’re perceived as strong, because then it seems people can dump all their problems on you, waiting for you to solve them.  If you only knew how often I feel lost and want to give up.  If you only knew how curling up in the fetal position is sometimes the most comforting thing I could do. And yet, as I write those words, there’s something inside me that is screaming “No! Fight back!  That is not who you are!”

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When someone tells you,”You’re so strong,” what does that mean?  Rather than define what it means to be strong, I can identify what it feels like to be weak and what I do to battle it.

One way that I feel weak is to fall into the trap of self-pity.  Self-pity, or as I like to call it, “The Why Me Syndrome,” can be pretty persuasive.  The most common symptoms of The Why Me Syndrome are frequent private and/or public lamentations such as: Why is this happening to me?  It’s not fair.  I try to do everything right, and still get shit on.  Sound familiar?  I recently uttered those words as I sat through my divorce settlement proceedings.  And yes, after they were over, I went home, cried, went into that fetal position, and wailed out to family and friends all of those self-pity phrases.  And you know what? It was okay.  Why can’t we feel self-pity for a moment?  Why can’t we take a moment to lick our wounds and comfort ourselves?  Why can’t we look in the mirror and say I deserve better than this?  Here’s the trick though, don’t let The Why Me Syndrome become a chronic condition.  Gary Paulsen wrote in Hatchet, “The number one rule for survival, no self-pity.”  Let it serve its purpose–a beginning step towards self-preservation.  Lick your wounds, feel afraid for a moment, but then come up with a plan. Self-pity should be a pit stop, not a permanent address.

Another way that I feel weakness is when I try to avoid the pain.  It might sound contradictory–avoiding pain is weak.  Pain can be crippling.  Pain hurts.  Why would avoiding pain be a weakness?  Pain can also be a teacher.  Pain can also be an arrow.  Finding the source of the pain and fighting it can lead to a stronger you.  Avoiding pain leads to repeated mistakes, dishonesty with yourself, wasted time, and even addiction.  Don’t run from the pain.  Transfer the power of the pain to find the power of the remedy.  Then a weakness becomes a strength.

But facing and handling the pain also require time and work.  We live in a “quick fix” society.  We want all our solutions to be fast and easy and come with a money back guarantee.  And that’s hogwash.  It’s a scam.  You might as well send all your money to a Nigerian prince and keep drinking the apple cider and lemon juice concoction.

Which leads to the last weakness–a lack of endurance.  When it comes to do something hard and do it over a period of time, I completely suck.  I start strong.  I start with commitment and conviction.  Then when it get’s hard, or becomes too painful, I let excuses creep in.  I listen to their false promises of an easier road.

Case in point, I am finishing up the Whole 30 program tomorrow.  One of the rules of the program was no Diet Coke.  I did well for 17 or 18 days.  Then I had a bad day at work.  Then I decided that my bad day was worth breaking the rule.  That one Diet Coke led to others. And honestly, I don’t need Diet Coke.  I just let my bad day, my pain, make me think I needed it to handle it.  I needed a stronger endurance to get through the difficult moment.

I think that my generation and younger have been conditioned so much through modern conveniences that we’ve lost the ability to have a response when the going get’s tough.  I think the solution is to shift the perspective from the difficulty to the end goal.  Perhaps, by focusing on the destination, the painful roadblocks won’t seem so substantial.

If you know me, you’ll know that my all-time favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And it goes beyond loving the show.  Of course, I own all 7 seasons on DVD.  But I also own several action figures.  I’ve gone to comic book conventions to meet actors from the show.  I follow all the actors on Twitter and Facebook.  To say that I’m a fan is an understatement.  But here’s the reason behind the obsession–it wasn’t a show about vampires.  Well, okay, there were vampires, but it was about so much more.  The real premise was that there was a girl.  And she was small.  And she was perceived as weak.  And she had flaws.  And she made mistakes.  But she always found a way.  She always dug deep to fight the monsters and the bad guys and every force of evil.  She was strong.

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So on this Mother’s Day, here’s to all of our strong women out there.  It’s okay to be hot messes.  It’s okay to say, “Why me?” It’s okay to say, “The pain is too much.”  It’s okay to say, “The road is too rough and I want to give up.”  Say all of those things.  Get the words out.  And then pick yourself up and keep going.

You are strong enough.

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