I have lived my life being “strong” – not letting anything beat me, not being weak, not giving in. I have fought through battles, at least from my point of view, and soldiered on. Nothing has ever gotten me completely down, not so down that I couldn’t somehow get back up. I know I’ve been lucky, but I’ve also been certain that my strength has protected and saved me.
My mother says it’s like I was born with a steel rod up my spine, something that kept me solid and tough. Even as a child I managed through. Life could come at me, but nothing could break me. I always was, and am, a survivor. Because I always was, and am, strong. That’s what I’ve believed. That’s the story I used to define myself and my childhood, to define what had worked for me and how I still needed to approach my life.
But I’m beginning to question that story. I’m beginning to question my definition of how I made it through my childhood and I’m beginning to question my definition of strength. I’m definitely beginning to question the way I need to be now. Because maybe I don’t need to be strong, at least not that kind of strong. Maybe that works against me, at least sometimes, by making me too rigid, too determined, and too unwilling to ask for help. And maybe it wasn’t my strength and my soldiering and my ability to withstand anything that got me through. Maybe I just got through. Maybe it was luck, or the help of others, or grace. Maybe I was protected and held safe by the goodness of the universe. Maybe I was loved more than I thought I was loved. Maybe I had love inside me, instead of the steel rod. Maybe I have that now.
It doesn’t matter what it was that allowed me to get to where I am today. What matters is that I’ve decided I don’t need to keep trying to be “strong.” At least not that kind of strong. I like being physically strong. I like that I lift weights, that people stare at my biceps, that my daughter’s roommate described me as a bad ass. I like that a lot. But I don’t think I have to keep being the strong that believes it has to suffer through anything and everything – without help, without rest, without admitting it’s hard. I don’t need to be that kind of strong anymore. I think I can choose the easier route sometimes, that I can admit things are tough for me, and that I can ask for support and lean on others.
What would life be like if I didn’t have to be the strong one? It would be glorious. It will be glorious.
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