My whole life I have dedicated a big part of myself to being strong.
Strong is a word that I have chewed on for breakfast.
It’s a word that left me swallowing my tears and building walls.
Strong is a word that has left me apologizing for the space I take up.
Tonight, a couple of things happened that made me question my conception of strength.
Actually, the past few weeks have slowly been rubbing up against my ideas of strength like rivers flow against rock.
Slowly, gently, rubbing against it ’til it’s gone. And the going may not be easy and it may take time. But sometimes when we’re lucky we get canyons of the grandest kind and they are beautiful.
This is the way my beliefs about “strong” are eroding.
And this is one of the reasons why.
I’ve been sick to the point that I’ve had to slow down. I’ve had to say no to a few things. I missed two classes today. Two classes. And I don’t miss classes.
I’ve had to sit.
I’ve had to stop. And stopping does not bode well with me.
And tonight, two things happened that acted as a wake up call.
First: I was coughing so hard that I could hardly breathe and between coughs I managed to choke out “I’m sorry!”, and I felt my mom’s hand on my shoulder as she said, softly, “Why do you keep apologizing?” I didn’t answer her then, but it struck a chord in me, and I know the answer now. It’s because I don’t want to be an imposition to anyone. Make anyone uncomfortable with my discomfort. It’s because I don’t want to be weak.
Second: A good friend asked me how I was doing. And I swear, I almost tapped out a lie and sent it out into space for her eyes to read. “I’m great!” Instead, I took a deep a breath (relatively), and too tired to fake feeling fine for another second, told the truth. “I’m struggling a little.” And I swear, I hung my head as I pressed send. Because I’ve never been one to ask for help. To admit that I might need you. To admit that sometimes, I am weak.
My whole life I’ve prayed for strength.
But I have used that strength to stand on my own. To rely on myself. I’ve kept people out because I didn’t want them to see me be weak. Weak, like I couldn’t carry heavy boxes up stairs, like I was incapable of opening doors and jars for myself. Weak, like I couldn’t still my heart enough to keep tears from spilling down my cheeks. Weak.
But I’m coming to realize, and I’m telling you if you’re killing yourself trying to be stong like I am, there is a beautiful blessing in letting others be strong for you.
Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating a Daisy Buchanan-esque lifestyle where we all stretch out across couches in our white billowy dresses and wait for the likes of Nick Carraway to come sweeping in and set the white silk a-swaying on the wind of his entrance.
I mean a whole different kind of someone being strong for you. The kind that feels like a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a text message filled with prayer and good thoughts. The kind of strength that is shared, cupped between hands and thrown up in the air like so many shiny foil pieces, landing on everything in sight and leaving better. Leaving it brighter.
I’m re-evaluating strength. And I’m going to try to stop faking strength. Stop avoiding weak. Stop fighting and clinging to “strong”.
-Jessi Sanders 2012