Being Strong

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been a rough week for my family – had to rush “home” for a family emergency.

Several people – both friends and extended family – have told me I am strong and calm and work well in a crisis this week.

Let me tell you what I know about strength…

Sometimes being strong means saying “yes, I COULD use some help, thank you.” Sometimes being strong means letting someone else take care of you. My husband drove like a bat out of hell, drinking 30 oz coffees until 4 am to get me home. He wouldn’t let me drive even though I always do the night driving. He listened to me cry and he held my hand and he was up early every morning ready to watch kids or vacuum or do whatever he needed to do. The ladies of my parents church brought meals. I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have to worry about feeding 12 people 3 times a day. Cousins and Aunts and Uncles stopped by to ask what they could do. My grandma came by several times, and my cousin came to watch the kids. There were still plenty of adults in the house, but we were running errands, cleaning, taking care of details, taking turns helping the sick family member. We didn’t have the energy or the focus to give our kids the attention they needed, and she did that for us. I appreciated all of this so much.

Sometimes being strong means you simply get through the day without completely loosing your lunch. LOTS of times strength means putting your own feelings/thoughts on the backburner and taking care of the needs of others. Sometimes being strong means you work well with those around you to find the best solution to the problem at hand, even if it means you let go of control and insecurity and your own needs for a bit. My family was great about that this weekend. Even though it was an extremely stressful time, we didn’t let our need to “be in charge” or our need to “take care of everyone else” or our need to “do everything” or our “frustration and sadness over the circumstances” get in our way of doing what we needed to do. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had had one of those people who demand to have things their way, or stir up trouble just for fun. We have a great family.

Sometimes being strong means taking deep cleansing breaths and letting go of the hurt. Sometimes it means sitting quietly for 10 minutes and getting your head back on straight and then getting up and starting again.

Sometimes being strong means calling your best friend/cousin to talk about nothing when you are starting to loose your cool – because you know she will ask you how you are and listen if you need, and then talk about whatever comes to mind to fill the silence and help you get your mind off of it. And she won’t judge or feel like she needs to fix it.

Sometimes being strong is knowing you need to vent to your beatches on face book. Or to just have them to check in with.

I know a bit about strength. Over the past 6 years I have had to learn. I thought I was strong long ago when I quit smoking and other substances. I thought I was strong when I was working and independent and taking care of myself. I thought I was strong when I left a boyfriend who wasn’t good for me or when I made it through some small crises. I really didn’t know what strong was back then.

I had to learn what being strong was. Let me tell you, sometimes strong isn’t even able to get out of bed, but taking deep breaths to get through the pain. Sometimes being strong is not crying in front of your child because he has seen enough tears and pain to last his lifetime. Sometimes being strong is sending your child to other family or even to Russia while you have your surgery so he doesn’t see you like that again.

To me, strong is the little boy in the PT waiting room with me who had burns all over his body and couldn’t use his hands, etc. Strong is holding your child’s hand while they are getting chemo. (hint: if you EVER want to feel better about your life, go volunteer in a child’s cancer ward. Those kids and parents are STRONG.)

People tell me they don’t know how I have gotten through or get through some things in life. I always tell them “you do what you gotta do.” But I think it’s more than that. I have learned that no one can be strong all the time – you have to sit back and let others take the wheel sometimes. I have learned that seeing that there are people worse off than me helps me. When I was hurting the most and at my weakest, I went to PT at the major university medical center in town. I saw people is such worse shape than me and it helped me find a better perspective. I saw parents taking their chemo kids for a “walk” outside to get some fresh air – in a wheel chair. I saw old men giving their dying wives ice chips. I saw people sitting quietly, crying, not knowing what to do next, then drying their tears and going right back into the doctor’s office.

“Give me the strength to accept the things I can  not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is called the serenity prayer for a reason – it has helped me through the day more times than I can tell you. There have been days when I sat down and made a list of “the things I can change” and “the things I can’t change.” I crossed off the “can’t change” list as I meditated on accepting and letting go of those things. Then I got up and worked on the things I could change. It has made all the difference.

Sometimes strength isn’t what you have believed it was your whole life. We all have these images of strength in our minds. Superman, soldiers, dads, big brothers. Sometimes those things are strong, and sometimes strength is something all together different.

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4 thoughts on “Being Strong

  1. You rock. Our family rocks. It was probably one of the easiest “hard weeks” of my whole life, just because of the support and understanding and love that exists in our circle. I’m lucky to be your sister. And yes, Ashley, you are very strong. 🙂 Love you!

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