I hate New Year’s posts. I don’t “do” resolutions. I despise “recap” articles — ones that outline accomplishments, and recall failures. And I think the whole darn thing is a waste of time because regardless what I do it will never be enough. (I mean, that’s the depression talking, but depression does that sometimes.) So instead of focusing on my “year,” I am taking this opportunity to focus on more important things, i.e. what it means to be strong. What is it to be a strong woman, a strong mother, a strong advocate, a strong employee, a strong lover, and a strong friend? Because if there is one thing I have learned in the last 365 days it is that strength comes in many, many forms.
So here’s what it means to”be strong:“
- Recognize your strength. Strength is about showing up. It is about facing yourself — when you are weak, hopeless, powerless, and lost — and just hanging on. It is about just being present in the moment. You see, being present is strong. Existing is strong and, yes, living — just living — strong. (Trust me.) So acknowledge it. Embrace it. And allow it to carry you when you feel your most desperate.
- Acknowledge you are a fighter. While this is especially true when dealing with an illness (mental or physical) it is true for every “strong” being. Because those who are strong continue fighting, even if the enemy they face is bigger and badder, untreatable and incurable, or wields foreclosure papers…or divorce documents. Those who are strong continue fighting even when they know the battle is lost. When they are lost. They fight until there is nothing left — until they feel they cannot give anymore — and then they throw out one more punch, or take one more breath. Because is then — in that moment — you find out how strong you are. Win or lose, it is in that moment you realize you tried. You tried and tried and tried, and no matter what you were willing to fight. You are willing to fight. Why? Because you are mighty. You are unyielding. You are strong…so keep fighting the fight.
- Learn — and allow yourself — to feel. We often assume those who are strong are stoic and fearless. They don’t break or flinch, they rarely get angry, the never get hurt or upset, and they certainly don’t cry. They never ever cry. But that is a lie. You see, part of being human means feeling like a human. Strength isn’t the absence of emotion; instead, the truly strong embrace their emotions. They embrace the jealousy, happiness, pain, and rage. They celebrate joys but they also acknowledge missteps and defeat, i.e they let their heart-break, their mind ache, and they let the tears flow. (Am I “good” at this one? No…no. But I am a work in a progress, and in my heart of hearts I know this is true. I know letting go is not the same as giving up.)
- Know the strong ask for help. Period. ‘Nuff said.
- And know: Strength is enduring. Strength is persevering. Strength is taking a shitty situation and learning to rise up above it. Strength is having the capacity to face challenges, even when you are drained and your entirely depleted. Strength is cooking a meal, getting out of bed and — sometimes — returning to bed when you know a little TLC is exactly what you need. Strength is putting that damn oxygen mask on your own mouth first.
Being strong means fighting whatever “your fight” is — physical, mental or emotional — each and every day. No matter what.
Of course, there are days I don’t feel strong. Days I feel like I cannot keep this charade up any longer (and, ironically, today is one of those days ) but somehow I do. Somehow tomorrow always come.
So for those struggling today — for those hurting today — hang on. Keep fighting and hang on. You are stronger than you know.
But let’s keep this conversation going: What does strength mean to you?