Strong

A woman is like a tea bag.  It’s only when she’s in hot water that you realize how strong she is.  ~Attributed to both Eleanor Roosevelt and Carl Sandburg

In one of the highest compliments ever paid to me, my mother once told me I am the strongest person she knows.  I have never forgotten it, and never will.  I have repeated this to myself thousands and thousands of times, as a matter of survival.  I can withstand anything, I am strong.

This compliment has been repeated to me by other people, in different forms, but with the same central meaning.  My friends tell me with admiration how strong I am to have endured things I have endured in silence for years.  In a rare moment of honesty, my ex husband admitted to me that I am stronger than he ever was, something I have always known and he now denies ever having said.  I have always looked at strength as a positive character trait in anyone, but most especially in women, the supposed “weaker sex”.  These days, I’m not so sure I do.

What I have found is that the more strength you display, the stronger you allow yourself to be known to be, the more strength is required of you.  With every obstacle overcome, every challenge faced head on, the faster they seem to be thrown.  Still, to be considered a woman of strength, we face them all, and rise to yet another challenge, and reconstruct badly damaged and bruised egos and souls.  We may be strong, but to say that we are not permanently changed by each and every blow, physical or emotional, would be a lie of the darkest kind.

In the past year I have found myself wishing often that I wasn’t  strong.  I wish sometimes that I could retreat into alcoholism, or drug addiction, or mental illness and not have to keep going every day.  That is not the way I am made, and honestly, most of the time I am grateful that I’m not.  Still, at my lowest points, I sometimes fantasize about how easy it would be to have an excuse to give up, even if it was only for a while.  I hear about people staying in bed for a year after the death of a child, or having a mental breakdown that incapacitated them after years of physical and mental abuse is heaped upon them, and I don’t blame them.  I get it, I really do.  I just wonder sometimes about the human mind.  Why some people keep going, while others get the time to recharge.

I’m getting divorced.  Tomorrow morning, I will be in a lawyer’s office, dissecting the last 18 years of my life, and hopefully be given the tools to start rebuilding.  Starting over at 42 sucks.  It does.  I hate dealing with the process of disentangling my life from my ex.  I hate the vulnerability of doing all of this alone.  I hate all of it, and I know that it is going to get really messy from here on out.  everyone tells me I’m strong though.  I guess we are about to find out if they are right.


Beginnings

So I think Ive been looking at things entirely the wrong way lately. For months I have been sad and depressed, thinking about all of the endings that have been occurring at an alarming pace lately. I have listed and mourned all of my losses, bitterly regretted each one, and lived every day with an emptiness in my very being that comes with loss. However, if I know nothing else about myself, I know for sure that I am a survivor, and be assured, I have survived far worse than this. So in my disgustingly optimistic way, I have realized that there is a flip side to all of this, a mirror image, if you will. I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beginnings that are occurring.

1. My roommates are here. All the time. They aren’t always here at the same time, but they are always here some of the time. The thing is this, they are here for me, no matter what. They are dysfunctional, they are loud, they can be obnoxious. They listen, they support, they care. They are my family, and I love them more than I could ever say or express.

2. For the first time in 4 decades, I am on my own. I pay my own bills, I make my own decisions. I live my life on my own terms, and make my own mistakes as I go. Its scary as hell, but I love it, and it feels right.

3. I am finally figuring out who my I am, really. In the words of Oprah, my authentic self. Living authentically is hard and takes real courage, but I would really like to think that I have courage. I really believe that the outcome will be worth it.

4. Probably most importantly, I have discovered who my real friends are. People who will tell you that you are wrong, and then let you find out for yourself. People that support you in your wrong-ness. People that cheer your right-ness. These are the people everyone needs in their life, and my gratitude is deep and eternal.

So for all the miserable, depressing blogs to come, I can now look back and see, for all of the endings, I am blessed beyond what I deserve.