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.