I was recently again given the opportunity to hear the story of someone’s life and to again discover that we humans have amazing strength in overcoming what seem like insurmountable traumas dealt to us by this thing we call life. Had I not had the opportunity to hear that story, I would never have guessed that this person had been through so much and managed to come out okay from the long, dark tunnel ride that happened. I’ve heard several similar stories over the past few months, and realized that, in each instance, I felt a more intense bond with the person sharing the story.
When we see someone who appears strong and pulled together, we take that appearance is gospel. Often, we envy those people who appear so strong and wish we felt as together as they appear. People at large would see me as strong, independent and determined (or stubborn, depending on your point of view!). I would agree with those opinions.
But when someone appears to be strong, do we tend to think that person has everything under control, can adapt quickly to whatever happens or doesn’t feel pain when something bad happens? Or do we understand from human nature that some people are better equipped at bearing their crosses silently, not, perhaps, wanting to be seen as weak and/or needy? After all, we tend to reach out to the strong people in our lives at times when our strength is suffering. What would happen if they weren’t strong enough to help us through when we reached?
This reminds me of a life lesson I learned long ago. I may have briefly mentioned it in a previous blog, but this is a good time to tell it in better detail. I got married a week before my 21st birthday. I got married primarily because I had returned home with my parents after quitting college, and didn’t agree with the strictness they were still imparting upon me at the ages of 19 and 20 as they had when I was a younger teenager. My husband was someone I had started dating, although much of our ‘dating’ time was hanging out at his parents’ house. I was sitting with his mom at the kitchen table (the gathering place if nothing was on TV. Rick came in from the living room to get a drink and while he was doing so, I was venting about life in my parents’ house and swore that it was so frustrating that I would marry the first man who asked me. Rick dropped then and there to his knee and proposed. Honestly, I liked him enough that I was certain it would grow into love, and I’d sworn to marry the first man who asked me, so I said yes. We were married within 6 months.
Fast forward to 9 months later – no, no baby! – and I was bored. He did contract work with electricians, and was only working when a job was available. I was working a full-time administrative job with the American Red Cross. I learned pretty quickly not to drive home after work, but to go to his parents’ house, because that is where Rick would be.
Upon returning home to our apartment late one night (we were usually there until close to midnight because his dad worked until 11PM and we had to wait and say hello), we got into a discussion that led to a fight that led to me telling him that he had to make a choice between me and his mother where he wanted to spend his time. He called his parents and told them he was coming home.
The next day, I called off work because I hadn’t slept. I went over to my neighbor’s apartment after I knew she was awake, and when she opened the door, she asked me what the H was wrong with me. It was then and there that I fell completely apart. I spilled it all – how and why things soured, how I was feeling like a failure, etc., etc., etc. When I’d finally gathered myself together a bit, Barb put her arms around me and softly said, “I feel so much closer to you now. Through all of the saga of dramas (and lawdie, there wasn’t a day she didn’t have some kind of drama!), you’ve always been so strong. But now, I finally get to see that you’re human, too.”
Although I still struggle with not appearing strong and independent, and will most likely be a work in progress for the rest of my life, I have begun opening up more about times when I’m not feeling strong. Blogging has been my greatest asset in doing this, as most of my followers and readers are unknowns to me, and I don’t have to worry what they think about me. Of the few followers and readers I do know, a large majority of them have shown that they, too, not only like, but approve me showing my humanness! I’m being more open to asking – sometimes begging – for people to take me down off the pedestal they sometimes try to put me on. It becomes so tiring to try and constantly balance being what people want/need you to be with being authentically genuine – good or bad. Dr. Perry, Ph.D (he has a blog as well) wrote recently that we all have an evil side, and that’s a part of the complexity of humanness to have it. Much like how we all have a good side as well, it’s not the existence of either but how we choose to use them. That has helped me so much recently! I admit that I have some thoughts of ways to seek revenge for what’s recently happened to me, but I know I won’t act upon those thoughts.
So, it is with my own experience that I encourage others to not fake being strong. Allow yourself to be human, remembering that there are others who you CAN reach out to. Sometimes you can work through things simply by putting them “out into the universe” – like blogging – and release much of their weight in doing so. As for mistakes – we’re all going to make them! But we need mistakes in order to learn! Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out in search of ways you can make mistakes, merely that you recognize your mistake, learn from it, grow from it, and be okay with having made it. In fact, don’t call them mistakes – they are, after all, life lessons!