Ever feel like you have been strong for too long? I do. I’ve heard it said that there is strength in weakness. I’m starting to realize that there is also weakness in strength.
I have always been a strong individual. I remember when I was 9 years old, my daddy died, and for the entire week while my momma planned the funeral I opted to continue to go to school. I remember overhearing my neighbor telling my momma “she’s a really strong young lady.” I didn’t know what she meant by that. All I know was that I couldn’t stand the sadness that was felt throughout our house and needed to get out. At that age, school was the only place I could go.
Six years later, I spent the week home from school as others planned my momma’s funeral, and all I could think was how sick I was of crying all the time. Crying was understandable. I was 15 years old and had just lost my last surviving parent. But I still missed daddy and I was so unprepared for this. Crying took too much energy. So whenever a tear would start to form in the corner of my eyes I would talk myself out of crying. I would hold it all in because I had no idea that letting it all out would make me feel better, somehow.
I spent the next 10 – 11 years of my life coping with the pain of losing my parents. Eventually the tears I tried so hard to hold back began to pour out of me like a waterfall. The rest of my teenage days were filled with navigating growing up, dating, and trying to figure out my place in the world without guidance and support. I had two older siblings still living at home but no one could take the place of my parents. They tried a few times, but after repeatedly yelling to them that “you are not my momma or daddy and you can’t tell me what to do,” they gave up even trying. In fact their exact words – at different times – were “Do what you want to do. Don’t ask me for nothing.” So that is exactly what I did.
I did the typical teenage / young adult things. However, I did steer clear of a lot of things I thought my parents would not approve of. (I thank my oldest brother for giving me that piece of advice.) But I did get into my share of troubles. While friends had to answer to their parents for the things they did, I had to answer to no one. When I left the house, no one asked where I was going. If I came home late or the next morning, no one questioned me. When I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I did. And when I graduated high school and decided to leave for college, although a fun experience, it wasn’t quite as liberating to be away from home for me as it was other freshmen students. They had freedom from their parents’ rules. I just had a change of scenery.
Through the years I moved around the country a little bit. I did all that I knew to do. I worked. I took care of me. I have been in relationships and I have lived the single life. Then I began to hear my childhood neighbor’s words again -this time from family and friends. “You’re so strong, to be able to make it on your own.” “You’re so strong to leave home and not move back.” “I wish I was a strong as you.” They were admiring my strength while I was secretly longing for what they had – marriage, kids, close family ties, careers they loved.
For a while I thought I had it all together. Then in the blink of an eye, every ounce of strength I thought I had seemed to dissipate. This strength I have had since a little child seems to elude me now. Life’s struggles make it hard to cope at times. For this reason, I say that there is weakness in strength. But I know it takes a little stirring up of my strength to get it back in working order. I’m in that process right now. For right now, there is strength in my weakness.