Strength: the state or quality of being physically or mentally strong. 2. the ability to withstand or exert great force, stress, or pressure. 3. something that is regarded as being beneficial or a source of power: their chief strength is technology.
I needed to look up the word strength and felt compelled to copy & paste the definition for the purposes of this “requested” blog topic because when I started thinking about strength, my mind went in a couple of different directions. In the 12 step rooms, when asked to share in a meeting or one on one, it’s sometimes called sharing our experience, strength and hope. The phrase “strength of character” rolled through my brain as well. There is also a song very special to my heart called ‘Strength, Courage, and Wisdom’ by India Arie with a phenomenal message.
I’ve been considered strong by many friends and family. I don’t always feel like it, but I know it to be true at this point in my life. What I know for sure is my strength was borne of crawling, kicking and screaming, out of a victim mentality. It was also borne of being the adult single parent in a family of four. The one who had to learn to be responsible whether I wanted to or not. The one who had to stand up for my children, teach them to stand up for themselves and model how to do it. I almost have to squint to try and recall the grown up girl-child looking for someone to take care of me, who became a young woman-child who was looking for someone to save me and finally developed into a woman who learned I could take care of and save myself through the grace of a Higher Power (God) and with the help of trusted friends, family and mentors to show me the way.
I was really very good at my victim role as a girl-child. My weapons of manipulation were artful self-pity, tearful breakdowns and at times subtly guilting others for having it better than me… you know the kind, where I talked about how broke I was, how rough I had it, or pointed out how great it must be that they are doing so well until a friend or family member stepped in to give me money or helped me with my solutions more than I did. I attracted and collected caretakers, codependents and enablers of the well-meaning, dysfunctional and/or controlling variety. I slowly, oh so slowly, grew tired of having to get others to rescue me and I realized I could save myself. I grew stronger for it, but not entirely certain I was capable of taking care of myself and my children as a young woman-child. The young woman-child fantasized about a man, a winning lotto ticket, and in one misguided instance, a woman swooping in to take care of me and mine. None of those fantasies became actual viable solutions.
This was the time in my mid-to-late 20’s, when I was separated from my then husband, going out to clubs, living out my “hoochie” days but still “messing” around with him. Hanging on to an idea of marriage and family that never really was which I couldn’t let go of. Until I became pregnant with our third and final child. Yes, my estranged husband was the father. We already had two young boys aged 7 and 5. I instinctively knew I was carrying a girl. I just knew it and I was right. When I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 28, I understood a few things that I was either in denial about or just flat out ignored. Children learn more from example than what you tell or even teach them. I’d done a piss poor job of it until then. I needed to get my act together for this female soul that had chosen me as her mother and for my young princes as well. It was my children who were the catalysts for my personal growth, my spiritual expansion and mental strengthening. My progress at times over the years felt non-existent. Yet as new challenges and different issues arose, I began to see it in myself. I also began to understand that each new strength and accomplishment was a bridge for the next level in life, come what may.
There were, and still are, many guides, guardian angels and gifts wrapped in shit to show me, carry me and teach me the state or quality of being physically and mentally strong. The graces and mercies of my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God taught or forced me to develop the ability to withstand or exert great force, stress or pressure when life called for it. Lastly, I’m learning to NOT hide my light, my strength, “under a bushel” because it’s something that is regarded as being beneficial or a source of power.