How do you measure strength?

a conceptual image representing a focus on strength

STRENGTH.

There is power in that word, but without much of a definition. It’s subjective to interpretation, isn’t it?

How do you measure strength?

It’s an interesting concept…

How do others define it?

Physical strength may be among the easiest to measure, but even that is not black and white.

We’ve all said it, or at least probably most of us, at some point in our lives or another, haven’t we?

“I’m strong!”

Or perhaps we thought it.

Or perhaps you viewed another and deemed them strong.

Why?

What is it about them that makes you see strength?

What is it about yourself that makes you see strength?

Can you conceptualize it? Can you define it? Can you put it into words?

I went on a quest recently to understand this.

It originated because I heard:

“You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”

“I hope I can be strong like you.”

“You are so strong Christine.”

I heard this when I felt anything but strong. It made me mad to hear those words in the moment. I felt expectations were on me.  Expectations I didn’t want. Expectations I didn’t know if I could fulfill.

I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t want to be strong.

I know I can hear another’s story and measure what I view as strength. I can build on this strength with them. I can harness their strength. I can help empower, encourage, and promote growth.

But to put that into words, is tough.

Recently I started asking people: “How do you measure strength?”

These are some of the responses I received:

“…when life deals you the shittiest of hands and you’re still able to play the game.”

“…the ability to know what battles are worth fighting for. Sometimes it means fighting for what you want, while other times it means being strong enough to let something go.”

“…the strongest thing I ever did was forgive my sisters for what they did to me…they nearly ruined me…in fact they did ruin me. And I forgave them when they never asked for it…[that] was strength.”

“I think that strength is the ability to see the beauty in life regardless of the mountains we are climbing. I also believe that strength comes from the ability to view one’s own struggles in perspective of the struggles of others.”

“I think strength is being able to fight your battles, but knowing when to call for backup.”

“I would argue that strength is being able to view the mess of your own life in terms of feeling fortunate, rather than self-loathing.”

“Strength is the ability to be grateful when the mountain gets steep and we aren’t sure if we can make it over.”

“…knowing you’re going to lose the fight, but still standing up to your opponent and giving it your all.”

“…never giving up.”

“Strength is watching someone else do something, handle something, go through something, that you don’t know if you could do.”

“Genuineness.  If someone is honest and truthful that tells me they have a lot of strength because it takes strength to be vulnerable. I measure strength for one’s ability to be open and honest. Complete genuineness and vulnerability.”

“If people are able to work through tough times, do what needs to be done…”

“People that have endured hardships in their life and were able to get through it, making them a better person…going through bullshit and coming out of it with a positive outlook intact.”

Powerful isn’t it?

There are themes within.

Perseverance.

Endurance.

Forgiveness.

Wisdom.

Gratefulness.

Vulnerability.

What do you see?

I am hesitant to call myself strong. I know this. Seems the minute I do, life asks, “Oh yeah? What about now Christine?”

Life has a way of questioning our definition of strength. Or perhaps redefining or even refining our definition…

I’m still working through my own definition. I know for me, it is many of the things that others mention, but it is more. Truthfully, I think it grows with life experience, through hardship, through joys, through life….

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Fight Dad! Fight!

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“How are you Christine?”

“You got about an hour?”

“(insert annoying laugh here) no, I don’t”

“Then you don’t care how I really am and you are asking how I am based on pleasantries. I know you’re a resident and you’re still learning. That’s okay. I too am learning, but in the future, don’t ever ask family members in a trauma ICU how they are if you aren’t really interested in hearing how they are!”

Yeah, I fussed at a Trauma ICU resident doctor. It wasn’t the first time I fussed at him.

He offered me papers to sign. They wanted to give my dad a PICC line. I made him go through the risks thoroughly and asked more questions than he wanted to answer. When he finished explaining the risks, I noticed he checked a box that was not for him to check.

I questioned him on this.

“Why did you check this box for me? Isn’t this my choice?”

“Well… uh.. yeah, but most people just check it and don’t really care.”

“First off, I’m not most people and you have no right to check that box. That box is for me to check and that is my decision, not yours!”

I was livid about that little check mark. I let him know this. I hope in his future career he becomes a little more aware of what is his right and what is not. I get it though, he’s still learning. I too am learning.

I let him keep that box checked, but not until I expressed all of my concerns on the matter. It was about principle.

Principles matter.

This was the same resident who told me that I need to be aware of what’s to come. He told me he wanted to prepare me for the inevitable.

“Your father will most likely have a trach for the rest of his life. He will have a feeding tube for the rest of his life. He will need to move to a skilled nursing facility and require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. His injuries are that severe. You will never have your father back”

I resisted the urge to punch him.

I resisted the urge to drop kick him.

But in that moment, I hated him.

I hated what he said. I hated what he represented. I hated him for his words. I hated all that he had given me up to this point.

He read the reports. He saw the injuries. He knew the odds. He was rehearsed in the literature.

But what he lacked was faith.

He was a typical medical resident in training with a head full of stats.

For the record, I hate stats. Always have and always will.

Mainly because the outliers are ignored or dropped.

I have a thing for outliers. There is hope in the outliers; though I suppose to be fair, it depends on the situation and what it is we are looking for.

Regardless, I hate stats and I have issues with those who place faith in stats alone.

Stats don’t tell the whole story.

Science and stats go hand in hand in many ways.

My dad was placed in a medically induced coma for a few days.

I was there every day. At every visiting hour. I had no idea what to talk about. He couldn’t talk back. I was scared out of my mind.

You know what I did?

I repeated myself most of the time.

“Ed plowed the driveway.”

“Ed said you owe him a dinner at Sporty’s because you stood him up”

“Remember that time I wanted to drive the lawnmower and I ran over the softball breaking a window?”

“Remember that time you drove to Virginia when I was in a bind?”

When I ran out of words, I read. I also told him if he didn’t like the book, he would need to wake up and tell me so…but until then, I was gonna keep reading.

I read the The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. I skipped over any words of death.

I also told him that he better wake up or I was gonna play country music.

He hates country music.

“Jen’s here Dad”

“Tim’s here Dad”

“We love you. You got to hang on. You got to fight.”

It was in the Trauma ICU that I saw his tears.

The nurse said it was a body reflex.

I called bullshit.

I dried his tears.

Dad, I know it hurts. I know you’re scared. But it’s not over. It’s gonna suck, but you gotta fight. It’s not your time. Fight…. We got you and we will be here for you.

Fight Dad! Fight!

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

For many years I wondered if I had opened Pandora’s box…

o-PANDORAS-BOX-facebook.jpgMany people believed that Eric was an alcoholic and there were times when I too believed this. There were times that he drank more than he should, for days longer than he should. There were times he made very poor decisions while intoxicated. His family had wondered if he had born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Based on the presentation of what that looks like, I highly doubt it. I think it ran much deeper and more complex than that. It was not simply a blame that could be passed onto his biological mother, though she played a part.

Eric was very open with me. It was one of the things that drew me to him. I have always been drawn to conversations of the heart.  He allowed himself to be vulnerable with me from day one.

We had many deep conversations about our life, our dreams, our disappointments, our failures, and the things we took pride in.

He was adopted as an infant. It was a fact that was never hidden from him, but also wasn’t talked about. It brought a lot of conflict to his heart.

In all the years I was with him, the one idea he struggled with the most was the concept of unconditional love. I too struggled with that idea, though we had different concepts and went about trying to understand it differently.  We had many conversations, tears, and battles over this. It’s one of those conversations that I wish I could have with him today, if he came back for only a few minutes. If you have ever lost someone perhaps you too have wondered what you would say if you got that moment.

We moved to Louisiana when I was in my last term with my first pregnancy. He wanted to find his birth mother. He had questions. Seeking out his birth mother was kept hidden from his adoptive parents. It was out of respect for them; he loved them a lot and didn’t want to hurt them with his questioning. He explained this to me from the get-go. I understood where he was coming from and joined him on that mission.

For many years I wondered if I had opened Pandora’s box by helping him in that mission. Today I believe I did not. Life is full of questions. Sometimes we get answers, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we get answers we like, and sometimes we don’t. It is just the way life is. It isn’t always an easy pill to swallow, understanding and accepting that, but it is necessary in order to let go and grow.

I spent long days at his parent’s house waiting for baby number 1 to come into the world. In that time, I looked through his baby book and discovered a document that included his birth mother’s name. And so, the journey began.

I made the random, uncomfortable phone calls because he was too frightened to do so.

“Hello, I know you don’t know me, but I am calling for my husband. He was put up for adoption in 1973 by a woman with this name. Are you a relative of hers and do you know how to get a hold of her?” That wasn’t verbatim, but it was close to that. It took a lot of calls before I found a relative of the woman whose name was on the document. I kept at it because this mattered to him.

I will never forget the day we met her at her house. We chatted for a while about superficial things and then I dropped a bomb. It was the whole reason we were there.

“You remember the day he was born?” It was what Eric wanted to know, among other things.

She did not.

She rattled off some date that was not the date of his birthday, not even the same month. He paused, his face froze for a brief second, and I saw him swallow. I knew in that moment he was just brought to the core of disappointment and hurt. I know this because the after-shock was seen, heard, and felt for many years following that moment.

I corrected her as he followed up with, “It’s okay”. He then asked her the million-dollar question, “Why?”

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.