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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I’m only human…

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I signed the papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions.

Will he make it?

Will he be in a coma?

Will I have to make a decision to pull the plug?

Will he ever be close to the same?

Will he be mad at me for signing the papers?

Will he have quality of life?

I remembered the night Dad woke me in the middle of the night. He never even said hello. He said, “Promise me something”. He asked me to promise him to never put him in a nursing home. He told me to take him into the woods with a gun. He told me he wants to be cremated. He told me to give his ashes to his best friend. He said Ed would know where to spread his ashes.

Come to find out, Ed isn’t really sure.

Since the morning my father fell off a ladder and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), that phone call from a few years ago has materialized in my head. I go over our words. I think about our beliefs. I consider our values. I get angry at the irony.

The emergency neurosurgery lasted about 4 ½ hours. I sat in the trauma ICU family waiting room holding my breath. I barely spoke to anyone.

I wanted to run. I wanted to run like hell. I wanted to run away from that hospital as far as I could. I wanted to run away from the day. I wanted to run away from the tragedy. I wanted to run more than anything.

I didn’t run. I knew I couldn’t yet.

We were allowed in to see him in the trauma ICU once he made it out of surgery. He was in a medically induced coma. He was on a ventilator. There were tubes coming out of his head draining blood. The left side of his skull was removed. I later learned they placed it under the skin in his stomach. This is a common procedure to keep the bone viable for later placement. His vitals were out of control. Constant flashing of a heart-rate beating too fast, blood pressure that fluctuated dangerously close to death… the list goes on. The beeping never stopped on that machine.

I wanted to throw that machine out into the hallway. I wanted to smash it. I wanted to scream at it.

STOP BEEPING!

STOP FLASHING!

God, I hated that machine.

One nurse told me to ignore the machine. I laughed at her.

I knew what those numbers meant.

I walked out of that ICU room one day when his systolic blood pressure hit 225. I looked at my little sister and said, “I’ve got to go”. I ran.

I ran to my car out in the parking lot.

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I can do this.

But truthfully, life didn’t care if I knew how to do it or not. It didn’t care if I wanted it. It was here and it was happening. I was in the middle of the biggest shit storm of my life. Yeah, that’s real. I’ve been through some challenges in my life previously, but nothing like this.

Can I be strong for my little sister? Our mom died 10 years ago. She needs me to be strong for her. She needs me to be strong for Dad.

Can I be strong for my brother? He lives out of state. There’s only so much he can do. He needs me to be strong for Dad.

Can I be strong for Dad? He needs me now. He needs me to fight for him. He needs me to believe in him. He needs me to push him.

He wants me to be strong.

I’m not even a fan of the word ‘strong’. “Oh, you’re so strong” – what the hell does that even mean?

And those people who…without batting an eye testifying  their own strength, “I am strong”…. Please, they drive me nuts.

I’ve appeased others and gave them those words when they needed the reassurance that I too was “strong”, but truthfully I am scared. I will keep going. I will do what needs to be done. I’ll probably make some mistakes along the way. I’ll probably break down. Hell, I already have.

I’m not strong. I’m not weak.

I’m only human.

I’m just me.. Christine…

© 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.

When I see armor, I smell fear…

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Tell me something….

Have you ever felt like your heart has been ripped out of your chest?

Has life ever completely let you down, thrown you under a bus, or stomped on your heart?

What did you do?

Did you walk away?

Did you armor up and swear you would never love like that again?

Did you wrap your owns arms around you and promise yourself that no one would ever hurt you like that again, not even life?

Did you swear to never let another in that close?

Did you curse life?

Did you guard your heart?

Do you hide behind a shield?

Do you raise your sword swiftly?

Does that make you feel safe?

Does being vulnerable scare the hell out of you?

Some cringe at the word ‘vulnerable’ or the idea of it. They see it as a sign of weakness. You know, “Don’t ever let them see you sweat.

Truth be told, we all sweat sometimes.

Why do we try to hide it?

It’s strange really because some people believe armoring up makes them appear strong, and yet I see this as weakness.

When I see armor, I smell fear.

Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s what makes us human. And we are all human aren’t we? Don’t we all know aspects of life that aren’t perfect? Why is that we can talk about the good stuff, but we hide the stuff that makes us vulnerable?

I see strength when I hear…

I don’t know if my marriage is going to last.

I wish I drank alcohol, but I’d probably be an alcoholic.

My father destroyed my childhood.

My daughter is addicted to heroin and I feel like a failure.

What if I don’t make it back from this tour alive?

I can never give him the child he wants.

My husband cheated on me and tore my world apart.

I’m scared of making the wrong choice.

My wife told me she’s not in love with me anymore.

I’m afraid I’ll fail.

I have cancer and I’m scared.

I don’t know how to keep going.

I wish I had a relationship with my daughter.

I can’t tell my parents I’m gay because I’m scared they would disown me.

When I hear vulnerability like this, I see strength.

Do you know why?

Because they are naked; completely vulnerable.

It takes strength and courage to let go of the armor, to drop the shield, and rest the sword, bearing one’s soul and all that makes them vulnerable.

It doesn’t take much to armor up – except maybe fear, mistrust, heartbreak, and some bitterness…

 

© 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.