Strength is overrated.
Strength isn't always the answer.
One day I received an email from a friend. Within the message were two sentences that particularly resonated in my mind.
"A strong person knows how to keep their life in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they still manage to say 'I'm okay' with a smile."
I'm that person. As much as I fall apart on the inside on practically a daily basis, I do a fairly good job of maintaining placid waters on the outside. When bad things happen, I usually hold it together until I'm sure everyone else is cared for, and when no one is looking, I allow myself to quietly let go.
However, it occurs to me that there are several people in my life in various stages of grief, acceptance and fury. To those people, I can only say, "Please do as I say and not as I do."
And here's what I say - strength is not the answer to every problem. You don't have to be strong just because your kids are watching and you don't want them to know something is wrong. Maybe if kids knew more of the ups and downs of life and how it can affect you, they might be better prepared to handle similar problems as adults. That's not to say that being in a perpetual state of misery and whiny-buttedness is teaching your kids a good lesson. However, letting them see you upset and allowing yourself to cry/grieve/get it out can show those impressionable little minds that problems happen, and you don't have to pretend everything in life is okay.
No, Elsa. YOU let it go. I'm going to gripe a little longer.
Queen Elsa taught our kids in the now far-overseen movie "Frozen" that we would "never see (her) cry." That song spoke to the little girl in me that always felt like I had to be perfect and number one, and I will admit I got emotional when I first heard it. It was as if the words to that song were written about me.
But let's get real. The more important lesson kids can learn is how you handle yourself and your problems once you've shed the tears and decided how to proceed. My kids could stand to see me letting life's little speed bumps slow me down a little more often, but, again I repeat, please do as I say and not as I do.
Sometimes life's problems have a way of jumping out of the bushes for a sneak attack. You were strolling along thinking life was peachy awesomeness when thwhack! You got slapped in the face by a thorny mess. The sting is made all the worse by knowing that if you hadn't been wearing your rose-colored glasses when you looked at the world, you might've seen that mess about to get you. You roll around in pain in a bloody pool of self-pity for a while, and then you tell yourself that you have to be strong and push forward.
Why? You just got sneak-attacked by something pretty awful. Go ahead and wallow in it for while. Don't feel like you have to immediately have all the answers.You don't have to whine and complain and wait for someone else to fix it, but it's okay to be taken off guard and acknowledge that you don't know what to do. Maybe your heart was broken. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you didn't get the house/raise/promotion/car/baby you wanted.
Will you be okay? Eventually. Do you have to be okay right now? No way.
Somewhere I read once that it takes twice the length of time you were with someone to mend your broken heart once the relationship is over. Yet we rush out to replace those pieces of our hearts with food, pets, alcohol, drugs or Mr. Right Now. Maybe we should nurture our wounds for a while. Let them breathe and mature. Letting it turn to bitterness is not the answer, of course, but allowing yourself to work through all the stages of grief and think through the problems and pain isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Either do it now or keep on letting it eat at you for many years to come. Glossing over the situation and trying to be a strong person are just going to make you a weaker person when all is said and done.
Strength has its place, but...
I guess what I'm saying is that strength is good, but it's become overrated. I think kids have so many things right, and we teach them that they're wrong. When they are slighted by a friend, their hearts are broken. They aren't immediately strong. They cry. They fuss. They whine. They let the whole world know that they have been wronged. But when all is said and done, they move on because they allow themselves to get it out of their systems. They don't bury their problems in the name of strength.
I wish I could be more like a kid in that way. I want to kick my feet and scream. I want to bite Life on the arm when it takes my toys away. I want to point my chubby little finger at Heartbreak and say, "No! No!"
But I err on the side of strength. Maybe some day I will do as I say and not as I typically do, but for now I can only pass it along to you and hope you let your feet kick and your heart scream a little more. It's okay to not be perfectly strong. It's okay to scream and kick and whine as loudly and obnoxiously as you can and feel like you are a victim of some pretty bad circumstances.
Just let it out, and eventually, you will let it go. *BREATHE*