Our conception of 'strength' is relative

The mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends, LB recently discovered a cancerous tumour in her breast.  LB’s mother also went through heart surgery not too long ago and LB herself is having a very rough time for a multitude of reasons.  I look at her and I am in awe at how strong and capable she is.  I have always seen her this way, when she and her husband broke up it seemed she handled it with ease, I never saw her break down, or openly mope about any of it, though I know she was broken hearted.  I caught a glimpse of a broken heart when she later fell for a man not too unlike my Mr X (only hers at least had the decency to move to a different city so that she didn’t have to keep bumping into him or seeing him around with the new love of his life, hmphf!).  But the glimpse was really just that, a glimpse and I dont believe I ever witnessed a single tear.

Recently, I have been learning that she is far more like me than I realised- on the inside, and that her fears are my fears, and her disappointments are my disappointments.

But there is one critical difference.  I’ve never seen it in her. I would always secretly berate myself for not being more like her in that way.  I kept my feelings for Mr X a secret for quite a while after I realised I was in fact in love with him.  Mostly because I was afraid (and rightly so, it would seem), that my dream of “him and me” would never be realised.  However, when things did start to happen I dropped my guard and got a little ahead of myself and I did talk to LB about him.  And so for over 18 months now I have been rehashing all of the ups and downs of that train wreck in nauseating detail, and she has listened with sharp attentiveness and infinite patience.

But still, I knew little about what was going through her mind and heart.

Over the past few months I have noticed her talking more about the things that upset her, how she is and isn’t coping with her fears and anxieties and I finally now understand that we share so much common ground, and that is comforting.  What is more comforting is that we seem to have settled into a place in our lives where we are experiencing many of the same difficulties, emotions and fears at the same time.  So, it somehow all seems less scary.

At least that is how it feels for me.  But I cant help thinking how strong she is even now, even knowing what she is experiencing in her life at the moment.

I guess it must be true that what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

It’s just that you don’t feel strong at the time, because at the time it just feels like you are struggling to keep your head above water.  Perhaps though, the critical thing we miss, is how strong we appear to others.

What we also may not think about too much is how a revelation or event that 6 months ago would have had us crumbling in defeat now passes over us without even drawing so much as a shiver….because you are now stronger and have the skills to deal with it.  Now, you are strong enough to choose to not let it bother you.

You are strong enough to choose to be happy even when faced with adversity.

And nothing makes people more conscious of that choice, than after they have been faced with our human mortality, be it a close call or a brush with tragedy.

So, while I wont go so far as to say that I’m jumping-with-joy happy at the moment,  I will concede that I’m not unhappy. And while I may choose to try to be happy most days, I will not judge myself too harshly for the days that I simply cannot bring myself to see the silver lining because, lets be real here, though I may at times play the martyr I am certainly no saint.  And I wont berate myself for blabbing about it to my friends either because just maybe they are also feeling a bit scared and alone about something.

However, deep down inside I know there is a part of me (finally!) that has faith that at some point in the future I will look back on the day I struggled to get through, acknowledge that it was difficult, and I will feel happy and marvel at my own strength for surviving it.

And I know that LB will do the same.


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