Who taught you to be strong? I’d bet my next wage that it’s a mix of people who have touched your lives, personally, professionally, even from afar. Life hands you tests over time, stress, drama, tragedy, happiness… all of it builds character and all of it shapes who we are and who we become.
When I was a girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. A LOT of time. In many ways, they raised me. They taught me that our family comes from a distinct heritage. A line of people who are and were known for their strength of conviction and strength of character. It’s a matter of pride in our family. Our strength. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. Nothing is impossible. Nothing. If something seems impossible – it’s just because you haven’t found the right solution or the right approach yet. This led me to be the woman I am today; and those close to me will vouch for my stubbornness. For my drive to push the envelope and not only succeed for myself, but to push others to succeed. Knowledge and personal growth are two things I value to the nth degree.
I have been given many of these “tests” over my lifetime. And no doubt, will face many more to come still. Health problems, divorce, severe depression, loss of a child, being a step parent, work challenges, addiction (both personally and from an outsider’s perspective), financial stress, bankruptcy, being a parent… I could go on and on. And when I look back at all I’ve faced, I’m proud of where I am today. This is a good thing – and one I hope to still be able to say in another 20 years time.
When I was 19, I was a bank manager. Most of my employees were in their 30’s and 40’s. Yea – it was a professional challenge to manage people when they are so much older than you, but we had a great team. There was a woman who worked for me, who gave me my first taste (outside of family) of real strength. She had 3 children and her husband worked in the military. She acted as a single parent most of the year, as he was away on active duty. One afternoon, a phone call to the branch shook her entire world. Her sister called and informed me that she needed to come home right away. That her son had accidentally shot and killed her younger son. He had been trying to clean and care for Dad’s things – they missed him. I’m not about to get into the whole debate on gun control or how to keep guns safe … that’s for another blog and another story. The point was that suddenly her world got shoved upsidown. She took a week off work to get things sorted. And when she came back – we all tip toed around her; fearful that we’d upset her and she’d be a blubbering mess that we wouldn’t know how to help or handle. She sat everyone down and shared her story. Of what she found the day she got called home early. the mess she had to clean up. The horror of it all. And then an older couple walked in to do their weekly banking and she got up and smiled and chatted with them about their grandchildren and the weather. Like nothing. Grief has many stages – denial being one of them – and yes – likely she was in one of these states – but she handled it. Beautifully. Sure, there was still pain in her eyes. She was still broken and trying to figure out how to breathe again. But she handled it. Forward motion. And with that – she earned my undying respect.
Recently tho, I’ve experienced a bit of a shake up. Someone who was PARAMOUNT to me learning my strength and conviction finally, after 30 years, showed me their weakness. Weakness is a good thing – don’t get me wrong. We all have weaknesses. But to see someone who you’ve always viewed as being a golliath as far as mental/emotional strength – seeing them give up and lose it. It really shakes you to your core. She’s old, and sick and frail. Physical strength has never been a factor for me, health problems can take over you body but that doesn’t mean you’re not strong. If anything, how you face that kind of test can show you exactly the opposite if you look. But now, to see my mentor, my guide, giving up on life; it has really, well and truly rocked my boat.
The other thing I find fascinating is that I’m being given yet another life test around pre-death grief. I don’t know if that’s a term or not, but i’ll use it. We knew our son was going to pass many months before it actually happened. This allowed us to start mourning and grieving before the actual event. And in some ways, I’m doing it again now. What’s ironic, is that pre-death grieving is a bunch of painful grief you go through, and then somehow you end up going through it all over again once the “event” actually happens, but on an even more painful scale. Makes me question why go through it if you’re just going to go through it again – but that’s just part of being human and loving people I suppose.