Not Weak OR Strong: Filling My Toolbox

(Topic: Vocabulary, Definitions)

Hi Friends,

A few weeks ago, I posted about the word “strong”, and how it applies to me. Or more specifically, I expressed my frustration that the word has two meanings – but that the meanings are completely opposite.

I had several friends comment or chat with me, saying they thought I was strong – and then telling me how they meant the word “strong” – and I really appreciate it, because I now know how that person means it.

However, that doesn’t actually help the issue, because the fact is, the word is ambiguous in our culture at large. And because of that, I still don’t like that word. Our culture, as a whole, still uses “strong” in two ways, and often with emphasis on the idea of not showing emotion in public.

I had one conversation, though, that changed the question completely.

What if the question isn’t “Am I strong?” – what if the question becomes “How am I dealing with my situation?” and “What skills do I have?”?

This changes the whole conversation (and, key point, uses words with no ambiguity).

For instance, an example of what had made me feel “weak” before: When the outfit I picked out the night before an event didn’t end up fitting right, I panicked and got overwhelmed and cried, and couldn’t even figure out a new outfit.

After this conversation with my friend, she helped me understand that my body (and bodies, being what they are, aren’t great at telling the difference between physical trauma and emotional trauma) just knew that it was under attack (from grief) and that the attack was ongoing and needed attention. Thus, a minor setback (the dress not fitting right) became something extra to deal with – and was “too much”. It’s not that I’ve lost the ability to deal with a minor setback. My resources are simply all already used on the “attack” (grief) and thus aren’t available for dealing with additional issues.

That is the “how am I dealing with it” portion: my resources are all allocated to grieving, leaving me with little leftover. So then the “skills” part: the more skillfully I tend my grief, and the more extra skills I lay down for dealing with other things that come up, will mean that my resources will be more usefully allocated and I will “deal” with life better.

Skills such as noticing that I’m getting overwhelmed, and then employing tools such as meditation, relaxation techniques, or other techniques for calming down or removing myself from the trigger (all of which are tools, but still require practice to build skills in using them, too). And the more tools I have, and the more skills I have, the more I will function more normally, and the less the grief will overwhelm everything (time helps with this, but is definitely not the only factor).

So my friend says: we aren’t “strong” or “weak”: we’re building skills.

I like that.

Also, I now also pick out two outfits the night before events: one that is pretty and might work, and one that is fine but comfy and safe. So I’ve added that “tool” to help avoid a situation that I know to be overwhelming.

As my friend always signs off:
You are loved, and you are safe. (She’s a pretty awesome friend.)

With love,

Yours,

Sarah

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