I was chatting with a friend tonight about the things women of a certain age discuss: peri-menopause, aging parents, family, fitness, our growing children, and life. In fact, I had this conversation multiple times today with multiple women, all at different ages and stages of life.
What stood out to me the most was the same comment/theme: “I just want to be strong again.”
This resonates with me on so many different levels. Because all of these women, these glorious beautiful women, are the strongest ones I know. By managing everything in their life — work, raising a family, elder care, their own health, relationships with their partners, you name it — they are showing up every day in ways that others can’t imagine. But these strong women are also deeply broken. They are sad, they are hurting, they are in pain.
This led me to think about the past two years — I have been going deep inside to deal with the layers I have built to protect myself — and not in a good way. You see, when things get to be too much for me, I withdraw from the world and try my damnedest to disappear. Trying to walk the earth as one who is invisible– while the rest of the world tunes you out due to age — becomes all too easy.
Withdrawing is how I draw strength — to a point. I think it’s how many of us draw on our strength. It’s when we withdraw so deeply into ourselves that we run the risk of losing sight of who we are.
Alison Peterson wrote “. . . to serve so selflessly, you have to subdue something in yourself.”
These women are serving — and giving up — everything for everyone. In doing so, they are a metaphorical shell because they don’t have the energy to be anything else. They have depleted their souls to be 50 different versions of themselves so they can manage every thing in their life — and most don’t feel as if they’re managing at all.
But these women, they are strong women. They’re the ones who I look up to and think “you’ve really got your ‘ish together.” Yet, we all feel like we’re flailing. Our lives are not what they look like on social media — what we’re sending out is the sanitized version made for consumer consumption.
If we get as real as we wanted to the internet trolls would come in and terrorize us for daring to be ourselves. They would make a mockery of our roots that needed touching up three months ago, and tell us we deserve our misery because we’ve obviously horrible humans who cannot handle life. When really, all we’re trying to do is not let life handle us.
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” Sigmund Freud
One of my friends sent me this quote a few hours ago and it was what we both needed. The struggle is real, but I can look back at some of the deepest, darkest struggles in my life with amazing clarity and gratitude. Without those moments, I would not be the person I am today. And I can sit here and tell you that no matter what you are going through, you are strong.
It may not seem like it right now. And you may think that there will never be a light at the end of this tunnel, but if you squint hard enough, and maybe turn your head just a little more to the left, she will be there. That strong woman is inside of you. Right now, you don’t recognize her is because she has changed. She’ll never look the same, but she will always be there, because she IS you.