Since I was about 10, I’ve kept journals.
Not consistently, but sporadically over the years.
After 35 years, that periodic effort has added up to a whole lot of spiral bound note books, hard cover journals, old-fashioned diaries with a key, and pieces of mismatched loose leaf and bits of paper bound together in a folder.
Sometimes – usually when I’m going through a cleaning frenzy – I read through some of these words I’ve written at different phases in my life.
I find it interesting to see that some of the things I’ve said, I’m still saying today. And some things are, thankfully, very different.
Last week, as I was getting rid of some things I no longer needed, I came across a list I wrote in a journal. It was about what strength means to me.
For the most part, I still believe it’s true.
I wrote this list shortly after going through a divorce, as I was contemplating my future.
Before going through that ordeal ten years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a strong person.
In fact, I even had someone tell me that I wasn’t strong because I was too calm and quiet. Her belief was that strength had to be loud, with fists swinging, and weapons drawn.
And I believed her at the time.
But once I got to the other side of divorce, shared custody and assuming a mortgage on my own, I realized that strength doesn’t look like she said.
Actually, from my experience, it was quite the opposite…
Strength is moving forward when you feel like just giving up
Strength is doing what needs to get done, when it needs to get done
Strength is a force deep inside, it’s not superficial
Strength is maintaining your course despite the weather, the current, or the opinions of on-lookers
Strength is quiet and calm
Strength is not being afraid to be who you are
Strength is vulnerable
Strength is loving someone even when they don’t seem to love you in return
Strength is believing in your dream and taking steps to make it happen
Strength is opening yourself up to criticism, understanding what’s valuable, and using it to make you stronger
Strength is loving yourself even if it seems no one else does
Strength is the ability to endure, to keep your head above the waves even as the water seems to be rising
Strength is being angry at someone without insulting who they are
Strength is replacing your job with a mission
Strength is saying thank-you to kindness, despite unkindnesses in the past
Strength is forgiveness
Strength is being who you know you can be
Strength is not giving someone the finger when they cut you off in traffic
Strength is believing before seeing
Strength is letting the other person be right
Strength is letting go
Strength is knowing when to shut up… and doing it
Strength is making the difficult choice
Strength is gentle words, a spontaneous smile, a delicate touch
Strength is knowing that you’re never alone, even if sometimes it feels that way
Strength is something you discover you have when you overcome a challenge you didn’t know you could
Strength is not about who talks the loudest, who knows the most, or who lifts the heaviest weight… Strength is discreet, humble, and asks for help
I’ve learned a lot about my own strength since I wrote those words.
However, I’m not always as strong as I’d like to be.
I don’t ask for help as much as I should. I’m sometimes reluctant to be kind when remembering unkindnesses. And yes, sometimes I find it hard not be right.
But I’m aware.
I know where I fall short, so that gives me something to work on.
Because I know that I’m a work in progress.
And I am getting stronger.
PS So what does strength mean for you? Are you as strong as you’d like to be?