I was with a distraught friend last week. Her tears wouldn’t, couldn’t stop flowing. Each thought she had elicited more tears. And this made her feel weak. I’ve been in that place, thinking that my sadness calls my strength into question. I’ve chastised myself for my tears and my whining. I’ve looked in the mirror in horror as I saw my blotchy swollen face from all the crying, wondering how the hell I could have stooped so low. But I’m a strong woman! I become incredulous. How could this happen to me?
My ideal of a strong woman was one who kept it together, who didn’t let life’s setbacks get her down, who did what it took to keep going, who became angry and indignant instead of sad. Breaking down in a puddle of tears on the floor was for wimps and I wasn’t going to be one.
But there have been times in my life when I’ve found myself there, on the floor, crying like a banshee, clutching my heart, not from physical pain, but from the pain of simply being human. In order to survive that moment, I sensed that could only be in that moment and not fight it. I had to surrender to my feelings. So while my hands were clutching my pained heart, my soul opened up to receive whatever blessing that moment had to offer.
Coming out the other side of those dark moments, I have redefined what strength means to me. Strength means that I am brave enough to feel the full breadth of emotion I have been graced with. Though I still want to ward off those times when I feel weak and insipid, I’ve learned to release myself into them, take away those judgments, and realize that it takes a ton of strength to feel the pain.